Unhappy Dialogue: The Metropolitan Police and Londons West Indian Community
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Afro-British activists, however, believed they had much in common with their African American counterparts. In between the U. But if a white man lays his hand on one of us we will regard it as an open declaration of war against all of us. Seven months later, Egbuna did an about-face in his vision for Black Power. He called the UCPA annual general meeting six months earlier than planned in April , resigned as chairman, and founded the BBPM, which advertised itself as a revolutionary socialist group.
This ideology combined a Marxist-Leninist class revolution with an analysis of racial discrimination.
The ideological orientation of the British Panthers differed in some ways from that of their U. As the British Panthers gained notoriety, however, they began to accept the support of some whites.
Unhappy Dialogue : James Whitfield :
While the U. Panthers rejected the central Black Power tenet of cultural nationalism as romantic and inefficacious, the U. Although the black consciousness espoused by the U. The British Panther movement also formed outside the official auspices of the U. Panthers because the latter had not yet internationalized its organizing scope in But it lacked the institutional infrastructure necessary to establish an anti-imperialist front or overseas chapters.
It was not until , after solidifying its organizational structure and discussing the possibilities offered by Marxism-Leninism, that the U. By this time, it had already inspired the formation of the U.
Panthers, although possibly without knowing it. Permanent surveillance in black neighborhoods, particularly in Brixton, the center of the London West Indian community, and a lack of adequate race-relations training led police to see any crime in those neighborhoods as a crime of the entire community. In the aforementioned embassy protest of March , a Black Panther solidarity demonstration for Seale turned violent when police and protesters clashed, leading to the arrest of sixteen Panthers.
In August, police accused the Panthers of distributing a leaflet designed to defame the judge during a high-profile court case known as the Mangrove Nine. Later that same month, a stolen watch allegation led police to a social hall where Black Panthers were holding a dance. The police investigation provoked the Panthers, who attacked the police as they left the building. In two of the court cases, the state criminalized the Panthers for the size of their events, which numbered one hundred reported protestors at the embassy and as many as four hundred dancers at the Oval House social event.
Of the twenty-six named defendants in these cases, twenty-three were male and fourteen of West Indian origin. CLR James summoned the remaining protesters the day after the arrest and urged them to continue their fight, emphasizing the seriousness of the charges against their comrades. During the trial, Black Panthers and their allies demonstrated outside the central criminal court, the Old Bailey. The Afro-British community was further empowered by the case of the Oval House brawl, which began at approximately 10 p. That evening, Peter Pace and David Proberts, two white schoolboys, were leaving Oval Underground station as two black boys approached them.
The white boys claimed that the assailants ran into Oval House, a social hall rented out for a Black Panther-sponsored reggae dance that evening.
When Mrs. Pace approached, a Black Panther at the door told her that the event was a wedding and that only private guests could enter. Reportedly, another Panther pushed Mrs. Pace back from the doorway, after which she sent her son to get the police and waited outside. Shortly thereafter, two plainclothes detectives arrived at the hall and showed a warrant card to two men sitting by the door.
The two men refused the detectives entry beyond the lobby as they did not have a pass to join the alleged wedding party. Police quarreled with a growing crowd of Panthers and solicited reinforcement before entering the hall. Accompanied by Pace and Proberts, the police stopped the dance music, circulated among the dancing couples, and searched for the stolen watch, but they were unable to find it. The police suspected that this was the signal that led dance attendees to hurl objects at them. During the altercation, bottles, cans, and chairs struck seven police officers. Most injuries were not serious, but two officers were knocked unconscious.
But they did ultimately arrest four Panther members, accusing them of assault on police, possession of a weapon, incitement to murder, and aiding and abetting in assault. The Mangrove Restaurant, one of the nerve centres of the community, had been raided without reason several times. Evidence in the trial showed how high the resentment of the brothers and sisters, both defendants and witnesses, against this constant unchecked brutality was. The flier also claimed that over six hundred police had been present at the Mangrove march and that there, too, they had released dogs on black protesters.
In response to these and other violent incidents, the Panthers emphasized their own preparedness and willingness to confront police when necessary. Like their U. Given stricter gun laws in the United Kingdom and the relative inaccessibility of guns compared to the U. Peter Oliver explained in his court testimony how he had lent Oval House to the Black Panthers for karate lessons and other forms of physical training.
They established community programs as the U. Panthers had done, such as organized activities for teenage West Indians held at the Oval House.