Former Black Panthers Henry “Hank” Jones and Rey Boudreaux address a question posed by an audience member at a student discussion event sponsored by Students of Arts and Politics. Jones and Boudreaux came to discuss the controversy surrounding a 36-year-old case against them that was reopened, naming them as suspects in a police murder.
A student discussion event featuring two former Black Panther members turned into a diverted argument between two students in the audience at the University Student Union Theater during a question and answer portion on Monday.
Ray Boudreaux and Henry (Hank) Jones, former members of Black Panthers, were speaking about human rights issues when a Caucasian student and black female student switched the context of the conversation into a heated debate concerning immigration, race and human rights.
“It’s not just black and Hispanic alright, because (immigration) started in America and we wouldn’t be here (if) they weren’t being religiously oppressed,” said Lindsey Arner, the Caucasian student. “That is why we are all here.”
A black student made a dissenting comment, which escalated the argument, until Jones interceded.
“Recognize what you’re doing, recognize what you’re doing, recognize what you’re doing right now,” said Jones, his voice overlapping the students’ argument and comments from the audience.
But the students continued their heated conversation until Jones again tried to calm them down. Arner began crying and tried to walk out, but Jones convinced her not to leave.
“The thing is, we talk too much at each other and not enough with each other,” Jones said to the two students.
The emotion in this discussion was not a surprise to Jessica Birkett, lead revolutionary of Students of Arts and Politics (S.O.A.P.), which sponsored the event.
“We had this same event a couple of weeks?We had about 70 people here and the discussion was very heated. It got very much like this one and we ended up going an hour over our limit because people just wouldn’t stop,” Birkett said.
Garfield Bright, from Hip-Hop Think Tank, the co-sponsor of the event, said the discussion brought positive results because it showed how people act during real-life conflicts.
But the outburst was an unexpected lesson, in addition to the actual lesson Boudreaux and Jones were presenting to the students at the event.
The two of them, in addition to six former Black Panther members, were arrested and charged with killing a police officer in 1971, as was shown in their documentary-drama film “Legacy of Torture.”
The case was closed in the late ’70s but reopened in 2003 by the San Francisco Police Department and the FBI.
The eight former Black Panther members became known as the San Francisco 8, and they have founded the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, said Boudreaux.
The film gives a voice to five of the former Black Panther members, exhibiting the different types of tortures they endured in 1973 when they were first arrested.
Harold Taylor explains in the film how electric cattle prods were used on his genitals, anus and under his neck by police detectives Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz. The same detectives became in charge of the case in 2003.
Boudreaux and Jones were not tortured like the other three men in New Orleans in the 1970s, but they have become leaders of the SF8 to close the case.
Every nation signed a document against torture at the United Nations, except for the United States, said Jones.
After the torture events, the detectives forced the three men to confidentiality, as shown in the film.
“No law enforcement agent was ever tried or committed for these things, and there is a statute of limitation,” Jones said.
The statute of limitation depends on the incident of charge, said Boudreaux. For example, a minor crime can have a one-year limitation.
Conspiracy of murder of a police officer was another charge for which the eight men were arrested and charged, but five of them were released from that charge in February 2008 because the statute of limitation was three years, said Boudreaux.
Richard O’Neal, one of the eight former Black Panther members, was released from all charges.
The other three men could not rid themselves of the charges because they do not live in California, as the statute of limitation does not transfer to other states, said Boudreaux.
Birkett plans to attend the SF8 preliminary hearing on April 21, while Bright and the Hip-Hop Think Tank plan to invite Jones and Boudreaux to Cleveland High School in early May.