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Our best experience in dealing with the power structure in that program came when
somebody in the Department of Human Resources downtown set up a tour of police
headquarters for our center. Mr. Allen, the head of the program, said, "Mr. Seale, the young
ladies and fellows on the whole crew here will be going down to police headquarters
tomorrow." That was Friday.
I said, "Police headquarters?"
He said, "Yeah, they have a tour down there, and they want them to come down and tour the
police station so they can understand the city government better, and so the police
department can establish better human relations with the community."
"Well," I said, "OK. I'll see to it that they all get down there tomorrow." I thought to myself,
"If those brothers and sisters get down there and get to talking with too many of those
policemen, those cats are going to get themselves busted." I knew they were always in and
out of jive, petty crimes. A lot of times, I put them on jobs somewhere in town, a crew of ten
or twelve, and they might try to shoplift from a corner store or something like that. One time
I had to go in and talk the man into not having them arrested because they had been in there
stealing, stealing the man's stuff, when they had money in their pockets. I had to show them
that it wasn't necessary to be ripping things off, when they had money in their pockets.
"Petty crimes can jack you up," I told them. "Not that I'm on the side of the system," I said,
"but when you've got something going for yourself, you should use that as a functional thing
as much as you possibly can." The next day I thought I'd drop back by there because I knew
these brothers. They'd go down there and steal even if they had $50 in their pockets. So I
drove by there, and sure enough there were two of them in the store. No sooner do I walk in
than I saw somebody sticking a bag of cookies up under his belt. The cat came outside.
I say, "Hey, man, come here. I thought I told you, man, not to be jiving around here, jiving
and stealing. This old man wants nothing more than to arrest you cats on a bullshit tip." Then
I asked him, "Now how much money have you got on you? I'll buy you a beer. Tell me how
much you've got on you."
"Oh man. What's wrong with you, man? You out of your mind?"
"No, I'm not out of my mind, man. You ain't got sense enough to see that this old stupid man
here is going to get some cop." I pulled on his coat and took the cookies back to the man.
Then I said to the cat, "Now come over here. Walk back there and apologize to the man."
"Man, you out of your mind? " He turned around and walked out. I thought to myself, "Well
maybe I shouldn't have done that." So I went out there and said to him, "Look, man, maybe I
was wrong in telling you to apologize, but what I'm trying to do is to keep the man from
calling up. He's mad, man. He wants to call up and bust nine or ten of you cats who are
working down here.
"I've got another job up the street from this place," I said. "Nine or ten more cats are going to
be working in this general area. You all are going to come to this jive store, and the next
thing I know, you all are going to get busted on a bullshit tip, because you don't have sense
enough to see that you've got money in your pocket and cookies don't cost that much."
"Yeah, I guess you right, Bobby. You right, man. Shit. I'm a fool."
I said, "You sure are, if you keep that up, brother."
"Right," they said and split.
We had to go down to the police station on Friday, so I got everybody together Thursday
evening. I went around to all the jobs and picked up half the cats. "Look, tomorrow you cats
are going down to the police station for a tour," I said. The cats say, "Police station?" They
said that really turned-offish.
"Yeah, man," I said.
"Bobby, what you doing, man?"
"Man, it ain't me," I said. "I don't want to go down to no jive police station." Some of the
sisters said, "Shoot, I don't want to be going way down there to see old fools." But one little
girl said, "I want to go down there. I want to see what it's like." Half of them wanted to go
and half of them didn't. The half that did want to go, wanted to go just out of curiosity.
"Well we're going anyway," I said. "This is one of the tours, and you cats have got to go, so
we'll go. But when you get down there, don't be talking to no policemen. They are going to
try to ask you questions. I know the cops. They're going to try to ask you questions in some
kind of way, about yourself, gangs, and people in the community, so they can focus in on
you cats. That's trying to use you like Germany used little kids," I told them, "although it's
not that heavily organized. But I know them. Don't answer any questions. Just observe things
there and whatever the tour is about. I don't know what it's about, but I'll be with you."
"All right, man."
"Right," I said.
"Right. OK, man. Beautiful."
We bussed down to the police station the next day. We went inside, and they took us into a
big room, a kind of police room. It had a lot of chairs in it. Some lieutenant who was the
head of the juvenile division was sitting up there, along with the chief of police. This
lieutenant jumped up and said, "Well, it's good to have all of you here. Come down and see
the police station. We've got a lot of things you're going to see today. You'll be able to go up
to the crime museum, and you'll see the firing range, and go around and see the
communications operations here." His voice was real coppish-like. "And the
communications section upstairs, and generally look over the police department, because this
is all related to establishing, er a . . ." It wasn't in a human tone at all. "And uh, establishing
community relations with the people in the communities and uh, and uh, and . . . and . . . so
that we can better get along in our society."
Then this cop went right off into it. "I know a heck of a lot of you guys out there are in
gangs." Now he sounded real toughish-like. He went on, "And a lot of you are in different
organizations and groups. And uh, I want to ask a few of you some questions." I noticed the
other three or four cops in the room, they've got pads out, sitting up there. They've got pads
out. There was another one sitting over off to the side and he had a note pad sitting on his
I said to myself, "These motherfuckers!"
"And uh, a lot of rioting. Things been going on, and uh, some of you guys are good guys,
and you know we've got some good jobs down there for you guys this summer, and uh, if
you know any guys who've been running around here looting and things like that we want
you to, uh, give us their names, and, uh, the names of the different organizations and groups
out there, and uh, and uh, let us know where they're staying, and . . ."
I jumped up and I said, "Hold it! Hold it! Hold it right there!" I said, "Not one more word!
Don't you brothers say a word! Don't anybody say nothing!"
This cop looked at me and I looked at him and I said, "No sirree!"
"Well," he said, "this is just a part of the tour."
"No, uh-uh. You ain't gonna jack these cats up here like that," I said. "You've got them
informing on other people in the community and half of the cats are getting shot and
brutalized when you cops go pick 'em up.
"No sirree!" I said. "You're not going to turn us into no operation where the police
department makes us inform on ourselves. You're talking about community relations. This
ain't no community relations operation. This is a jive criminal investigation, and you're not
going to use them to do it!
"We know how to start encouraging these brothers to stop committing crimes and things like
that, and how to organize them to teach themselves, but we're not going to have this!"
They didn't like that, man. So Mr. Allen came in and said, "Seale, I think you should let the
I said, "Yeah, OK."
So he tried again, this cop. "Well, has anybody got anything to say out there?" Nobody said a
thing. "Well, does anybody have any questions about the police department?" Silence. "Does
anybody have any questions?" Nobody said nothing. "If anybody's got any questions about
the police department just raise your hand, just raise your hand, and we can talk and have
some general discussion here." Nobody would piss a drop. The brothers and I and the sisters,
we all had that together. They weren't saying a thing. Then the police walked out, and the
chief of police walked over and talked to Mr. Allen. They walked outside.
As I walked down the aisle, I spotted a brother over to my left. This cat had a big, big old
long switchblade. He had the blade down on his lap but he was cleaning his fingernails with
it, with this big, long switchblade, about four-and-a-half inches long. "Goddam," I said to
myself. "Sitting right up here in the middle of the police station!" I walked over and I bent
down and whispered to him. "Brother."
"Yeah, Bobby," he said, "what is it, man?" "Don't raise your hands up. Keep 'em down," I
said, "and close that knife, and put it in your pocket. Man, do you realize you're sitting right
in the police station and you've got an illegal knife on you? And when you get home, man," I
said, "leave that thing in your house. What's wrong with you?"
"Yeah, man. OK. I'm sorry. You right, man. You right." He got kind of shaky there. He
realized that he could get busted on a bullshit tip.
Some of the other brothers next to him heard us talking and they started giggling, "Ha, ha,
hee, ya damn fool." They ridiculed each other a lot. So I said, "You ain't got no business
calling him no fool, because you'd have probably done the same thing. Why don't you cats
stop laughing at each other."
Then they called me outside and the lieutenant said, "Well, Bobby, uh, it seems like you've
got things under control here. Uh, don't you want to let us ask any questions?" Mr. Allen
said, "Bobby, uh, I mean uh, you have to let them ask questions. You have to tell those kids
out there . . . I know they like you and everything, Bob - but uh, you have to uh, at least let
them ask questions, uh and let these officers here see if they have anything to investigate."
"Well I'm not going for the investigation, Mr. Allen," I said, "because the way police
departments work, half of the stuff that they get is trumped up. They're trumped up because
one kid will say, 'Joe might have done this, Jim might have done that.' Most kids don't know
what they're saying and they don't know anything about the law."
The police tried to say, "Well, we're trying to teach them about the law."
"No, you're not teaching them about the law," I said, and we got into a little argument right
there. "You're not teaching nothing about the law. Not one of them, probably, has ever
opened a penal code book. They don't generally know what a law is or what law is being
broken. Some of them are wrong, some of them do illegal things maybe, but I don't see any
reason for you railroading them.
"You police departments work erroneously anyway," I told them. "Because what you cats do
is get skimpy information here, and skimpy information there, and Joe said that, and Joe said
this, and Jim said this, and Jack said that, and the next thing you know, half the cats you have
arrested haven't even committed real crimes, or any specific crime that you're trying to
charge them with, because what's-his-name will mention such-and-such a person's name on
such-and-such a night. That's what you're trying to get those cats in there into, and I'm not
going to let them do it. We're together, we're going to stick together. Even if you fire me, Mr.
Allen, I know I'm right because I'm protecting them."
Then Mr. Allen said, "Well, I still think that the kids should ask some questions to go along
with the community relations program."
I said, "All right. We'll let them ask a few questions, but I'll go with you to tell them." So
what I did, instead of telling them, "Go ahead and ask questions," I said, "Do you guys want
to ask questions here or not?"
One of the brothers said, "Aw, man, I don't want to ask no questions here."
So I said, "Well, we'll see what we can do about setting up something because I still think
that you brothers have something to say about what the police do in our communities,
instead of always letting them dictate to us."
Somebody said, "That's right, because a whole lot of stuff has happened, man, that I know
about, that a whole lot of these police have done." All the brothers were saying, "Yeah,
yeah." They were carrying on, man. I said, "All right. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it." I raised my
hands up. They always got quiet when I said, "Hold it." I said, "All right. I'll talk to this
lieutenant some more and see what else we can set up in the future." I went over and said,
"Mr. Allen, why don't you just let them finish the tour, and if we just work it out together, we
could have them send some of the regular patrolmen off the streets to talk to the kids at one
of the Saturday morning lecture sessions." "All right, Seale," he said. "That makes sense." So
they finished taking them on the tour. I was running around the tour with them, looking at
different things all over the building.
Along the way, I saw one of the regular sergeants, a cop that we knew, a black cat Huey and
I had known for a time, and he complimented me. "Bobby," he said, "you did right, because
these cats really will trump up a lot of shit on a lot of brothers." Huey and I dug him because
he had told us that the only time he'd shoot a cat was if his own life was really in danger, if
he saw somebody else's life in danger, or where the cat was actually committing a criminal
act. "But like in riots and stuff like that," he told us, "cats breaking windows. I'm not going to
shoot nobody over nobody's property, but I will arrest them." He and Huey had definitely
respected that fact about him; the fact that he said that if he was ordered out on a riot, he'd
quit his job before he'd go out there shooting and killing.
This particular cop always felt that he could do a lot from the inside, but he was isolated,
isolated from that whole department. He gave us a lot of statistics, and a lot of information
about the entire Oakland police department and how 75 to 85 percent of them were racists.
This black cop came up to me during the tour, and told me that they wanted to talk to me
upstairs. I said, "OK, I can talk to them." So I went upstairs and Mr. Allen was up there, the
woman foreman was up there, and another member of the Department of Human Resources
was up there. They didn't like me because I had stopped it. The police chief and Assistant
Chief Gain (he's the chief now) were sitting there, and they'd filled up their heads with
certain attitudes they were trying to get off.
"Well, Bob, uh, I think that was, uh, not a good thing, you know, uh, that, uh, the officers
weren't able to talk to the kids."
"Well, I think that the officers should come to the community. Come down to the park where
we meet on Saturdays. If you want to establish some community relations come down and
listen to the kids. They've got grievances too. They want to ask the police some questions
instead of the police bringing us here and asking us questions. They're always trying to ask
us questions," I said. "Now we want the community and the youth to ask them questions.
That's a better way to establish relations.
"Both of them can ask each other questions, but we want to stand on our own ground. So you
send four or five regular officers off the beat, young ones and old ones, and we'll go from
there. I'm pretty sure they'll go for that, the Saturday lecture class right before the baseball
They came down the next day. That next morning they were there, man. That same
lieutenant came. They had some pamphlets stacked up with three policemen standing at
attention in a very dramatic photo. They took the picture from a ground angle, with the
modern police headquarters building and the American flag in the background, and these
policemen in the pictures were smiling, and on top in big letters they put "POLICE-
COMMUNITY RELATIONS." Then you flip the book over and you see all nicey, nicey things.
You see pictures of a policeman helping a little white girl across the street. She's nice and
neat and clean. There were no black people in the whole motherfucking pamphlet. I was
checking that out, man.
"Oh goddam," I said to myself, "Isn't this a front and a phony situation. The police chief is
saying all kinds of nicey, nicey things, and he doesn't say a word about the police brutality
going on in the communities, and he doesn't say a word about racists and bigots." They had
pamphlets and passed them all out. Then the lieutenant said, "Well, uh, Bob, do you want to
set the tone here?" He was trying to be friends with me in front of the kids.
"Yeah, I'll set the tone," I said. "Hey, you cats. All the questions we talked about yesterday
after we left the police department. I just want the true facts, things that you remember, or
that you heard people talk about that sound pretty true to you. Not exaggerated things. You
can ask these policemen about those cases of police brutality and injustice that some of you
have witnessed. You can go ahead and ask them about that. They say they want to start this
community relations program and I know you can document a heck of a lot."
I hate the day that I didn't tape that session. I hate the day. Man, those kids tore into the cops.
They just tore into them. They talked about cops. They really talked about the police
brutality that half of them had actually witnessed. Then they talked about stories they'd
heard. I always made the point of asking, "Is this something you witnessed, or is this
something you just heard? Now be honest and say if you saw it or just heard about it." I was
trying to get them to be as objective as possible, although the things they had heard were
very significant, too. Man, it made the cops mad, and they looked mad.
"What about the time," one little girl asked, "down on Fourteenth Street in front of the dance
hall down there on the other side of Cypress, when a black woman was snatched by three
cops and knocked down to the ground with a billy club?" She was angry, too, when she said
it. She made one cop just turn red. "Now do you think it's right for a big six-foot cop to
throw a five-foot woman down to the ground, and hit her on the head with a billy club?" One
of the officers, kind of half nervously and trying to be serious and objective, said, "Well,
maybe she had a weapon in her hand."
"Yeah, she had a weapon, and they took it away from her. But after they took the weapon
away from her, that's when they beat on her and that ain't right. I don't think no cop got no
right to be beatin' on no woman." That sister was mad, and she put that over with every piece
of emotion she had, and she sat down, man. Ooh, that tore those cops up.
Some of the guys were articulate, and some were very serious about what they had to say.
Some were mad, and some weren't. Some just presented cases they'd heard, and argued their
cases as to what was right and what was wrong. There were a few points of law that the
policemen were citing wrong. One cop actually stood up and said, "No, you don't have a
right to defend yourself." I said, "Wait a minute. Are you telling me, are you telling us, are
you telling all these young people here, that if a policeman unjustly, criminally attacks and
brutalizes them, they don't have a right to defend themselves?"
"No, you don't have a right to defend yourself," the officer said. "What you should do is take
it, and come down and file a complaint."
"Well, what about some of the ones who are dead?" I asked him. Man, that upset the whole
place! "They can't come down and put in a complaint," I said.
"Well, uh, you know, uh, that, that those cases are exaggerated."
"Exaggerated, my ass!" I said. "Fifty percent of them, 50 percent of them, man, are outright
cases of police brutality and police murder! Maybe the other 50 percent of them are related
to some kind of criminal activity because we know that the brothers do commit crimes.
We're not trying to hide that fact. But 50 percent of those cases are outright police brutality!"
Man, that upset that whole place.
Then this little girl got up and she said, "Say you!" She was about sixteen, and she pointed at
this one policeman.
"You don't have to treat him like that," I said.
"Bobby, I'll treat him like I want to, because they done treated me so bad."
"Well, excuse me, sister," I said, and I sat back.
This cop she had pointed to, he was red. He was shaking. She said, "Have you ever been to
see a psychiatrist?"
That's what she said to this cop. This cop just looked at her and the lieutenant got ready to
say something, but she started speaking again.
"I heard that policemen are supposed to go see a psychiatrist to see if they are
psychologically capable of being a policeman. Have you ever been to a psychiatrist?" He
really got to shaking then, man.
"The way you're shaking now," she said, "the way you're shaking now and carrying on, you
must be guilty of a whole lot! And I haven't got no weapon, or nothin'. This is just an
ordinary meeting between police and people in the community, the youth here on this
program, and you're shaking. Not only do you need to see a psychiatrist, you need to be off
the police force!"
Man, that cat was mad. That was a hell of a scene. I have never witnessed anything so
beautiful. Those kids knew cases. They know, man. They know. That was so beautiful. And
that was when I knew I became an enemy of the Oakland Police Department. This was about
three or four months before the Black Panther Party got started.
Most of the brothers really dug the poverty program, and the way I ran it. I'm pretty sure that
most of those kids learned a lot. I even found brothers who knew drafting. Since I dug
drafting myself, I began to advocate to the advisory committee that the brothers should learn
more skills in these programs, and that we should set up more programs in the community so
brothers who wished they had skills like brother Huey P. Newton, could learn them.
"They should be taught by people who are really concerned with the brothers and not by
those old-time white racists who are trying to control them and misguide them away from
unifying black people and serving black people." That was that scene, and it was something
1 Malcolm's Muslim name was El Hajj Malik Shabazz.
2 Cultural nationalists and Black Panthers are in conflict in many areas. Basically, cultural nationalism sees the
white man as the oppressor and makes no distinction between racist whites and non-racist whites, as the
Panthers do. The cultural nationalists say that a black man cannot be an enemy of the black people, while the
Panthers believe that black capitalists are exploiters and oppressors. Although the Black Panther Party believes
in black nationalism and black culture, it does not believe that either will lead to black liberation or the
overthrow of the capitalist system, and are therefore ineffective. - Ed.
HUEY: GETTING THE PARTY GOING
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