Free the San Francisco 8!

Panel Discussion at the U.S. Social Forum on the San Francisco Eight

Panelists at US Social Forum on SF8

The panelists:
(L-R) Claude Marks, Soffiyah Elijah,
Kathleen Cleaver, Cynthia McKinney

The panel was held in Atlanta in June 2007 as part of the U.S. Social Forum. The panel was moderated by Anita Johnson, host of Hard Knock Radio, and included Kathleen Cleaver, former leader of the Black Panther Party, Soffiyah Elijah, Harvard Law School professor, Davey D of Hard Knock Radio & hip-hop journalist, Cynthia McKinney, former congresswoman, and Claude Marks of Freedom Archives.

Listen to the Audio: Social Forum Panel on the SF8

A full recording of the panel was broadcast on Hard Knock Radio, KPFA-FM, on June 30, 2007. You can listen to it here: A transcript is below.

Transcript: Social Forum Panel on the SF8

Anita Johnson: This is a special broadcast of Hard Knock Radio.  The compelling panel discussion that you're about to hear was recorded this week at the US Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia.  This discussion explores the case of the San Francisco 8 and the American government's legacy of torture and oppression brought to bear on the Black Liberation Movement, the Black Panther Party, and other communities who struggle for justice and freedom.  The panel includes Claude Marks of the Freedom Archives; former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; and the former Black Panther Party leader Kathleen Cleaver.  The moderator is Soffiyah Elijah of the Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute.

Claude Marks: All eight of the San Francisco 8 are locked up, and they really just started some of the court appearances … [they] haven't entered pleas officially.  There are attempts to reduce bail and the hearings around that have just started.  Currently the bail is set at 3 million dollars each.  Obviously the intent of this is not to make sure that they show up in court.  In fact, the guys in the film made all of their court appearances in front of the grand jury voluntarily.  So there's a lot of strong arguments about who they are, what they are in their community and to their community, to argue that they are going to make these appearances – but the state of California has a different opinion.  Several grand juries, starting in 2003 lasting through 2005, failed to indict them.  They are not indicted by grand juries.  They are actually charged on a complaint. 

Indicting the Black Movement

One count has to do with the death of Sergeant John Young in San Francisco in 1971.  The other charge is the most revealing politically.  It's a series of political actions from 1968 to 1973 that are framed as a “conspiracy,” which essentially is an indictment of the Black Movement and the Black Panther Party during that period of time.  That is the crux of what the state of California is trying to do.

Yes, there are unsolved crimes, if you will.  But the political context is the most overt … this isn't an attempt to arrive at any kind of justice, when in fact the perpetrators of COINTELPRO -- where the state itself which is responsible for this war that was launched to destroy among other things the Black Movement in that period -- is essentially functioning with impunity.  That's who's unindicted in this situation, is the federal and state governments and the local police departments that were waging this war -- from the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago to everything else.  That's what's at issue here, and it's why this case is so important.

Legitimizing Torture

The other aspect of it, of course, ties into an attempt that goes from both the local level all the way through to the federal government to essentially legitimize the use of torture because, rather than there being any new evidence in this case, the case is structured and predicated on the acceptance of the legal process to the process of torture that took place in New Orleans in 1973.  It goes along with Guantanamo.  It goes along with everything else they're trying to do, the redefinition of what violates human rights.  So the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights that was started by these brothers had the intent of challenging that and pushing it to the forefront.  And actually having a response to the repression accelerated the process of repression itself.  And so here we have this case.  And that's why it's about defending these people but also understanding that there are political prisoners in this country who've been locked up for many, many years, including two of the San Francisco 8.  The list is a long one and there will be other sessions [at the US Social Forum] that will address the broader question.

The Current Repression

But in this current period, that repression is very significant.  And it ties into the ways in which the US government is also creating very heavy costs to people who are part of the environmental movement, the animal rights movement, why the repression against dissent is so clear.  It's our responsibility to try to mount a movement that contradicts their intent that can stand up against it.  And it's for all those reasons that this case becomes so central, because it's at the forefront of what the state is doing to try to discourage and criminalize people like ourselves who are willing to stand up and resist.

Historical Background

Kathleen Cleaver:  [I would like to] give you some historical background and contextualize this.  We were a part of a very powerful upsurge in the United States that just took off in the wake of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement and at the peak of the fight going on in Vietnam.  So we were at the intersection of many movements -- Civil Rights, Black Power, freedom movements, student movements, youth movements, and anti-war movement.  And these were all going on simultaneously involving the same people.  And so young people in high school, young people in college, young people were dropping out of college, were going to demonstrations, were having teach-ins, were challenging the government.  Wherever President Johnson went, you know, "hey, hey, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today."  There was a consciousness and awareness that the government was doing the wrong thing, that racism was wrong.  That it was a good thing to fight to change the conditions in the country.  This was the consciousness that we represented, our movement. 

The Black Panther Party

So many people joined the Black Panther Party we couldn't keep track of them.  We were just inundated.  The party was started in 1966 in October.  And two people – Bobby Seale and Huey Newton – flipped coins to decide which one was going to be Chairman and which one was going to be Minister of Defense.  It had a 10-point platform and program of their goals.  Most people who've ever heard of the Black Panther Party almost never hear about the program.  ...  What were they about?  They were about dealing with a movement to solve some fundamental problems:  number one, police brutality.  That was the number one problem.  Other problems of economic injustice, poor housing, bad health, criminal justice, you know, all those kinda problems we see now.  But, this is what we were.  We were a social justice, human rights movement of young people in the streets, young people out of prisons, young people from different communities. 

I remember one young woman named Betty Carter who was a churchgoer.  But she was also a student at San Francisco State.  There was a whole group of young women at San Francisco State who joined the party.  The Black Student Union at San Francisco State was also mostly Black Panthers.  So we were radicals, we were revolutionaries.  But Betty Carter actually went to church, but she didn't want us to know it.  So she would sneak off on Sunday and go play piano for her church.  She didn't want her church people to know she was in the Black Panther Party.  We had a cross-section of youth, full of energy.

When I saw the pictures in the documentary, one of those pictures was right on Fillmore street in San Francisco where we opened the Black Panther office which was also my campaign office when I was running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket for the 17th assembly district.  We used the electoral system to challenge [the existence of] political prisoners, challenge the war.  We were educational.  The people – John Bowman, John Brown as I knew him, was always in my house, in that campaign office, at demonstrations. 

In that particular office, for example, we were organizing a demonstration on May 1st, 1969, because that was the date of a bail hearing for the Huey Newton – Huey Newton had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, although he had been charged with murder, and there was a bail hearing scheduled for May 1st.  We organized a big demonstration out of that San Francisco office.  And I was designing posters.  And I didn't know how to drive and I needed to go to the bank.  And some young KPFA reporter said he would give me a ride.  He came to pick me up, take me to the bank.  And we noticed there were some police cars across the street.  And I said oh, I wonder what they're doing.  But they were always there, they used to watch us.  We turned on Haight Street.  When we're out of sight, the San Francisco police raid that office, arrest everybody in there, because we're organizing a demonstration.  This is, you know, the use of the police force, the use of violence, the use of intimidation, the use of the state's resources to stop what we were doing when we're challenging injustice, we're challenging the way they're using -- this is what was going on constantly.  But we were engaging young people.  They were standing up, they were challenging, they were thinking about it and changing how people thought.  Changing what the norms were.  This is what, fundamentally, is the problem, I think.  This is what they're punishing us for.  For having the audacity, for having the intelligence, for having the commitment to say "we're going to change this."  we want power to determine the destiny of our own community. 

Solidarity and Coalitions

We want to work in solidarity with other people who are oppressed and exploited, whether they're in Cuba, whether they're in Namibia, or whether they're in the barrio.  So we formed coalitions with the Peace and Freedom Party, with the Young Lords, with the Brown Berets, with the I Wor Kuen, with the American Indian Movement.  All of these groups got their own 10-point or 13-point platform.  We set a model of how to struggle in a capitalist, urban society against injustice and racism and work in solidarity, and not stop.  We're still doing it.  The fact that young people are here is fundamentally important.  We were all very, very young. …

 “Democracy is a great idea”

When you saw Hank Jones you couldn't tell he was 72 years old, but he is.  He's still fighting.  I was on a panel listening to something he said, which I would love to quote here.  He said, "Democracy is a great idea.  We have all the paperwork.  We oughta try it."  what was so significant, why we were so committed, one of the things I think that falls out about the Black Panther movement and these freedom movements and the other groups is that we really loved our communities, we loved our people, we loved each other. 

So they had to figure out, how could they destroy you.  How could they disrupt and discredit and destroy us, so they had to break apart who was connected to who, make you think your friend is your enemy.  Make you think your enemy is your friend.  Make you think what's true is a lie, and make you believe bullshit.  But we were up against that and we were challenging.  We had a different way of thinking.  We had classes -- well, we worked non-stop and some of us didn't quite come out of those movements with all our sanity.  Some of us didn't come out alive.  But most of us did.  And so that's a model.  That's something you can take and go with. 

I am so impressed that yesterday I met a young woman who's in the Brown Berets.  She must be 19, 20 years old.  I said how can you be a Brown Beret?  You must be the child of a Brown Beret.  Oh no, and they're reorganizing.  She said, we took you as a model.  So this case, what you're looking at, is a systematic consequence of a type of punishment that's being meted out, systematically, brutally, illegally, to people like me, people like them, people who have the notions of how this society can be different, can be better, wealth can be redistributed.  People can change what this society is about.  During the Vietnam War, there were people who were proving that, every day.  There were revolutions that were successful.  There were decolonization movements that were successful. 

I tell young people that the government of the sixties and seventies, the United States government was run by liberals – liberals! And they were the ones we were fighting to change.  We were the radicals and the revolutionaries, they were the liberals.  We were fighting over how to change. . . This is worse.  These are reactionaries, counter-revolutionaries, those are the nicest things I could say about them.  … They're into the globalization of imperialism with complete domination and the complete suppression by using the same kind of techniques, more or less, that they used to overthrow [President Salvador] Allende [of Chile] ...  I mean it's all illegal war criminal techniques. 

So how does COINTELPRO fit in this?

So how does COINTELPRO fit in this?  COINTELPRO was anti-constitutional means of imposing the control over these movements.  They wanted to prevent the rise of a leader who could unify the black masses.  They wanted to prevent young people from being able to join these movements.  They wanted to prevent any kind of respect.  They wanted to destroy, discredit, and neutralize and said those who could be violent leaders, that meant people who had strong sense of resistance.  So that was, COINTELPRO was demolished, but the desire to criminalize, to use the legal system, to use the court system, the grand jury system, the criminal process to define what a social justice movement is about is alive and well.  And that's why I think this case is important.  If you read – not the indictment – the complaint against them, you'll see that they've accused people of a conspiracy based on cases that were thrown out or things that people have already done time for.  They're using totally – not totally bogus – questionable, questionable legal techniques to accomplish a political agenda.  So if this is a political agenda, question that agenda.  And is it an agenda that you want.  And what is that agenda for, and who does it serve. 

They know that a certain handful, a hardcore number of revolutionaries were never going to be changed.  But what they really want to do is change the mass support.  Change the ability and the willingness of people to fight for justice, fight for freedom, in a concrete, real-world, everyday, ordinary sense.  Because that's what we were about.  We weren't famous people.  We weren't old people.  We weren't rich people.  But we did say that everybody had a right to participate.  And that you had a right to determine your own destiny.  And that means everybody.  That doesn't just mean somebody.  So when most people are poor and most people are black and not very well educated and can mobilize a movement like the Black Panther Party that goes internationally, that's a problem.  They see it as a problem.  I think everybody that was a part of that deserves a tribute, you know, that they managed to do this and that you're still here listening to them.

I’m going to pass this on to the esteemed repudiated congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, who stood up for all these principles.  Who understood – she was the only person in the United States congress who said yes, I am willing to call for an investigation of COINTELPRO.  I am willing to look at your political prisoners.  I am willing to go and meet them and see how their human rights were violated.  I don't know anyone else in the United States congress who did that.  Did you?  No, she didn't either.  That's part of the problem.  …

Kamau Sadiki

I wanted to add one thing about this case because … the San Francisco 8 case ...  is not in isolation.  ...  There's a man in prison here in Georgia who was convicted in 2003.  His name is Kamau Sadiki who is formerly known as Freddie Hilton.  He was convicted on a 1971 police killing in Atlanta for which they didn't have any evidence and didn't even prosecute in 1971.  Now, November 1971.  What's the date in the San Francisco case?  The one in . . . Okay, August '71.  These brothers are being prosecuted for a 1971 case in San Francisco for which they didn't prosecute because they didn't have enough evidence.  So, what were they able to do and what's the difference?  The FBI was able to deputize, for the purposes of the membership in the Joint Terrorist Task Force, local police.  So they could finance the local police with money under the anti-terrorist funds set up by the, what is it, effective death penalty and anti-terrorist act of 1996, became very, very flush in the wake of 9/11.  So what you see is the use of the mechanics and the machinery that's a part of what our President Bush refers to the war on terror, that money being used to prosecute and persecute, find witnesses, find compliant judges, to try people for crimes committed in 1971 that they couldn't prosecute then.  There's one man here in Atlanta in prison for that.  And what's the significant thing I want you to connect to him is that, if he was willing to testify and help them capture Assata Shakur with whom he is, he's the father of her child, then this wouldn't have happened, you know.  He wouldn't have been prosecuted. 

Assata Shakur, who was able to escape from state prison after a very fraudulent trial.  She was tried for murder, convicted of murdering a policeman and also of murdering her comrade, Zayd Shakur, Black Panther, in an incident that happened in 1973.  She was convicted of that, however, the physical evidence that was at the trial made it obvious it was impossible given where she was injured for her to have actually held the gun and shot it.  So you have to recognize in these cases, evidence is not the point.  Justice is not the point.  It's the political conviction.  So she believed, and many people believed, that if she stayed in prison in New Jersey, she would have died.

She escaped, and she subsequently received political asylum in Cuba.  Cuba is an independent, sovereign nation.  They do not have any extradition treaties with the United States.  The only way you can legally extract someone from another country is if that government is willing to turn them over.  So, with the funds from the US homeland security, anti-terrorism slush fund, the bounty that the state of New Jersey has put on the head of Assata Shakur to be returned is now one million dollars.  One million dollars, which they announced on the anniversary of that shooting, May 2nd, I think, 2005.  That they raised the bounty to one million dollars.  And that means that they essentially want to pay … to get her kidnapped out of Cuba.  This is the context. 

Also, you'll see people in the Weather Underground, cases that they want to pin on them.  People in the American Indian Movement, there are cases that they want to pin on them.  In New York, where I was working for awhile, there were members of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, formerly local police, going around knocking on doors -- I want to talk to you about this case.  Some police came to the home of a now deceased young Panther, Janet Searle, and said we'd like to talk to you.  She had just come out of the hospital.  And oh, what do you want to talk about, she said.  The FBI tells her, Joanne Chesimard – that's Assata Shakur's name – Joanne Chesimard told us that you know who killed Foster and Laurie.  But we think he's dead.  Now what kind of conversation is this?

I want you to know, when you see Bowman saying that McCoy and Erdelatz come and knock on their door and say "hi John, remember us?"  These are the same police, deputized now by the FBI, using anti-terrorist money to perpetuate the goals of COINTELPRO, now.  And so that tells you something about the political structure of what's happening and what you have to challenge. … This is not in isolation, and there are more cases that I could talk to you about.

Cynthia McKinney: I’m Cynthia McKinney, and I served about 12 years in the United States congress, gettin' in trouble with the likes of Kathleen [Cleaver] and Ward Churchill and - no wonder I got kicked out of congress more times than most people even think about running for congress.  Now, the reason I was asked to join this panel is, one, because of the work that we did on COINTELPRO inside the United States congress, but also because now as a former member of congress, I've been asked to join several international tribunals.  And the idea of international legal action, given that torture is not only against US law, but torture is against international law.  And so now, perhaps there is a possibility that we can have some international litigation around the issue of torture. 

International tribunals

On September 11th, 1973, a reign of terror was initiated on the people of Chile with the installation of [General Augusto] Pinochet as the head of state there.  But we saw that some courageous attorneys in Spain, along with a very courageous judge, were able to hold international law and everybody accountable to it, including Pinochet.  That was a very path-breaking legal action. … Now I’m involved in another legal action in Spain dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity, coming out of the US effort in regime change in the great lakes region of Africa, where a whole lot of American people think that Hutus and Tutsis just like to kill each other.  But really this was … more US regime change. 

I’m also involved in several international tribunals dealing with the war in Iraq and the crimes against humanity, the crimes against peace, the war crimes that have been committed by, unfortunately, our government and other governments around the world.   One of those is in Malaysia, which is now forming a tribunal for the purpose of prosecuting war crimes against any of the heads of state, former heads of state, who saw these kinds of behaviors and activities take place under their watch. There's also the Brussels Tribunal, which has specific reference to Iraq. Now there's also the beginning of a Hurricane Katrina Tribunal, in which we would like to see crimes against humanity prosecuted by one of these other tribunals, the Malaysia one in particular, because its focus is a little bit more broad.

But I also have to just say a few words about these wonderful women and men, one man, sitting to my right.  But, I mean, you know, it's like, I have so much love and respect for what Kathleen Cleaver was involved in.  [applause.]  Can you imagine?  And when they say that their effort during their membership of the Black Panther Party was just out of love?  Out of love of their community?  We know it.  Because they had nothing to gain and everything to lose by what they did, but they did it anyway out of a sense of conviction.  And one of the San Francisco 8 said dignity and purpose and being a part of something larger than one's self. 

I remember the signs during the Civil Rights Movement where the Black men carried those signs saying "I am a man."  That’s what this really is all about.  It's about allowing people who are not a part of the power structure to operate as men.  Men is not wearing bling-bling and having fancy cars with the wheels that go backwards.  That's not being a man.  But being a man is being someone responsible.  Family first, community next, country next, global community.  And that's what the whole Black Panther Party was about. 

So how can someone who benefited directly from their actions, their convictions - the reason I was able to walk the halls of congress as a representative for all of you and try and share a bit of information with you and for you was because of what they did! And they [the government] don't want the young people in this room to know what they did!  Because they're afraid that you'll get affected by it too!  You'll get that infection that maybe the American government, the American way of life as we know it today is not something worth fighting for and starting wars for.  And that the United States can actually be a better place for all of us and for the global community.


There was a coup that took place in our country under the guise of COINTELPRO by men who wear jackets of authority and exercise that authority. But they killed Malcolm X, JFK, Martin, and RFK, and they changed our country. So much so now that this war against our ability even to think and remember means that you can't have a street in New York City named Sonny Carson Avenue.  You can't have a street in Chicago named Fred Hampton Boulevard.  Even down to the memory, the memory has to be obliterated.  Point number five in the COINTELPRO paper was directed at young people to make sure that you never adhere to any kind of nationalistic ideology that could change this country.

I would conclude by saying that it's wonderful to see a room like this because we've got all faiths, all religions, we've got all shades and hues of people.  We've got all languages in here, we've got all colors in here.  We've got everything represented in this room.  And the fact that we can all come together over an issue like this scares the living daylights out of these people.  And that's what the strength of the US Social Forum is all about, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together so that we can solve our country's problems and make a better America and a better world.

Why We Made the Film

Soffiyah Elijah:  … I want to talk a moment about the reason that we did the film. As you noticed, the men are not talking about, of course, what happened on January 23rd [their arrests].  But what we realized - when they were released from jail in October 2005 after having been held in civil contempt for their refusal to testify before the grand jury - that their message and their ability to speak for themselves was very compelling.  There's nothing like hearing them speak and hearing their own voice.  And we weren't sure if and when the state would actually move against them. 

We certainly never knew at that time that John Bowman was sick and that he would be departing us in December of 2006.  Thank goodness that we were able to capture his voice and his memory. We thought it would be a wonderful organizing tool. But it also enables us to put the message out more broadly and in the international community. We're about a month-and-a-half away from putting Spanish subtitles on it.  Then Arabic, French, and Portuguese, at least.  And we need to raise money in order to do that.

My sisters and Claude already spoke a lot about putting this case in context and the fact that the federal government is bank-rolling the entire thing.  What's interesting is the San Francisco county judicial system has to pay for the indigent defense of the eight men who are charged, and they are fearful that it is going to bankrupt their budget, because it's going to be so expensive.  The case, as you've heard, is based solely on torture confessions.  And I’m glad Cynthia made the point.  It's violative of civil rights, constitutional rights, and human rights. 

Coerced Statements Are Unreliable and Inadmissible

But I want to make a particular point as a US trained lawyer. Throughout US jurisprudence, one of the most important pillars of the American judicial system, at least on paper, is that coerced statements are inadmissible. And they're inadmissible because they're unreliable.  Because everybody knows, if someone's putting an electric prod on your genitals, you're going to say whatever they want to hear.  That doesn't make whatever came out of your mouth particularly reliable. The fact that this case is built on that kind of evidence already sets the stage for why the charges ought to be dismissed.  There should be a public outcry across this country.  Because if they get away with this, trust me, everything that you knew as norms, as protections for your person and your liberty is down the toilet. It's just that crass and true. 

The Legal Team

Just a quick word about the legal team.  There are eight absolutely, fantastically committed and very experienced lawyers who have committed their time to this case, not just since January 23rd when these brothers were arrested, but they were working in the trenches for free for the past two years with respect to the grand jury process, helping these brothers navigate that system, never asking for a dime and never questioning whether or not they ought to give of their time.  So we feel very, very fortunate that we have such a fantastically experienced and committed team.

And trust me, the California State Attorney General who is prosecuting this case, David Druliner, who in his free time managed to find his way to the office of Freedom Archives to pick up a copy of the film that you just saw –  he's going to be sorry, okay?  Because he is in no way equipped to go up against these guys. 

The men [have told me to call out the names of their] great lawyers.  I'll give their names in no particular order.  Michael Burt represents Ray Boudreaux.  John Philipsborn represents Hank Jones.  Richard O’Neal is represented by Jim Bustamante.  Harold Taylor is represented by Randy Montesano.  Herman Bell is represented by Stuart Hanlon.  Jalil Muntaqim is represented by Daro Inouye.  Francisco Torres is represented by Chuck Bourdon.  [Richard Brown is represented by Richard Mazer.] They're a great team, they have a second string of newer lawyers who are working with them, a team of investigators.

The men are extremely energized and committed and upbeat.  They are absolutely thrilled about the kind of national support and international support that's growing for them.  Every time they know that there's an event like this, they want photographs, they want comments from you all.  Their addresses are in the brochure.  Please write them, tell them that you were at this event.  They'd love to hear from you.  You can send them commissary, you can send them photographs.  It is because of you that they're willing to make the sacrifice and keep up the good fight. 

A quick comment on what happened in court last week.  Finally the bail hearings got started. None of the men have entered pleas. That's because, although they were arrested in January, the judge who was going to have the case was not assigned for many months. Finally the case was assigned to Judge Moscone.  And the bail hearings got under way last week.  The prosecution was clearly out-lawyered throughout the week's proceedings.

One of the interesting things that happened - and it tells you the power and the importance of doing a film like Legacy of Torture - the first person to go up for a bail hearing was Ray Boudreaux, represented by Michael Burt.  So Michael’s making the argument that it's clear that Ray Boudreaux presents no risk of flight, because over the past several years, he has taken vacations out of the country with his family and always come back to the United States.  Question, why? Because he's committed to fighting this case and believes ultimately he's going to be exonerated, alright? 

So the prosecution responds, well he did that because he didn't know that this case was waiting, that he was going to be prosecuted.  Now, all of you just watched the film.  You may have remembered that Ray Boudreaux says Erdelatz is sitting in his living room and says to him that he intends to see Ray and all of his associates behind bars.  Remember that quote from the film?  Now, remember, I also told you Druliner went to Claude's office and got a copy of the film.  We should presume that he watched it, right?  Okay.  But, so he's making this stupid comment in response to Michael Burt’s argument.  So Michael Burt very cleverly gets a copy of Legacy of Torture admitted into evidence as proof that Ray Boudreaux knew as far back as 2005 that the government intended to prosecute him and continued to travel for vacations and came back into the country. So that's how the bail proceedings ended last week. 

The men are strong, and they're strategizing during these few weeks while they're off-duty for court.  And they're looking forward to being back in court on the the 6th of August.

Not Just A Legal Defense

Claude Marks: Because this is such a political case, what's really key is that these guys have been able to meet on a regular basis inside and are actually setting the political tone for the defense.  It's not just a legal defense, it's clearly a political defense.  And they themselves are leading this political strategy from inside.  They meet on a weekly basis.  They issued a joint statement relatively recently which we don't have here in print form. I want to make sure you have an opportunity to read it, and it is on the web site that's in the brochure.  I don't need to say it out, because you've got it in writing. 

It's very clear from their point of view that what we're able to build is going to be the crux of winning.  It is a weak legal situation, but we know that the courts wield the power.  We don't know what this judge is going to do, because he's yet to make any decisions.  The arguments are strong.  But our capacity to show outrage and to build a movement is really the turning point.  It is what the success and victory of getting them out rests upon, not hoping that the lawyers who are going to do a great job, and the courts, who are hopefully going to show some gumption and do the right thing - that's not what we can rely on.

And that's not what the SF8 believe we should rely on, which is why they're meeting to build the political strategy.  And that's why that statement of theirs is so critical.  Because essentially they're laying that out.  …  It's our ability to build relationships with them, through writing, through correspondence, if you come to San Francisco to be a presence in court, to be part of the demonstrations that are held in front of the courthouse every time they appear.  That's what's critical.  That's what we're here to do.

Soffiyah Elijah: As you probably can figure out, building the support for them and just meeting their basic needs requires money.  The San Francisco County Court system is not going to provide them with commissary.  It's not going to provide them with the eight laptop computers that we had to buy for them, because the government turned over all the discovery, all 300,000 pages, on CDs.  Well, you can't read a CD in your cell unless you've got a laptop, right?  So we had to buy eight laptop computers.  We're trying to make sure that each of the men gets $200 a month for commissary so that they can buy phone cards, so that they can call their families.  All of these things cost money.  So, we're also trying to put subtitles on the film. We have to produce the brochures, we have to make more copies of Legacy of Torture.

Davey D: I don't think there's anything else that can be added to what's already been said in terms of the significance of this particular court case, meaning that this seems to be a line in the sand.  Whichever way it goes will set a precedent for a long time to come.

If I’m correct, we heard Sister Cleaver talk about a slush fund that the government has, money coming from homeland security and other agencies to prosecute these brothers.  The only way that we can really counter is to not only show our support in terms of getting the information out to people, but also to give whatever money that we can.

This type of conversation that we're having today is not going to be shown on Fox News, it's not going to be on CBS, it's not going to be on ABC, there's no 60-minutes expose.  So the only way we can do it is to have direct impact and contact with people that's in this room, and hopefully you spread it word of mouth to the next person and the next person. And that five-dollar bill can go a long way. And remember, these prosecutions are happening to people who were puttin it down 20-30 years ago, but it can easily, and it has easily been happening to people that are doing work today.  So we should make that investment so that we can have some sort of victory. 

Soffiyah Elijah: We are out of time.  But we're never too out of time to keep up the good fight.  Please, keep up the good fight, write to these brothers, raise money, get the word out.

Free the San Francisco 8 buttonCommittee for the Defense of Human Rights
P.O. Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109

(415) 226-1120
E-mail: freethesf8 [at] gmail [dot] com
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