Black Panther Protest
In 1969, due to two end-of-decade
events, the nation’s spotlight was aimed on the New Haven, Connecticut,
singeing a hole in the Black Panther Party headquarters.
On April 2, 1969, 21 Panther
members were arrested and charged with conspiracy to blow up the New
York Botanical Gardens and several department stores, and to assassinate
police officers. The following month on May 21, the slain body of Alex
Rackley, Black Panther Party member, was discovered in a swamp in Middlefield,
Connecticut. FBI agents and New Haven Police officials wasted no time
and raided the Panther's headquarters, searching for evidence. That
same day, eight of the local chapter's members and the party's notorious
national chairman, Bobby Seale, were arrested and charged with murder,
kidnapping, and conspiracy.
A group of Northeastern University
students sympathized with the plight of the Black Panthers and wanted
to demonstrate their support to the Boston community. In April 1970,
the Black Panther Support Group formed on Northeastern’s campus.
The organization's mission was to educate students, increasing their
understanding of the trials of Bobby Seale, the New York 21, and the
Black Panther Party. One of their first actions was to name April 14th
Bobby Seale Day. The group also strived to tie Northeastern to its surrounding
community by initiating a campaign to provide funds and supplies for
a medical center in Roxbury and by proposing to Northeastern’s
Student Council to start a hot breakfast program for children in Roxbury
On the afternoon of April
7, the Black Panther Support Group’s agenda became evident. Carrying
“Free the Panthers” signs and chanting revolutionary slogans,
70 Northeastern students marched from Krentzman Quad through downtown
Boston to Post Office Square, the city-wide protest’s first meeting
point. There, the students were joined by 1,930 other protesters who
also wished to demonstrate support for the Black Panthers during the
New Haven murder trials.
The crowd of 2,000 stood
in Post Office Square listening attentively to Doug Miranda, former
chairman of the Boston Black Panther Party, and Artie Seale, wife of
Bobby Seale, urging them to take action. Demonstrators then marched
to Boston Police Headquarters on Berkeley Street. Boston’s Tactical
Police force surrounded the area, and plainclothes officers were in
evidence in the midst of the crowd. As the rally culminated at Boston
University’s Sherman Union, marchers pledged to continue the struggle.