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Supervisors’ Resolution Urges AG Jerry Brown to Drop Charges Against SF 8

San Francisco BayView, News Report, Posted: Jun 17, 2009

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar did on Thursday, June 11, what he said he’d do when he announced Monday, June 8, before a spirited picket line of some 300 people filling the block in front of the courthouse at 850 Bryant that he planned to introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors calling on California Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop the charges against the San Francisco 8.

Mar called their case “COINTELPRO 2009,” referring to the FBI counter-intelligence program carried out with local police agencies to destroy the Black Panther Party. The eight were members or associates of the Panthers as young men and have lived lives of exemplary community service.

The Brass Liberation Orchestra maintained the tempo as the crowd and defendants Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor and Cisco Torres marched along, prompting Ray Boudreaux, another of the eight, to remark that “this demonstration takes me back to New Orleans.” As they marched, the crowd chanted “Drop the charges” and “Free the eight” so loud that their voices could be heard by the two members of the SF 8, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, who are still locked up in the county jail above the courtrooms. The June 8 rally loudly announced that the community will not allow the persecution of the San Francisco 8 to go forward without a concerted struggle.

Supervisor Mar and his cosponsors, Supervisors Sophie Maxwell, Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly, have become major players in that struggle with the introduction of their “Resolution urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to not use evidence gained through the use of torture and to drop the charges again the ‘San Francisco 8′ defendants.”

“San Francisco does not tolerate torture,” said Supervisor Mar in a June 9 press release. “This is a human rights issue. The use of torture violates the U.S. Constitution and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The Board of Supervisors has previously gone on record opposing torture and we will continue to fight for these individuals who are currently undergoing their preliminary hearing.” That hearing has been continued to July 6.

After listening to impassioned public comment, the Government Audit and Oversight Committee passed the resolution on to the full Board of Supervisors, who are expected to vote on it in early July. A diverse group of SF 8 supporters, including educators, religious leaders, prison justice organizers, organized labor and legal advocates, attended and applauded the courage of the board members. The community and the board are asking Jerry Brown to halt this 38-year-old case based on torture. At the June 8 rally, Supervisor Eric Mar, right, announced he would introduce a resolution supporting the SF 8 by condemning the torture on which their case is based. The resolution puts him at great political risk because SFPD officers so badly want revenge against the men they accuse of killing one of their own that they have been pursuing the eight for 38 years. Mar is being interviewed by Max Pringle of KPFA.

The same case was dropped over 30 years ago by the San Francisco District Attorney. It is now being prosecuted not by the current DA, Kamala Harris, but by state Attorney General Jerry Brown instead. Though it has been widely reported that Harris declined to revive the case, a spokesperson from her office called the Bay View to say that she never reviewed it and that it was referred directly from the U.S. Attorney to Jerry Brown. It is San Francisco taxpayers, however, who are fronting millions of dollars in jail and court costs for the reintroduction of the case.

San Francisco police brought an overwhelmingly white and male contingent to the June 11 committee hearing that on one hand spoke to the memory of Sgt. John Young, who was killed in 1971 in the Ingleside Station, but also made it clear that they didn’t care about acts of torture when it came to defending their own. The same SFPD officers, now retired, who are still pushing prosecution of the case today supervised the torture 38 years ago. All police officers present at the June 11 hearing left as a group before its conclusion as a sign of disrespect for Supervisors Maxwell and Mar and their support for constitutional and human rights.

“There is no truth to the charges brought against these men,” said Soffiyah Elijah, deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. “These charges were thrown out of court in the mid ‘70s. Just like then, these charges are based on statements obtained from men who were subjected to several days of torture by law enforcement authorities still involved in the current prosecution. The ‘new evidence’ touted by Attorney General Jerry Brown - DNA, fingerprints and a weapon - have already been admitted by the prosecution to link to none of these men. This case should have never been brought to trial. Jerry Brown should stop this harassment.”

There is a massive public outcry and immense community and national support for the SF 8, who are now elders, husbands, fathers and grandfathers being ripped out of their communities to be put on trial. Thousands of individuals and many organizations, such as the San Francisco Labor Council and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have signed an open letter or passed resolutions urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop the charges.

Among those individuals who signed the open letter are Nobel Peace Laureates Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams of the Community of Peace People, Northern Ireland; Darryl Jordan, director of the American Friends Service Committee Third World Coalition, Danny Glover, Cynthia McKinney, William Wardlaw of the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International, and Marjorie Cohn, Esq., president of the National Lawyers Guild.

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