“FRAMED” Chapter 5 by Michael Richardson

Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 5 in Michael Richardson’s series called Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story. Learn more here.

 


“The Omaha Police Department has instigated a harassment campaign.”
—Paul Young, October 5, 1968

Paul Young’s quarterly counterintelligence report alerted J. Edgar Hoover to two Black Panther groups in the Omaha district. “Black Nationalist organizations have become active in the Omaha area, namely the Black Panther Party in Omaha, Nebraska, and Black Panther Organization, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. The Omaha group consists of approximately 20-25 members and to date its activity has been limited to twice weekly meetings. The Des Moines group filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Iowa on July 18, 1968, at which time it listed the identities of twelve directors. To date, this group is not known to have had regular meeting and its major effort to date has been an attempt to obtain anti-poverty funds for the purpose of financing an Afro-American Festival in Des Moines.”

“It is anticipated that in the near future [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] might be targets of counter intelligence action as well as the organizations of which they are leaders. The Black Panther group in Omaha has vaguely discussed in general terms creating violence, however, it has taken no positive action in this regard to date.”[i]

“It should be pointed out that the Omaha Police Department has instigated a harassment campaign against BPP members by stopping vehicles registered to them [illegible] at every opportunity.”[ii]

 


 

bpp
The Black Panthers in Omaha and Des Moines, Iowa attracted the attention of Paul Young, the Special
Agent in Charge of the Omaha field office. Young pledged to “disrupt” the two groups by targeting the
leadership for counterintelligence actions.
(credit: Black Panther Party logo)

Young soon followed up with three counterintelligence proposals to Hoover. However, Young needed to do more work and Hoover laid down the rules. “Omaha made three recommendations, one of which was to furnish derogatory information concerning the BPP to responsible Negro leaders. The second was to furnish the same information to government agencies funding the BPP and the third was to have sources and informants start gossip in the ghetto area concerning the extremist nature of the BPP. Although these recommendations have merit, they are so broad and nonspecific that authority is not being granted at this time to implement them. Omaha is being instructed to submit specific recommendations after which an independent decision can be made at the Bureau as to whether or not they should be authorized.”

“In those instances where you desire to furnish information from your files concerning background, revolutionary and criminal data of the BPP to individuals outside the Bureau, you must fully identify the proposed recipient of the information and furnish pertinent information concerning him. This information should include an indices review, statement concerning past cooperation with the Bureau and reason you believe he will not breach Bureau confidence.”

“The utilization of your sources and informants to spread gossip in the ghetto area concerning BPP leaders and members must be done on a selective basis so as to preclude tracing the origin of the gossip to the FBI. This is an effective but risky maneuver and you must insure that your informants are not compromised. Prior to undertaking such maneuvers, you must identify the informants you intend to use in this program and the rumors they will spread. Spell out tangible results you expect to obtain from spreading the rumor or rumors you recommend.”[iii]

Four days later, George Moore sent William Sullivan a memorandum urging counterintelligence actions against the Black Panther Party be accelerated. “The information we are receiving from our sources concerning activities of the BPP clearly indicates that more violence can be expected from this organization in the immediate future. It therefore, is essential that we not only accelerate our investigations of this organization, and increase our informants in the organization but that we take action under the counterintelligence program to disrupt the group. Our counterintelligence program may bring about results which could lead to prosecution of these violence-prone leaders and active members, thereby thwarting their efforts to perpetrate violence in the United States.”[iv]

 


 

In December, Paul Young reported to J. Edgar Hoover the Black Panthers in Des Moines had dissolved and only operated as a “loose-knit” group. Young also commented, “In view of the present status of the BPP in the Omaha Division, it is not felt that intelligent recommendations can be made at this time regarding counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP.”[v]

 

Eldridge Cleaver
Eldrige Cleaver visited Omaha in August 1968 and spoke at Malcolm X Park, aka Kountze Park, to a crowd of four hundred. Cleaver’s profanity laced remarks repeatedly referred to police as pigs. Omaha Police Department Captain Murdock Platner said it was the first time the phrase “off the pig” was heard in the city. (credit: Library of Congress)

 

 

Meanwhile, the San Francisco FBI office informed Hoover on developments involving Eldridge Cleaver and mentioned Cleaver’s trip to Omaha in August 1968 to establish a chapter of the Black Panthers in the Midwestern city and a FBI effort to exploit the trip.

“Also, with Bureau concurrence, an anonymous letter was sent to BPP Headquarters via Omaha, where [Cleaver] was in August, 1968, organizing a new BPP branch, and where he had temporarily been detained and interviewed by police, suggesting that the brothers in Omaha were suspicious of [Cleaver], who had easily gotten out of jail on a local charge.”

“It is believed that the BPP is becoming sensitive to the possibility of informers. This office will try to ascertain those Panthers who have been arrested and who BPP thinks might start to talk. We would then formulate some plan to cast suspicion on the man. We must bear in mind that if the plan is successful, a gang-type murder may be the result.”[vi]

Although the FBI’s counterintelligence operations often used local police, the danger of discovery was increased when expanded outside the Bureau. In mid-December, the FBI Training Division hosted a “Police Training Session” on guidelines for field offices in communicating with local police departments on counterintelligence matters[vii]

Paul Young’s last report of the year to J. Edgar Hoover was apologetic for the lack of action and assured the FBI director that Young was going to come up with a counterintelligence proposal.[viii]

A week later, Young had some news for Hoover. Young wrote about an interview with an unnamed member of the Omaha chapter but the memorandum is so heavily redacted by FBI censors there is no clue what Young had learned. Young did report that Omaha was calm and presented no danger. “None of the known members of the BPP in Omaha Office are considered to have a propensity for violence.”[ix]

At FBI headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover was pleased with the San Diego FBI office and sent the Special Agent in Charge a complimentary memorandum. The memo reveals what Hoover expected from agents. “You are encouraged to continue your aggressive attacks against the leaders of the Black Panther Party.”[x]

 


 

 

The Los Angeles FBI office’s quarterly COINTELPRO report to Hoover hinted at future counterintelligence proposals that could include lethal outcomes. “Friction continues between the BPP and “US” in the Los Angeles area and members of the BPP have made attempts to assassinate “US” members in retaliation for the slaying of two BPP members by “US” members….This situation will be followed closely by the Los Angeles Office for any counterintelligence possibilities.”[xi]

In Omaha, Paul Young continued to report to J. Edgar Hoover of no activity. Young said the Black Panthers were dormant and stated “a former lieutenant in the Omaha chapter of the BPP considered this chapter to be almost out of existence.”[xii]

 

OWH article on David Rice Mondo we Langa at GOCA
The Omaha World-Herald made note of Mondo’s employment at the Greater Omaha Community Action, or GOCA, an anti-poverty agency. (credit: Omaha World-Herald)

 

At the end of March 1969, the Omaha World-Herald reported on Mondo’s new job as a neighborhood outreach worker for Greater Omaha Community Action agency. The daily newspaper noted that Mondo wrote for “underground” newspapers. “His articles have frequently been critical of Omaha police, schools and city officials.[xiii]

Kenneth Shearer, GOCA executive director, said he cautioned Mondo that he had to avoid newspapers “generally known as partisan from a political standpoint.”

Later, in the trial for his life, Mondo described his new employment. “I was a neighborhood worker and my basic job, as I saw it, was to inform just plain old common people about the situation under which they live, their problems and so forth, to try to get them together at meetings to be able to express themselves and do things like go down to City Council meetings and make requests for things that were necessary in the communities.”

“I worked with different youth in trying to establish programs for youth that would be meaningful, and a major part of my work was tied up in trying to assist people in emergency situations where they were hungry or where their utilities had been cut off or their homes had been broken into, a lot of my work was investigatory and so forth, and I guess emergency oriented.”[xiv]

Mondo worked closely with members of the clergy. Mondo acted as a community consultant to the ministers and they in turn helped with obtaining food for needy persons identified by Mondo when other community resources were unavailable.

 


 

“I was working at the 24th and Grant Street GOCA office and that was in the area in which there was all kinds of difficulties all the time and I began to meet some individuals who were members of what I actually discovered to be a defunct Panther party at that time and I began to associate about that period of time.”[xv]

 

Ed Poindexter and David Rice in 1970, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, formerly called David Rice, before they were incarcerated in 1971. After becoming acquainted through the Black Panther Party, the two activists became immediate lifelong friends. (credit: Unknown, possibly an unpublished OWH photo)

 

“I had known for quite some time I was being watched by the police and probably the FBI.”

“One of the main things that the police would use on me would be traffic stops. I remember one time I was on Capitol Avenue, close to Central High, and I got pulled over.  I look and there is like a half-dozen cruisers and a couple of unmarked cars, all of them red lights flashing….This cop walks around my car and says there is no wheel tax sticker.  It was pure harassment.”

“Another time I was at the GOCA office….One of the women at the office tells me, “There has been a couple of cars parked outside, I suspect they are police or FBI, they’ve been out there the last couple hours.”

“About a half-hour later police came rushing in….They put me under arrest. And they scared the hell out of people.  I step outside, cruisers up and down the street.  People gawking. What had happened was they put me under arrest for failing to appear in court on a traffic ticket. It may have been on that no wheel tax sticker thing, I’m not sure. It turned out the wrong date was on the ticket.”

“How much of that was Omaha police and how much of that was with the FBI, I don’t know. I assume they were probably working together. It wasn’t just me. Ed and Frank [Peak] and other members of the Party, they had to go through different kinds of harassment also. All kinds of things were done throughout the country and we shouldn’t expect Omaha was any different.”[xvi]

In April, Paul Young submitted his quarterly counterintelligence report to J. Edgar Hoover that the Omaha Black Panthers were “very inactive” but the Des Moines chapter was active. “In connection with the BPP in Des Moines, information was recently received that there is a power struggle under way in the Des Moines black community involving three elements, the BPP, a local street gang, and the legitimate United Black Federation, the later composed of Negro civic and business leaders. A source has stated that the street gang is very upset with the BPP as [REDACTED] and the BPP have brought much police “heat” into the ghetto causing problems for the street gang.”

“It is felt that the Black Panther Party in Des Moines has a propensity for violence….At the present none of the known members of the BPP in Omaha are considered to have a propensity for violence.”[xvii]

 

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Citations

  • [i] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 3, p. 51, September 6, 1968
  • [ii]  “Area Panthers on FBI’s Target List,” Mary Kay Quinlan, Omaha World-Herald, p. 30, December 6, 1977
  • [iii] J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young, October 23, 1968, Black Nationalist Hate Group, Reel 2 microfilm, 1978
  • [iv] George Moore to William Sullivan, October 27, 1968, Black Nationalist Hate Group, Reel 2 microfilm, 1978
  • [v] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 5, p. 65, December 2, 1968
  • [vi] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 5, p. 26-27, December 2, 1968
  • [vii] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 58, December 17, 1968
  • [viii] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 102, December 30, 1968
  • [ix] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 181-182, January 8, 1969
  • [x] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 7, p. 107, February 19, 1969
  • [xi]  FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 7, p. 29, February 26, 1969
  • [xii] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 8, p. 98, March 10, 1969
  • [xiii] “Civil Rights Writer Gets GOCA Post,” Omaha World-Herald, March 29, 1969
  • [xiv] Trial Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1047, April 13, 1971
  • [xv] Trial Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1048, April 13, 1971
  • [xvi] Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007
  • [xvii] FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 9, p. 90-91, April 21, 1969

 


About the Author

Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.
This is Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.

Michael Richardson is a former Omaha resident who attended Westside High School and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Richardson was a VISTA Volunteer on the Near-Northside and served on the Nebraska Commission on Aging before moving from the state. Richardson attended the Minard murder trial and reported on the case in 1971 for the Omaha Star in his first published article. After a nineteen year career as a disability rights advocate, Richardson worked for Ralph Nader coordinating his ballot access campaigns in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Richardson has written extensively for the San Francisco Bay View, OpEdNews.com and Examiner.com about the trial while spending the last decade researching and writing the book.

 

 


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One thought on ““FRAMED” Chapter 5 by Michael Richardson

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  1. This is very interesting. During that same period in Rock Island City we use to joke that our phones were tapped, because we could hear clicks sometimes. The city mayor would mention that the Black Panthers were around. I didn’t know anyone who admitted to belong. We had a mini riot ( confined to a couple of locks in the “west end” after Dr. King’s assassination.

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