“FRAMED” Chapter 8 by Michael Richardson

Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 8 in the series on NorthOmahaHistory.com called Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story. It was written by Michael Richardson. Learn more here.

 


“Frightening sound of a riot pump shotgun lock and load…”
—Edward Poindexter describing encounter with Omaha police

 

The new year started with the Midwestern United Front Against Fascism conference in Omaha. Black Panthers from Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, North Dakota and Missouri attended. Approximately one hundred and fifty participants were on hand for the gathering and dance afterwards.

Speakers at the event included Charles Knox, Maxine “Mama” Summers, and Ernie Chambers. Knox lectured on the evils of capitalism. Summers spoke against “inane American puritanical bullshit regarding sex.” Chambers denounced police brutality.1

 

This is the heading of the United Front Against Fascism Newsletter from January 7, 1970. Mondo and Ed Poindexter sought to grow the Black Panther Party in the Midwest and organized a six-state conference held in Omaha. (credit: Trial Exhibit 14)
This is the heading of the United Front Against Fascism Newsletter from January 7, 1970. Mondo and Ed Poindexter sought to grow the Black Panther Party in the Midwest and organized a six-state conference held in Omaha. (credit: Trial Exhibit 14) Download the full copy.

 

Meanwhile, Paul Young understood that he had to come up with a counterintelligence proposal to satisfy J. Edgar Hoover. “As previously pointed out to the Bureau, the activities of the United Front Against Fascism, the successor organization in Omaha to the BPP, has been limited, however, indications are that this group plans to start a liberation school in Omaha in the near future.”

“Several counterintelligence measures aimed against this organization are presently under consideration and proposals for counterintelligence activities aimed at disruption of this organization or directed against its leaders will be submitted to the Bureau by separate communication in the very near future.”2

By the end of January, Young finally had a counterintelligence proposal for Hoover. Young planned to intercept delivery of The Black Panther newspaper on the way into the city from Eppley Airport. “Contact is presently being maintained with United Airlines to ascertain if a regular pattern exists for the pickup of this newspaper by [REDACTED] a known UFAF member to whom these papers are consigned. As soon as this pattern is established, Omaha contemplates initiating counter intelligence measures aimed at disruption of the distribution of this newspaper.”3

In February, the FBI plot to ambush the delivery of The Black Panther newspaper went forward. Young updated Hoover on the status of the plan. Hoover read and initialed Young’s memorandum. “Since BPP Headquarters has changed its policy concerning the publishing of this newspaper to demanding that payment for these newspapers be received at BPP Headquarters prior to the time the newspaper goes to the printer, no papers have been received in Omaha from the San Francisco area. In recent communications from San Francisco, it appears that arrangements are being made to have further shipments of the BPP Newspaper sent to Omaha and contact is being maintained with United Airlines Air Freight.”4

One winter night, Ed Poindexter “let off some steam” and got drunk at a party. Poindexter’s girlfriend had too much of something and they ended up at the emergency room of the Douglas County Hospital. A fracas over the way the girlfriend was being treated led to Poindexter being clubbed by a policeman. Poindexter remembered regaining consciousness in a cell.5

Word got out about Poindexter’s trouble at the hospital when Mondo and others collected bail money from the community. The FBI made note of the incident and Paul Young had a new counterintelligence proposal for Hoover. Young wanted to mail an anonymous letter and quickly gained the approval of both George Moore and William Sullivan. However, Hoover withheld his consent until he got more details about the proposal. Young replied to Hoover. “Freedom By Any Means Necessary”… had an article which reads as follows: “Our department Chairman, ED POINDEXTER, wishes to extend his sincere thanks to the people in the Black Colony for their generous donations to get him out of jail… The donations were a sure indication of the support the UFAF is getting from the people.”

“Investigation by the Omaha Division has failed to find any records of [Poindexter] being in either the city or county jail during the month of February. It is believed that the money collected by [Poindexter] and the UFAF was done under false pretenses. It is felt by Omaha that the UFAF needed money and this was the ruse that they used in order to get donations from the Black Community.”

“Bureau authority is requested to write an anonymous letter to Black Panther Party Headquarters stating the above facts; also authority is requested to make anonymous phone calls to Negro militant [REDACTED] and local Negro publications and certain people in the Black Community stating the above facts.”

“[Poindexter] is carried on the Omaha agitator index and [REDACTED] is carried on the security index.”6

Although Young’s agents could find no record of Poindexter’s arrest, Poindexter clearly remembered waking up in jail and who bailed him out. “I even recall the community activist who bailed me out. It was Elroy Williams, Sr., one of the old school communists who was inactive at the time, but still supported the party in any way he could.”7

 

"The Omaha Star" by Joe Kinney
The Omaha Star newspaper was targeted by the FBI to receive a false news tip in order to defame Ed Poindexter. The paper did not fall for the bogus letter and did not print the spurious allegation.

 

Mondo also remembered Poindexter’s arrest. “The Hoover gang faked up a letter to the Omaha Star, claiming the donations we asked for to get Ed out of jail were obtained falsely because Ed hadn’t been jailed. We didn’t know, at the time, who was behind that, but the fact was Ed had been arrested and jailed.”8

Hoover wrote to Young about his counterintelligence proposal against Poindexter. Hoover wanted to see a copy of the anonymous letter. “Submit contents of proposed anonymous letter for Bureau approval. A copy of your request for approval along with a copy of your proposed anonymous letter should also be furnished San Francisco.”9

After the anonymous letter finally gained Hoover’s approval he added several instructions. “Take the usual security precautions to insure this letter and mailing cannot be traced to the Bureau.”

“Advise the Bureau and San Francisco of any positive results obtained by means of this letter. You are also authorized to discreetly make anonymous local phone calls to the publishers of “Black Realities,” “Everyone Magazine.” and “The Omaha Star,” as well as to the individuals mentioned… The context of these anonymous calls should relate to [Poindexter] obtaining bail money under false pretenses as you have previously described. Use discretion in making these calls to insure that they cannot be traced to the Bureau.”

“Advise of any positive results obtained by means of these anonymous calls.”10

 

Anonymous letter to Edward Poindexter United Front Against Fascism North Omaha Nebraska
The anonymous letter used by the FBI against Ed Poindexter. The letter was personally approved by J. Edgar Hoover. (credit: Public Research Associates Library)

 

The FBI bogus letter was replete with intentional typographical and grammatical errors to presumably make it more realistic. Following is the text of the letter:

“Mr. [Hilliard] I wish to report a violation against the people by the leader of the United Front against Fascism in Omaha, Nebraska. [Ed Poindexter] claimed he was put in jail by the Pigs on Feb. 11 and he got donations from the people to get him out of jail. I gave two bucks. Last week while in the Pig Department i overheard a Pig laughing and telling another Pig(Black) how the Black Panther cheif [Poindexter] screwed the peoplke on the North side. The Pig said [Poindexter] was not in jail and he snowed the people getting the donations for bail money. If thats the kind of leaders you want in the panthers I dont want to join. Power to the Pigs if thats how you treat us fellow brothers and sister. Right On Former supporter of the BPP”11

 

In April, Ed Poindexter presided over a “shotgun wedding” between Mary Mitchell and William Peak according to a newsletter account. “The best man and bridesmaid wore bandoleers and held shotguns pointed upwards.” After promising revolutionary fidelity and allegiance to revolutionary ideology the couple were married by Poindexter. “At this point, the best man and bridesmaid simultaneously cocked and dry-fired their shotguns.”

Poindexter closed the ceremony with a wish. “I am proud to join these two servants of the people. And I hope they have many strong warriors for the people and more problems for the pigs.”

 


 

Zion Baptist Church, 2215 Grant Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
Zion Baptist Church where Mondo was arrested for challenging Reverend Rudolf McNair over his personal life. McNair would later become Mondo’s boss at Greater Omaha Community Action agency and fired Mondo on McNair’s first day.

 

The first Sunday in May saw Mondo at the Zion Baptist Church. Mondo and seven church members were arrested. Several were elderly members of the church. Reverend Rudolph McNair told police he was pushed and grabbed by members of a group who blocked his way as he walked to the pulpit. McNair said the group shouted during the church service.12

McNair had been a subject of attention from Mondo in Freedom By Any Means Necessary for hypocrisy in his personal life. Mondo later talked about his public battle with McNair. “I was working on our newsletter when I got a call from this dude who said a particular preacher had beat his wife in the Safeway parking lot. I got the lowdown. Now here was somebody church people had been trying to get rid of for years. I did know he had been active in the so-called civil rights movement, very active, and then he had gone quiet. Later on I found out that he turned to the mayor about his church receiving funds to operate certain programs. So for a time his quietness had been purchased.”13

“I guess he was with his girlfriend and the wife busted him and she didn’t take too kindly to it and he assaulted her in the parking lot. This is somebody preaching sermons to his congregation about sin and goodness and evil.”14

Mondo wrote an article for the newsletter about McNair and decided to attend McNair’s church. “Myself and another Party member went to the service next Sunday, right around service time. After people found out what was in it, all kinds of people just rushing, practically knocking us over to get these newsletters. Well, we ran out of newsletters but it was kind of fruitful we had The Black Panther newspapers with us. When we ran out of our newsletters the people bought the Black Panther Party newspaper. Maybe a week or two after that the police came and a number of us were arrested. I was the only one from the chapter that was arrested.”15

On May 13, 1970, the Des Moines police station and municipal court building were bombed causing $250,000 damage. The crime remains unsolved.16

 


 

The following week, several thousand people attended a four-hour rally in honor of Malcolm X organized by Mondo at Kountze Park. Mondo used local pride in Omaha as Malcolm X’s birthplace to turn out a crowd.17

Later in the evening, two Omaha patrolmen were making a traffic stop when approached by Mondo and Frank Peak, Jr. Both Mondo and Peak were carrying a pistol. Startled, one of the officers drew his weapon. After several tense moments Mondo and Peak continued on their way. A police spokesman told a reporter that no law was broken. “It’s unusual for people to carry guns like that, but there was no violation of the law.”18

Peak proceeded to the renamed National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters where he had a conversation with George Parker. Parker reported several police cruisers were parked outside and “four or five” people were on the porch “drinking beer and pop.”

Parker said police were “shining spotlights on the porch” and uttering “provocative epithets.” Parker said he heard one police officer shout at the group on the porch. “You better get your guns, because we’re coming tonight.” After that one man produced a rifle on the porch. Parker was on the scene for three hours during the stand-off. At one point five police cruisers were parked outside the headquarters. The incident was not defused until Sergeant Pitmon Foxall arrived and ordered the people on the porch to go inside and the police to leave the scene.19

The next day, Mayor Eugene Leahy asked the Public Safety Director to investigate complaints that had reached the Human Relations Board about police harassment of members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism. The United Front Against Fascism underwent a name change during the summer as they moved toward reactivation of the Black Panther Party in Omaha.

George Parker, vice-chairman of the Human Relations Board, went public with citizen complaints about the police. Parker said people were tired of “police harassment and abuse, without provocation.” That night, a shot was fired at a police cruiser near the headquarters of the NCCF in Omaha. The shot missed the cruiser but hit a city bus. Earlier, two police officers were driving past the NCCF headquarters when a group on the porch, men and women, shouted obscenities and displayed handguns. A woman on the porch allegedly pointed a pistol directly at police.20

 


 

On May 22, 1970, the municipal hall and police station was bombed in Ames, Iowa. The Black Panthers were suspected but no arrests were made. The crime remains unsolved.21

In New York, the Society for Philosophy and Public Affairs adopted a resolution about the New York 21. Twenty-one Black Panther activists had been charged with planning to blow up various sites in New York. The philosophy society had uncanny insight into what was happening across America.

“The treatment of the New York Panther 21 by courts of the State of New York represents what we regard as a judicial outrage. The evidence brought against the defendants seems far from conclusive; yet the defendants have been placed under excessive bond that they have no chance of meeting, and that is far greater than the bond imposed on other defendants in New York charged with similar crimes and confronted with greater evidence against them. Eleven of the defendants have spent the past year in jail. In jail they have been the victims of gross brutality. In courtrooms they and their lawyers have been constantly harassed and have been denied elementary rights necessary for the conduct of a fair trial”22

“Unfortunately, it would appear necessary to consider the possibility that this case is part of a nationwide “police conspiracy” to destroy the Black Panther Party.”23

On June 11, 1970, the Ames Avenue police assembly building in Omaha was bombed just before a shift change. A bomb placed outside the cement wall of the building damaged police cruisers parked nearby. No one was injured and the crime was never solved.24

 


 

This is Ed Poindexter, b. 1944, formerly of North Omaha.
Ed Poindexter circa 1971.

 

Police kept close watch on Ed Poindexter.

“I’d spend the night at different homes so that the cops couldn’t pick up a pattern. Each night I was at a different safe house to sleep. Since it was unusually quiet… in terms of police harassment, I decided to walk north on Twenty-fourth Street instead of cutting through alley ways as usual.”

“Mama’s house was only a few blocks from headquarters, and I’d expected to be there within five minutes. But as I got two blocks from headquarters a cop cruised by and looked at me with surprise. I instantly knew there was going to be some stuff, so as they turned off Twenty-fourth and out of sight I took the opportunity to jet north to Spaulding and cut west before the cops had a chance to double back for an assault on me. Pity the poor soul caught alone on a side street with no witnesses.”

“About half way up the street I looked back to see the patrol car screech around the corner in pursuit of me. I ducked between two houses and cut through an alley. I heard the patrol car halt, the door open and slam shut, and the familiar but frightening sound of a riot pump shotgun lock and load.”

“When I reached [North] 27th Street, I decided not to enter the house, but instead duck behind the hedges and wait for the cops to pass. I kneeled on the lawn and felt the salty sweat dripping down my face. My forearms and hands even glistened with it.”

“Moments later the patrol car cruised slowly past the house with its searchlight passing over the hedges and house. That was the longest ten seconds of my entire life.”25

On June 13, 1970, the Chamber of Commerce office in Des Moines, Iowa was bombed. The explosion caused $100,000 in damage to the building. The crime remains unsolved.26

A week later, the Des Moines police received a phone call about a box under a bridge. The responding officer found a tool box set to explode when the box was opened. The booby-trap bomb did not detonate. No arrests were made.27

 


 

The eight people arrested at the Zion Baptist Church in May went to court. Mondo and seven others were fined one dollar each for disturbing a church service. Municipal Judge Simon A. Simon told the eight, including several elderly women, that church was not the place to “settle grievances.” Several of the defendants testified they only grabbed McNair to restrain him after he clenched his fist as though to strike one of the women.28

Omaha’s long hot summer simmered with confrontation and violence to follow.

 

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Citations

  1. Trial Transcript, Exhibit 15, p. 1, January 16, 1970
  2. Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection January 12, 1970
  3. Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection, January 26, 1970
  4. Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection, February 24, 1970
  5. Known records do not note Poindexter’s jailing; however, removing an unconscious man to jail from a hospital emergency room is hard to justify in a report and may have occurred without proper record.
  6. The hospital also had a holding cell for prisoners which may have been used.
  7. Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection, March 5, 1970
  8. Edward Poindexter, letter to author, February 24, 2009
  9. Mondo, letter to author, January 26, 2009
  10. J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection, March 1970
  11. J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection , April 3, 1970
  12. Anonymous letter against Ed Poindexter, Public Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection April 3, 1970
  13. “Church Row Fine $1 Each,” Omaha World-Herald, June 25, 1970
  14. Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007
  15. Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007
  16. Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007
  17. “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 19, 1970
  18. “2,500 Attend Rally Honoring Malcolm X,” Omaha World-Herald, May 21, 1970
  19. “NCCF Group Flashed Guns,” Omaha World-Herald, May 21, 1970
  20. “Report by Chief Is Contradicted,” Omaha World-Herald, May 20, 1970
  21. “NCCF Group Flashed Guns,” Omaha World-Herald, May 21, 1970
  22. “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier”, Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 19, 1970
  23. The Black Panthers Speak, Ed. by Phillip Foner, p. 265, 1970
  24. The Black Panthers Speak, Ed. by Phillip Foner, p. 266, 1970
  25. “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 19, 1970
  26. Edward Poindexter, personal letter, March 24, 2008
  27. Hearing Transcript, House Committee on Internal Security, Subcommittee on the Black Panther Party, p. 4816, October 8, 1970. U.S. Representative William Scherle of Iowa named a suspect, James Lawson of Minneapolis, who was purportedly killed while transporting explosives.
  28. “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 19, 1970
  29. “Church Row Fine $1 Each,” Omaha World-Herald, June 25, 1970


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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Elsewhere Online

 


BONUS!

 

June 25 1970 OWH Church fight
This article is called “Church row fines $1 each,” and is from the June 25 1970 Omaha World-Herald. It reports on the event included above.

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