Power to the People!
The party had enemies in high positions
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wasn’t a fan of the Black Panthers. He actually feared them. He was scared of the success of the group so much that he create the secret operation COINTELPRO to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” domestic political organizations.
Former Black Panther member Ericka Huggins recalled experiencing the work of COINTELPRO during those times. “We were followed every day, we were harassed, our phones were tapped, our families were harassed,” she explained in the PBS special. She also said that her parents were actually visited by the FBI. Hoover would regularly send police letters, suggesting new ways they should destroy the party. 245 out of their 290 actions of trying to bring down various groups were aimed at the party.
Hoover’s Fear Increased
Hoover not only did feared the BPP’s rise, but he also feared seeing young, white people join forces with the party and support their movement. He used COINTELPRO to find ways to stalk the party and dig up information on them. He also planted FBI informants throughout the party to track their every move. One of the informants was William O’Neal, who posed as prominent member Fred Hampton’s bodyguard.
The party created their own hubs
In response to COINTELPRO’s tactics, the party created “panther pads.” To protect their families, members of the party didn’t go home but instead stayed with each other. Members at the pads rotated responsibilities like round-the-clock surveillance to make sure they stayed safe.