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October 04, 1974 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1974-10-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Ascensio
With the
By DAVID STOLL
WHEN I WENT looking for the White
Panther Party in the Haight-Ash-
bury, I found this sign next to the door
of their burned-out flat at 1632 Page
St.
To the people
who do not know.
entering any of these
flats. 'Cause
if the dogs don't get
you-we will. Thank you.
July 12 San Francisco police looking
for a burglary suspect broke through the
door. They were met by three bullets
fired down the stairwell.
Although no one was hit and the entry
was apparently illegal, that didn't stop
a Haight variation on a theme recently
played in Watts.
First pelice cordoned off the area, sort
of. Then a command level officer arriv-
ed, as did a special sniper unit armed
with a semi-automatic version of the
M-16. While police officers and citizens
haggled behind parked cars and had
cover, the snipers took up positions in
the houses across the street, hundreds of
spectators crept up the sidewalk and
at some distance from the scene a Pan-
ther ran through the streets shouting
at people to take up arms.
Police blame the fire on an arsonist.
They say it started after their snipers
fired two rifle shots at a man spotted
in a third story window. Police also say
the man was holding a blazing molotov
cocktail.
No one else saW the arsonist however
and many witnesses say they heard

in

the Haight:

White Panthers

21 year old Miranda Nelson, the burglary
suspect police say they were looking
for.
THE NIGHT before the incident police
called Miranda to the door twice for
questioning. They mentioned a stolen 10
speed bicycle. The second time police
took her down to the neighborhood sta-
tion where they held her for an hour,
accusing her this time of stealing stereo
components. Finally they released her
for lack of evidence.
Phillips and Tom Stevens, the other
Panther who shot at police, were never
arrested and never charged with any-
thing, apparently because citizens have
the right to use firearms against police
breaking illegally into their homes.
AFTER THE fire, police cleared ev-
erything out of the Panther flat, in-
cluding food cooperative records, books,
newspaper flats, money, ID and legally
registered firearms. As of Sept. 20 the
money and ID had been returned, but
nothing else. As of October 1, the Pan-
thers had filed a four and a half million
dollar suit.
Miranda, who has pretty green eyes,
brown hair which just covers her ears,
and no criminal record, doesn't look like
a very likely burglary suspect. She was
seven months pregnant at the time of
the incident. On September 18 she gave
birth to a 6 lb., S oz. girl, by Terry.
"WE'RE INTO survival through serv-
ice to the people," said the first Pan-
ther I encountered. In order to get that
far I'd had to stand and argue through

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" We're into survival through service to the people,'
said the first Panther I encountered. In order to get that
far, I'd had to stand and argue through a cellar door
painted in National Liberation Front red and blue. In-
side I found a band of people thought to have disappear-
ed with the Jefferson Airplane: poverty-stricken, dope
smoking, armed and militant hippies bent on creating
a self-supporting urban commune and making the re-
voluti on."
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operative doing $2500 volume per week;
a People's Ballroom concert series; and
sale of 50 cent newspaper by former
panhandlers turned vendors.
The eight people who work on the
food cooperative make $23 a week, Zig
said, "and survive." Panthers have hous-
es and members in Marin, Sonoma and
Alamenda Counties, but since last fall
they've concentrated their energy on
what they call Ascension in the Haight,
communal transcendence in the slowly
reviving hippie seedbed.
THE POPULATION in the Haight is
noticeably post-hippie, but less transient
than ever before. Waves of speed,
heroin, and alcohol have passed; crime
is under control; and the summer street
population now goes to Berkeley. Busi-
nesses have reopened along Haight St.,
although they come and go with alarm-
ing frequency. Visible communal institu-
tions are no longer much in evidence, al-
though various social agencies and neigh-
borhood groups are. A strong if largely
invisible collectivist movement is here
as it is all across the country: small
groups of people eating, sleeping, and
making their livings together.
But the Haight is most of all a neigh-
borhood of poor and working class peo-
ple, heavily doled, woefully housed and
under a great deal of urban renewal
pressure from real estate and develop-
ment interests.
EARLY ATTEMPTS to make more ra-
tional use of the Haight included a new
freeway, then a convention center and
condominium development. As plans
were developed, much of the neighbor-
hood passed into the hands of real es-
*'mre interested in reap-
ing windfalls than in maintaining proper-
ties. The decay which ensued sprouted
flowers, then weeds and now yet ano-
ther attempt to make the Haight ap-
pealing to the middle class by driving
out the lower.
The proposed Rehabilitation Assistance
Program (RAP) would get houses up to
code by loaning money to landlords. Pre-
sent tenants would incur the cost in the
form of increased rent. They would
also probably be forced from the neigh-
borhood, probably to join the stream of
migration across the Bay to the Oakland
area, where poor people have been driv-
en in increasing numbers because it is
the only place they can afford to live
anymore.
While RAP critics file suit and Pan-
thers battle police, downtown the pointy-
headed Bank of America tower over-
looks what is widely regarded as one of
the most pleasant and sophisticated cit-
ies in the world. It's so pleasant, in fact,
that many corporations are relocating
their headquarters here. However, the
artists, poets and writers who have made
this city their home since Beat times
are supposed to have gone.
AT 9:30 one morning Aries Larry
Weissman and several cronies were
drinking beer and sunning themselves in
front of the 439 Cole St. house. They
were waiting to go out on a hauling job.
"We're mostly working class people,
veterans and ex-prisoners who believe in
communal living and the struggle
against capitalism," explained Larry
with Schlitz in hand, just as a fight
broke out between a tired looking wo-
man and a member of the beer drink-
ing fraternity.
A small child, her face smeared with
catsup, scurried anxiously out the door
and was greeted warmly; she broke into
a wide grin. An informal count of five
houses came up with thirteen children,
"plus some pregnant ladies."
"I want you to cut that shit out,
Michael," admonished a father to his
strapping, tow-headed five year old.

"You keep puling that stuff, throwing
rocks and stuff, and somebody's gonna
take you seriously. You're gonna get
in trouble." Then, to the other people
present, "Don't let this man con you;
he's sticking around here today."

Earth evicted from the 439 Cole St.
address - it's the house pictured in
the poster on this page - so residents
strung barbed wire around all the ap-
proaches and ran a blocking beam be-
hind the wall that faces the street, so
that if police tried to batter down the
front door. They would also take with it
the entire front of the house.
Good Earth then invited a police of-
ficer to inspect the defenses, promising
to match force with force and suggest-

Aries Larry explained the theory of
social equilibrium behind the Panther-
Good Earth police policy. "When cops
get edgy and they try to fuck us up, we
put 'em in their place and they mellow
out. We always show them we're too
tought to fuck with but we still leave
them enough ground to stand on. We
don't want to drive them to the wall;
we want to make them responsive to the
community through community control."

from 7 to 20. After the Panthers were
kicked out of their house in Berkeley,
half a dozen came to live with Good
Earth; since then they've multiplied rap-
idly.
The Panthers became a power in the
unsuccessful petition drive for a 1974
California Marijuana Initiative. During
the campaign a rift developed between
the Panthers and Amorphia, Inc., the
non-profit marijuana paper corporation
which underpined the effort. Panthers

four shots including two dull thump-
ing ones. Some witnesses even say they
watched police fire a grenade into the
house with a shotgun-like device.
WHOEVER started it, the fire burned
well. Firemen arrived quickly, then stood
behind the crowd for a while before
putting the fire out, apparently in good
and natural fear of terrorists with ma-
chine guns roosting under the fl o o r
boards.
A week and a half later I found the
Panthers at nearby addresses, jubilant
and pissed.
"We're not into kidnapping, bombing
or any of that SLA'shit," assured Terry
Phillips, one of the men who fired
down the stairwell and lived to tell the
tale. "This kind of invasion used to hap-
pen all the time in the Haight," he de-
clared. "Now it doesn't so often, and
one of the reasons is that we're proving
people have the right to defend them-
selves and their property with firearms."
Sitting on the sofa next to Terry was

a cellar door painted in National Liber-
ation Front red and blue. Inside I found
a band of people thought to have dis-
appeared with the Jefferson Airplane:
poverty-stricken, dope smoking, armed
and militant hippies bent on creating a
self-supporting urban commune a n d
making the revolution.
MY FIRST contact was named Dever.
He is 31 years old, looks pale, talks un-
derfed, and is hollow and angry in the
eyes.
"We figure all people need is food.
shelter, a reasonable amount of mari-
juana and access to rock 'n roll," Zig
said, shutting the dooron a fine July
afternoon and setting the block back
in placeon the elaborately jammed door.
"We're into living on our enterprises
and sharing everything we have."
Refusing both outside employment
and welfare, an estimated fifty Pan-
thers are struggling to support them-
selves through a "food conspiracy" co-

.. . . . .. . . . . . .. . . . . .... . . . .. .... .. . . .
"'We're not into kidnapping, bombing or any of that SLA shit,' " assured Terry Phil-
lips, one of the men who fired down the stairwell and lived to tell the tale. 'This kind
of invasion used to happen all the time in the Haight,' he declared. 'Now it doesn't so
often, and one of the reasons is that we're proving people have the right to defend
themselves and their property with firearms.'"

Eighty-four years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
Pn rnmrA 1074 News Phone: 764-0552

ing that a successful eviction would at
best wreck the house, at worst burn
down the entire block. The officer re-
ported to the court the eviction could
not be carried out; Good Earth later
legalized its occupancy in court.
Between them the Panthers and Good
Earth now control half a dozen flats and
houses in the Haight, on most of which
they pay no rent. In lieu of rent the
Panthers hold on by strength of num-
bers, rudimentary fortification and the
fact that Haight landlords are as likely
to abandon tenements for taxes as fight
legal battle with tenants. The Panthers
have also taken advantage of a recent
California Supreme Court ruling, to the
effect that if a landlord fails to provide
contracted service, i.e., habitable quar-
ters, tenants have the right to put the
rent in escrow and spend it on main-
tenance.
SINCE MAY the Panthers have also
been fighting a series of skirmishes with
police and park authorities over sound
and park permits for the People's Ball-
room concert series.
"We're not in conflict with law-abiding
law enforcement," explained Phillips,
"but unfortunately there's not much
around here. The Panthers happen to
enjoy fairly amicable relations .f i t h
the precinct-level police, but consider
themselves at war with the special
squads and their commanders frcm
downtown."
The Panther "support your local
police" program advocates cooperation
with police to carry out their legitimate
purposes, peaceful witness of all po-
lice incidents, formation of legal defense
groups when incidents, and armed self
defense in accordance with the Second
Amendment.
THE PANTHERS have grown suffic-
iently crabby about armed self defense,
in fact, that they now reprint with ap-
proval articles from Guns and Ammo
X T, -~. ..sL,., : - 1r L, a. .,

COMMUNITY CONTROL of police ac-
cording to Panther lights can get pret-
ty rough however. One night in June
two men on the beat tried to make an
arrest outside the Omnibus Cafe on
Haight St. just as the neighborhood
crowd was coming out the door-friends
of the Panther-Good Earth axis, accord-
ing to Larry. The coppers were beaten
badly enough to be hospitalized as were
three other police nailed as they tried
to get out their squad cars.
As far as they know, they're the last
Panthers left in the world. Chapters were
originally formed in places like Ann
Arbor and Berkeley in the late sixties.
The effort to organize on a national level
quickly fell apart, however, leaving local
groups to their own devices. Ln Anni
Arbor the fetish for M-1 rifles and arm-
ed revolution never got beyond the pic-
ture-taking stage, but it did land half
a dozen party members in jail on a
variety of charges.
IT'S BEEN three years since the Ann
Arbor White Panthers transformed them-
selves into the Rainbow People's Party,
leaving the Berkeley chapter more or
less on its own. That was the point at
which chairman John Sinclair disavowed
armed struggle at this stage in history,
beginning the long journey down the
road of revolutionary praxis to musical
entrepreneurship, nightclub management
and debt.
When the RPP was dissolved in turn
this summer, Sinclair declared it had
been a "premature formation" a, an
organizing tool. However, in the Haight
he is still regarded as a founding fath-
er and his book, Guitar Army, serves
as a charter for action. Opinion on
whether he was ripping off the people
was divided - "We're not into making
money and we don't like what he's do-
ing" said one - but I heard more Haight
Panthers praise than damn the man
and his works.

argued that instead of spending money
on travel, office expense and big-bang
ads in establishment media, the money
should have been spread around to vend-
ors so they could circulate petitions full
time.
DURING A Climactic CMI meeting,
the Panthers, in their own words, "quiet-
ly carried a central committee member
out the door," then "physically criticiz-
ed" CMI President Michael Aldritch
when he refused to show them financial
books and called the police.
"Punks who use the name of the
people to rip the people off, they're go-
ing to get punched out," said Aries
Larry of the incident.
Classes other than the lumpenproletar-
iat, which the Panthers say they are,
may be taken aback. But leave them to
their struggles, because here is not there
and eight years after the Summer of
Love there's still a Haight.
At night mercury vapor lamps, crime
fences and empty streets recall bleaker
times. Even during the day one senses
a guarded spirit in the people sitting in
doorways with impassive expressions on
their faces. The smell of poverty inhab-
its the Panther flats; food, when it
comes, is highly prized; and during the
long afternoons grubby children play
in the corners of empty rooms.
BUT IT isn't all over yet, not by any
means, because the old,decaying hous-
es are still brooding in the sunlight out
on the Western Rim. Spiritual unclarity
may be running rampant in the world,
but around the Panther houses it's still
pretty clear.
Someone is running up the street after
us. Larry is hanging out a third story
window, yelling: "They had to give us
a reason! Those fuckers can't just deny
us a permit without giving no reason!"
"They didn't give us no reason, Lar-
,," nn~ hU. nswer upw.ad

r na y IUUae -,, 71T .. ,IIO6 1 ...

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104

SGC* It's all up'to yoi

TODAY IS THE LAST day for fil-
ing to run in the October Stu-
dent Government Council elections.
You've got until 4:00.
SGC can be a meaningful po-
litical body, rather than merely
something to complain about. A
student government should be a
forum for student thoughts, opin-
TODAY'S STAFF:
News Dan Riddle. Jeff Dav. Della

ions, demands, and sugge
not a free-for-all where
portunist with any goal i
quent member.
There is probably no on
University who could not
some kind of change, expr
kind of quibble with tI
things are run. Further, t
no doubt many people wh
ticulate, forceful, and ca
effecting change. Someth'
be done. but change does

y _- ARIES LARRY is. a member of the
Good Earth Commune, "an old-fashioned
hippie family" living in the Haight since
time immemorial. It is now closely al-
lied with the Panthers. Three years ago
Good Earth numbered between fifteen
and twenty houses and several hundred
people; it also dealt most of the mari-
j juana in the neighborhood. Now Good
Earth is down to two houses and twenty
members. Aries Larry blames the col-
tstionS- lapse on financial mismanagement and
any op- "spiritual unclarity," but most of all on
s a fre- police.
In particular Larry blames a dope raid
e in the in the spring of 1972 in which police ar-
propose rested 71 people, the bail for whom "sort
ess some of left people behind on the rent" as
he ways Larry explains. A judge recently esti-
here are mated Good Earth members had been
o are ar- arrested five hundred times in the last
pable of six years, on charges ranging from pos-
ing can session and sale of narcotics to assault
nt .ust on police officers, breaking and entering

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