In October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a small community organization based in Oakland, California.
Its members — including the 30 people who would travel to Sacramento the following May — believed that black Americans should exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves against an oppressive U.S. government.
At the time, California lawmakers were trying to strip them of that right, and the Black Panthers wanted to tell the U.S., and the world, that they found this unacceptable.
Among other things, the Black Panthers’ agenda involved taking up arms and patrolling their communities to protect against rampant racism in policing. And that’s what they did in the first few months of the party’s existence, carrying guns openly in compliance with California law, driving around their neighborhoods, observing arrests and other law enforcement activity — effectively policing the police.
Newton was even known for packing a law book alongside his rifle that he’d recite from when informing an officer that a civilian’s rights were being violated.
responded to the Black Panther police patrols in 1967 with a bill to strip Californians of the right to openly carry firearms.
Nobody tried to stop the 30 Black Panthers — 24 men and six women, carrying rifles, shotguns and revolvers — as they walked through the doors of the state Capitol building on May 2 of that year.
Behind them followed a horde of journalists they’d called to document the protest.
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