"[On] May 2, 1967, 30 fully armed members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and their supporters were in the California State Capitol at Sacramento, California, protesting the infamous Mulford Act. The bill on its face was aimed at banning a U.S. citizen’s right to carry loaded weapons in public, so long as the weapons were “registered, not concealed, and not pointed in a threatening manner.”
In actuality the Mulford Act – or “the Panther Bill,” as it was tagged by the media – was designed to end the BPP Police Patrols that were organized against police brutality in the Afrikan community; as it was the Panther Party’s belief that “armed citizen patrols and the arming of the citizenry as guaranteed by the Constitution were the most effective deterrents to excessive use of police force.”
The alarmed and instantaneous reaction to the fully armed BPP in Sacramento further confirmed this, and then Gov. Ronald Reagan’s signing of the bill into law catapulted the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense into national prominence.
Three months prior to this, in March 1967, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had begun an “internal security” investigation of Huey Newton, prompting then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to announce, on Sept. 8, 1968, that the BPP was considered to be “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” At the time, the Black Panther Party was barely known outside of Oakland, Calif.
Despite these dire pronouncements, BPP Deputy Minister of Defense for Southern California Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter organized the Southern California branch of the BPP, with a branch office at Central Avenue and 43rd in January 1968, and January 1969 saw the BPP Free Breakfast for Children Program (FBCP) firmly under way at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. At that point, membership of the BPP was peaking at 10,000 members within the continental U.S. alone, and circulation of the Black Panther Newspaper had hit 139,000 by 1970.
Between 1967 and 1969, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense not only grew in local, national and international stature, they forged unity with other oppressed people and inspired the formation of the 12- and 13-point political platforms of the Brown Beret, I Wor Kuen and Young Lords political organizations.
By 1980, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was no more, due to the depredations of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s extensive program – COINTELPRO – of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, disruption, misdirection, police harassment and assassinations of party members within U.S. borders that were designed to make the political criminal.”
—Bay View National Black Newspaper