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Free All Political Prisoners — Interview With a Black Panther Elder

Chip Fitzgerald is the longest-held Black Panther political prisoner in U.S. history. Here is an interview with Black Panther elder and former political prisoner, Arthur League, about the fight to free his comrades.

Julia Wallace

June 16, 2020
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Arthur League


Left Voice interviewed Black Panther elder and former political prisoner Arthur League about the fight to free political prisoners. Arthur League joined the Black Panther Party in 1968 and has fought for over 50 years to free political prisoners. League was targeted by the state and locked up — he was a political prisoner himself from 1969 until 1976. 

League will be one of the speakers at the Juneteenth West Coast Port Shutdown organized by the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU). Arthur and Left Voice ask that people go to freedom4chip.org and sign the petition to free Chip Fitzgerald, the longest-held Black Panther political prisoner in U.S. history. 

What is a political prisoner?

Political prisoners are people who stood up to the unjust rules and laws of society, and for taking those stands were punished by society in the form of being locked in cages. Political prisoners exist in a society where political dissent will not be allowed.

Why should people at current demonstrations be concerned about political prisoners?

People standing against police extrajudicial murder have in this country have been targets of police, the courts, and the right-wing nuts. If people don’t call for the release of political prisoners from the past, who will be there for you when they come for you guys? What you are standing up to is what our political prisoners stood up to. Do you really think they will forgive and forget your taking a stand? 

One of our prisoners was 19 years old when captured; today he’s 51. Still locked up. Right here in California, not in the south. His name is Romaine Fitzgerald, and we call him Chip. Read about the longest held Black Panther political prisoner at freedom4chip.org. 

Authorities are calling for change, and they tell us that they know the problems and can change things. I say just like the police who watched the murder of George Floyd, these authorities have stood by and watched Black people murdered. Let’s not even talk about change until the people who stood up many years ago are released and in the room. Their ideas are important; after all, they gave their youth trying to make the needed changes.

Why do you think these political prisoners are still locked up?

People are still locked up because the people with the keys are the problem. When people tried to stop police murder over 50 years ago, they did it by observing police stops. Didn’t have phones to record with — not made yet. Police turned their guns on the observers, the witnesses to their madness. If you let them go they might tell what they witnessed. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has not taken up the question of political prisoners in a serious way as yet, at least in my way of thinking. I see their leaders on TV with a mic at times, I never hear them calling for the release of the people who stood up before they came up with the cool slogan. People who believed Black lives mattered so much that they put their lives on the line.

How is the Black Lives Matter movement related to the fight to free political prisoners?

My ask of the masses of people in the street is that they call for the release of the political prisoners. Just direct some of that energy to getting these old folk set free. After all, before people showed up with the cool slogans, some of these old folk were children feeding children. Before the advent of that great slogan, some were setting up free health clinics and walking older people to get their checks cashed. 

What can people do to support the cause? 

Direct deposits were not always here. More to the point, I ask that you go to this web site freedom4chip.org, Sign the petition calling for his release. If you can, put a few bucks toward his legal fees. If you can get him out before court, hell, we won’t need fee money. Please don’t let not being able to help with funds keep you out of the work — there are other things that need doing. Contact me at [email protected] — I got work you can do that will help.

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Julia Wallace

Julia is a contributor for Left Voice and has been a revolutionary socialist for over ten years. She served on the South Central Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles and is a member of SEIU Local 721. Julia organizes against police brutality and in defense of LGBTQ, women, and immigrants' rights. When she's not actively fighting the patriarchy, white supremacy and/or capitalism, she enjoys many things: she loves Thundercat, plays ultimate frisbee and is a founder of the team, "Black Lives Hammer."

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