White Panther Party
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White Panther Party

The White Panthers were an anti-racist political collective founded in 1968 by Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair.[1] It was started in response to an interview where Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was asked what white people could do to support the Black Panthers. Newton replied that they could form a White Panther Party. The counterculture era group took the name and dedicated its energies to "cultural revolution." John Sinclair made every effort to ensure that the White Panthers were not mistaken for a white supremacist group, responding to such claims with "quite the contrary." The party worked with many ethnic minority rights groups in the Rainbow Coalition.

Michigan years

The group was most active in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan and included the proto-punk band MC5 which John Sinclair managed for several years before he was incarcerated. From a general ideological perspective, Plamondon and Sinclair[which?] defined the White Panthers as "fighting for a clean planet and the freeing of political prisoners." The White Panthers added other elements such as advocating "rock 'n roll, dope, sex in the streets and the abolishing of capitalism." Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman praised the WPP in Steal This Book and Woodstock Nation, and John Sinclair often referred to himself as a Yippie as well.[2][3]

The group emerged from the Detroit Artists Workshop, a radical arts collective founded in 1964 near Wayne State University. Among its concerns was the legalization of marijuana; John Sinclair had several arrests for possession. It aligned itself with radical politics, claiming the 12th Street Riot was justifiable under political and economic conditions in Detroit.

Plamondon was indicted with John Sinclair in connection to the bombing of a Central Intelligence Agency office in Ann Arbor on September 29, 1968,[4][5] a year after the founding of the group. Upon hearing on the left-wing alternative radio station WABX that he had been indicted, he fled the U.S. for Europe and Africa, spending time in Algeria with exiled Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. After secretly re-entering the country, and on his way to a safe house in northern Michigan, he was arrested in a routine traffic stop, joining John Sinclair, who had been sentenced to nine and a half years in jail for violating Michigan's marijuana possession laws, in prison. Plamondon was convicted and was in prison when Sinclair was released on bond in 1971 while appeals were being heard on his case. Sinclair's unexpected release came two days after a large "Free John" benefit concert, with performances from John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder, was held at the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena.

Legal reforms

The group had a direct role in two important legal decisions. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1972 quashed Plamondon's conviction and destroyed the case against John Sinclair. The court ruled warrantless wiretapping was unlawful under the U.S. Constitution, even in the case where national security, as defined by the executive branch, was in danger. The White Panthers had been charged with conspiring to destroy government property and evidence used to convict Plamondon was acquired through wiretaps not submitted to judicial approval. The case U.S. vs. U.S. District Court (Plamondon et al.), 407 U.S. 297, commonly known as the Keith Case, held that the Fourth Amendment shielded private speech from surveillance unless a warrant had been granted, and that the "warrant procedure would not frustrate the legitimate purposes of domestic security searches." The judgment freed Plamondon, yet John Sinclair was free only on bond fighting his possession conviction. In 1972, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in the People v. Sinclair, 387 Mich. 91, 194 N.W.2d 878 (1972) that Michigan's classification of marijuana was unconstitutional, in effect decriminalizing possession until a new law conforming to the ruling was passed by the Michigan Legislature a week later. Sinclair was freed but the cumulative effects of the imprisonment had marked the end of the White Panther Party in Michigan, which renamed itself the Rainbow People's Party while John Sinclair and Plamondon were in prison. The Rainbow People's Party, headquartered in Ann Arbor, disbanded in 1973.


The headquarters of the White Panthers in Portland, Oregon were raided by the FBI on December 5, 1970. Two members of the group were arrested and accused of throwing a molotov cocktail through the window of a local Selective Service office.

San Francisco

White Panther Party[6][7][8] chapters[9] in San Francisco,[10][11][12][13] Marin[14][15] and Berkeley[16][17] remained active into the 1980s.[18][19] The WPP ran a successful 'Food Conspiracy'[11] that provided groceries to about 5,000 Bay Area residents at low cost, due to bulk buying and minimum markup.[20] The White Panther's People's Ballroom in the Park concerts in Golden Gate Park[21][22][23][24][25][26] In 1984, angry[27][28] because then-Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein proposed to ban handguns in the city, the San Francisco White Panthers mounted a successful petition drive that forced Feinstein[29][30] into a recall election,[31] which she won.[32] Within the next year, a WPP house in the Haight Ashbury district was burned down by the San Francisco Police, and the leaders of the local chapter (Tom Stevens and Terry Phillips) had been jailed after their commune was raided without a warrant, effectively destroying the chapter.[]

United Kingdom

Author and anarchist Mick Farren, a leader of the United Kingdom Underground, later founded the White Panthers, UK.

White Panther Statement

In November 1968, Fifth Estate published the "White Panther State/meant". This manifesto, emulating the Black Panthers, ended with a ten-point program:

  1. We want freedom. We want the power for all people to determine our own destinies.
  2. We want justice. We want an immediate and total end to all cultural and political repression of the people by the vicious pig power structure and their mad dog lackies the police, courts and military. We want the end of all police and military violence against the people all over the world right now!
  3. We want a free world economy based on the free exchange of energy and materials and the end of money.
  4. We want free access to all information media and to all technology for all the people.
  5. We want a free educational system, utilizing the best procedures and machinery our modern technology can produce, that will teach each man, woman and child on earth exactly what each needs to know to survive and grow into his or her full human potential.
  6. We want to free all structures from corporate rule and turn the buildings over to the people at once!
  7. We want free time and space for all humans--dissolve all unnatural boundaries!
  8. We want the freedom of all prisoners held in federal, state, county or city jails and prisons since the so-called legal system in America makes it impossible for any man to obtain a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his peers.
  9. We want the freedom of all people who are held against their will in the conscripted armies of the oppressors throughout the world.
  10. We want free land, free food, free shelter, free clothing, free music, free medical care, free education, free media, EVERYTHING FREE FOR EVERYBODY![33]

The ten-point program and "White Panther State/meant" were also published in the Ann Arbor Sun, which was a newspaper founded by John Sinclair in November 1968. The newspaper was originally called the Detroit Warren-Forrest Sun before it was changed to the Ann Arbor Sun when Trans-Love Energies moved to Ann Arbor in 1968.[34] The organization, founded by John Sinclair, his wife Leni Arndt Sinclair and artist Gary Grimshaw in 1967, set up shop at 1510 and 1520 Hill St, where the Ann Arbor Sun was produced and edited by the members of the group.[35] On July 28, 1969, the Ann Arbor Sun printed a revised copy of the White Panther's ten-point program.[33]

The newspaper was considered to be the mouthpiece for the White Panther Party for quite some time before the newspaper transitioned to an independent publication spreading views on local issues, left-wing politics, music, and arts.[34] Finally in 1976, the publication of the Ann Arbor Sun was suspended indefinitely.

See also


  1. ^ Kaya Burgess (January 21, 2009). "Obama's inauguration hailed by White Panther founder John Sinclair". The Times. London. Retrieved 2009.
  2. ^ O'Hagan, Sean. "John Sinclair: 'We wanted to kick ass - and raise consciousness'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ Tracey, Patrick (March 31, 2000). "Yippie Yi Yay". Washington City Paper.
  4. ^ Zbrozek, C (October 24, 2006). "The bombing of the A2 CIA office". Michigan Daily. Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ Salpukas, Agis (January 17, 1971). "DETROIT RADICALS FACE BOMB TRIAL; Defense Challenges Jury System and Wiretapping". New York Times. Retrieved 2013.
  6. ^ "Tom Miller papers, 1852-2003 (Bulk 1950-2003)". azarchivesonline.org. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ bibliopolis.com. "Touch, White Panther Intercommunal News Service, issue V. by White Panther Party". Bolerium Books. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "The Jackson sun". Worldcat.org. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ "Freedom Archives". freedomarchives.org. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ "Touch" (PDF). Itsabouttimebpp.com. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ a b Curl, John (January 1, 2012). For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America. PM Press. ISBN 9781604865820. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ 333, A Square. "MC-5 in San Francisco - 1969". free.fr. Retrieved 2017.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Hartman, Chester (October 1, 2002). City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520914902. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ White Panthers of Marin, who run one of Marin's food conspiracies from the big, rambling old house they occupy in Corte Madera
  15. ^ "Daily Independent Journal from San Rafael, California on July 16, 1971 · Page 23". newspapers.com. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ "San Francisco Crusader" (PDF). Digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ "Berkeley Barb November 13-19, 1970 -- Independent Voices". revealdigital.com. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ "Chapter 21 - June 1980, Measure D, Rent Control Round 4". berkeleycitizensaction.org. October 2, 2015. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "The June 1980 Election - Rent Control on the Brink of Extinction or Expansion". Berkeleyinthe70s.homestead.com. Retrieved 2014.
  20. ^ Curl, John. "S.F.Collectivity". Red-coral.net. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ http://collections.museumca.org/?q=collection-item/20105417304
  22. ^ http://collections.museumca.org/?q=collection-item/20105417307
  23. ^ San Francisco Examiner - Aug 1, 1974 - Communication from People's Ballroom in the Park, requesting hearings to consider revision of the noise ordinance. File No. 413-74. FILED.
  24. ^ "Paul Kantner - A memory". Djpreskool.com. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Jgmf (July 26, 2015). "Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger: JGMS Marx Meadows video". Jgmf.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ "Berkeley Barb Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 1974 -- Independent Voices". Revealdigital.com. Retrieved 2017.
  27. ^ "STEVENS v. RIFKIN - 608 F.Supp. 710 (1984) - upp71011212". Leagle.com. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ "White Panthers discuss threats against them - San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive". sfsu.edu. Retrieved 2017.
  29. ^ Macdonald, Katharine; Macdonald, Katharine (April 27, 1983). "Mayor Feinstein Easily Defeats Recall Attempt". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2017.
  30. ^ DeNike, Max. "Dump Dianne: Revisiting the 1983 Mayoral Recall". sfweekly.com. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ "MAYOR FEINSTEIN, BY WIDE MARGIN, DEFEATS SAN FRANCISCO RECALL BID". The New York Times. April 27, 1983. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ a b "White Panthers Ten-Point Program" (PDF). Ann Arbor Sun. July 28, 1969. Retrieved 2014.
  34. ^ a b "Ann Arbor Sun - Freeing John Sinclair". Freeingjohnsinclair.aadl.org. Retrieved 2017.
  35. ^ "Introduction". The John and Leni Sinclair Papers, 1957-1999 at the Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved 2014.


  • The documentary film MC5: A True Testimonial (2002) features comments by Sinclair and MC5 on the party.
  • Essay: The Political Economy of the White Panthers
  • "60s radical takes long trip back to his roots," Marsha Low, Detroit Free Press, October 27. 2004, Sec B.
  • "White Panther Statement" John Sinclair, Ann Arbor Sun, 1968.[2]
  • "White Panther Party 10-Point Program" Ann Arbor Sun, 1968. [3]
  • Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "White Panther Party" [4], used under the GNU Free Documentation License
  • The documentary film The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006) assesses the FBI's investigation into John Lennon and Yoko Ono attending several White Panther Party meetings.
  • Carson, David. Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 2005.
  • Hale, Jeff A.. "The White Panthers' 'Total Assault on the Culture.'" In Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. Eds. Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle. New York: Routledge, 2002: pp. 125-156.
  • Luca Benvenga The cultural workers. Fenomeni politico culturali e contestazione giovanile negli anni '60, Bepress, 2014.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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