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Black Riders Liberation Party Says Authorities Targeted Its Headquarters After May Day Protests

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Photo courtesy of Jared Iorio.
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By Bethania Palma Markus / Special to LAist

Two days after the revolutionary Black Riders Liberation Party took a leading role in Tuesday’s May Day activities, the home of one of the organization’s leaders was targeted by Los Angeles police and parole officers in what the group is calling retaliatory raid.

Mischa Culton, who goes by the name General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out), was the target of authorities but he was not taken into custody. A spokeswoman for the Riders said when officers burst into the home off Imperial Highway and Wilmington Avenue on Thursday, they drew their weapons - AR15 assault rifles - on residents of the home that included small children aged 2 to 14 years.

Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the visit from authorities was only a routine compliance check on Culton, whose parole ends next week. He said that a few hundred parolees are checked up on everyday and officers don't pay attention to their affiliation. He told LAist, "There's nothing clandestine or anything about this."

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But the timing of the check seemed suspicious to the group. The group says authorities used a compliance check as an excuse to target them for speaking out.

“On May 1 we had a demonstration and a major event for May Day where we led the South Wind,” the Riders representative said. “The police tried numerous times to disrupt and harass us, and get people to fall victim to their attacks. They failed so they attacked the headquarters. They mentioned (during the raid) the fact they know we were there during the May Day General Strike.”

They also complained that during the check, officers violated the religious beliefs of a Muslim woman who was forced into view without proper clothing coverage.

General Strike activities on May 1 constituted caravans from the four cardinal directions to encompass all neighborhoods in the sprawling city - north, south, east and west. The Riders, or BRLP, were the main drivers of the "South Wind people’s power caravan and convergence" that made its way via Central Avenue through Compton, Watts and South Central to downtown Los Angeles.

The Riders held a ceremony at the intersection of 41st and Central Avenue, the site of the famous 1969 LAPD SWAT attack on the Black Panthers’ headquarters that resulted in a shootout. The Riders consider themselves the modern-day Black Panther Party.

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At the park Tuesday, retired Panther and survivor Wayne Pharr detailed how he and others successfully defended themselves for hours in December 1969 before the wounded Panthers were finally forced to surrender.

The caravan then continued to downtown to a convergence point, where demonstrations were held throughout the day. Police cruisers at one point intercepted the South Wind caravan, breaking it up and causing some drivers to lose sight of the others.

The Riders formed in 1996 and are a political organization that has worked to end violence between the Bloods and Crips, and many members of the Riders are former Bloods and Crips. Like their Panther predecessors, they advocate for social and economic justice and the right to arm themselves for self-defense purposes.

Over the weekend, on the 20-year anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles unrest in the wake of the Rodney King beating, the Riders facilitated a gang truce between rivals and called for an end to violence between Blacks and Latinos.

Their goal, according to their representative, is to “organize Bloods and Crips, stop gang violence and change gang mentality into revolutionary mentality.”

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But also like their Panther predecessors, they say that their aggressive stance and fierce determination to defend themselves with programs like “watch-a-pig” in which they monitor police in their neighborhoods for brutality and abuse of power, get them spied on and harassed.

Police vehicles and helicopters often circle their headquarters and their political and outreach activities are punctuated by attempts to arrest them for petty offenses like trespassing, panhandling and disturbing nearby businesses, their rep said.

But they’re hitting a nerve in South L.A., where 20 years after the Rodney King beating set the city burning, Black residents still suffer far more than their fair share of poverty, unemployment and incarceration. On May Day residents and pedestrians along Central Avenue reacted with jubilation at the sight of the caravan and Riders, waving, raising their fists and cheering.

The Riders took the platform to talk about police repression on the residents in their
community, racism and a capitalist system that forces the people of South L.A. into poverty. They spoke of their Second Amendment right to arm themselves in self-defense and directly challenged the on-looking LAPD with chants like, “All power to the people,” and “F-ck the police.”

Organizers from Occupy the Hood and Occupy Skid Row were also targeted for arrest after their participation on May Day, while Gawker.com reported protesters in New York City were targeted by New York police in the hours leading up to May 1.

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Bethania Palma Markus is a former staff reporter for the San Gabriel Valley News Group who joined the Occupy L.A. movement in late September. She wrote about her experience being arrested, jailed and charged with trespassing because of her involvement with the movement for LAist this December.