Interview with Deborah Johnson

I want to go back something we were talking about earlier and remembering the way you had a growing awareness of the police and the police surveillance, and ask you what you thought at the time about who was, who was behind what the police were doing. What kind of feelings did you have, what did you believe, what did you and other people in the party believe?


At the time we were in the Black Panther Party in 1969, we knew that we were being watched, that our phones were tapped, that we were being followed, that we would be, that they would probably look up people that we had went to first grade with to ask them about us. But we really couldn't focus on that. We, we didn't let that stop us from what we needed to do. Um, a lot of the things that we said about the police keeping files on people that were involved in the movement, about police surveillance, um, some of our, some of the people that I guess we labeled pseudo liberals: oh, those crazy Black Panthers, they're imagining it; they're paranoid. Some people that were, let's say not, didn't have a revolutionary concept of what we need, needed to do, that were, felt they could work within the system, and ah, show America there are evils, and things will be changed automatically once America became aware of what they were doing--thought we were just a bunch of ranting and raving, scared kids, you know, um, creating in our minds things that weren't actually happening. But however, it did come to light that files were kept on people that participated in the movement. And you didn't have to be a Black Panther. You can just go in the office to get some free clothes that we were giving away, or getting, ah, getting free food, and somebody could come and ask you, well, "Who was up there, who did you talk to, who is this person, have you seen this person before, what did they do, did they say anything to you?" You know. And you didn't have to be part of the Black Panther Party in order to be harassed or to be, um, have your phones wiretapped. If you got called more than twice, your phone could have been tapped. A lot of times we pick up the phone and we hear tape recorder going, and we hear people talking in the background and we didn't have a party line, and we would be followed.


OK, Cut.