Interview with Deborah Johnson

You brought up, in that sense, that the police were kind of there a lot. How did you first become aware that the police were surrounding the party in some ways?


I think everyone that was in the Black Panther Party kind of understood, it was a given, that we would have wiretaps, that we would be followed, that we would be harassed, we'd be locked up, that we would even be beaten** by the police. Um, we felt that in a country such as America, where, that was supposedly the wealthiest country in the world, people should not be hungry. People should have a right to, ah, decent housing, um, full employment. And Black people and poor minority people should not be the victims of a judicial system. We felt that this country was in a position to correct those wrongs, was not doing it, and that anybody that was on the path of liberating the community, making those things happen in the community, feeding people, clothing people, educating people to what was going on in their community and things that they had a right to, we knew that we would be harassed and we would be victims of surveillance. But that was something that we kept in the back of our heads, but it wasn't like we got up everyday saying, "Oh, my God, the police are going to be outside my door," because that will like paralyze--you can't move because the fear will have you where you're like, "Oh, I can't do this, I'll go to jail." We focused on what we needed to do. And we did that. Um, of course, when you pick up the phone, and you hear conversation in the back, and you don't have a party line, and it's one phone in your house, you hear dialing or hear like a tape machine going, then you know. You walk out, police car, a marked police car is there, or somebody in an unmarked that does not belong in that community at all, you know, you know that you're being watched.