Can’t Old Black Panthers Just Get Along?

     ATLANTA (CN) – Former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown claims Geronimo Pratt and Pratt’s mother-in-law, Emory University Law School professor Kathleen Cleaver, defamed her by accusing her of being an FBI snitch during J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO operations that helped destroy the Panthers. Brown, who seeks the Green Party’s nomination to run for president of the United States, claims Cleaver is trying to portray herself, falsely, as the true bearer of the Panther’s flame, and defamed Brown in emails as a “sad sally for the COINTELPRO.”

     Brown seeks punitive damages for defamation, tortious interference and emotional distress. She says she makes her living speaking and writing about the Panthers, and the defendants’ defamation prevents or complicates this.
     After the Panthers were founded in Oakland, Calif., in 1966, the FBI, through its COINTELPRO operations, used a variety of dirty tricks to foment violence and killings and break up the Panthers. For instance, the FBI sent anonymous, disparaging letters to Chicago gang leaders, claiming the Panthers were threatening their lives. The FBI-fomented violence led to the killings of at least four Panther Party members, and caused the Panthers to turn upon their own, in search of FBI snitches.
     Brown says that Black Panther Party Minister of Defense Huey Newton appointed her chairman of the Panther Party when he went into exile in 1974, and that she remained its leader until Newton returned, and remained a member until the Panthers dissolved.
     She claims Pratt and his mother in law defamed her to try to profit from their own claims to leadership, and that she heard of this defamation at a Green Party meeting in Los Angeles, where a Green Party member told her that Cleaver accused her of being a snitch for COINTELPRO. This “meant that she was being accused falsely of helping orchestrate the deaths of fellow Panther members.”
     Brown claims Cleaver and Pratt were expelled from the Panthers in 1971. She says she was never a snitch for the FBI. She is represented in Fulton County Court by Regina Sledge Molden with Molden Holley Fergusson & Thompson. See complaint.

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