Subversive Historian – 06/04/09

Arthur League and the Black Panthers in OC

Back in the day on June 4th, 1969, Santa Ana police officer Nelson Sasscer was shot while on duty and eventually died as a result. The shooting, which took place exactly forty years ago, resulted in the arrest of Black Panther Party member Michael Lynem the very next day. Two other Black Panthers, Arthur League and Odis Grimes, were also sought in connection with the slaying of “1968 Rookie of the Year” officer.

The community of Santa Ana, including groups not in line with Panther politics, would organize to assail tactics employed by the police in the search for League and Grimes. In a meeting with Police Chief Edward Allen, members of the NAACP reportedly objected to his referencing of African-Americans as “colored people.” An incident towards the end of June increased already mounting tensions between the black community of Santa Ana and the police as officers effectively occupied the southwest side of the city. In July, the charges against Lynem had been dropped, however League and Grimes were arrested later on that month.

Grimes, like Lynem would go free, but League, who helped organize for the Santa Ana branch of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party, continued to be held. In the subsequent trial, he was convicted of second degree murder after nine days of deliberation by an all-white jury . Despite a key witness testifying being threatened by the District Attorney to say League was the shooter, the panther party member was given a seven year sentence. Having completed his term in prison, League continues his activism to this very day advocating for prisoner rights with the organization “All of Us or None,” because the struggle never stops.

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