COPS AND REBELS: A Study of Provocation by Paul Chevigny

COPS AND REBELS: A Study of Provocation

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A remarkable documentation of a frame-up presented by a prominent civil liberties lawyer and author of the well-received Police Power (1969). Chevigny writes as if he were presenting his case to a jury; for the most part he prefers to allow his defendants -- Brooklyn Black Panthers -- to speak for themselves. They were charged with conspiracy to rob a hotel: the idea, the weapons, and the plan (it was shown at the trial) were supplied by a police agent. The aspirations of both victims and provocateur are shown to be the same: both hoped for a better future, the former through organizing oppressed blacks, the latter through selling his services to the established order. The trial proceeded predictably and, in a climate of fear and prejudice against all Panthers, the defendants were found guilty of lesser charges. The sentencing itself was symptomatic of the trial: justice was meted according to previous convictions, so that the defendants with prior records bore the brunt of the frame-up. Methods of police provocation are traced historically with examples from Tsarist Russia, France, and Scotland Yard's exploitation of the 19th-century anarchist scare. Though Chevigny does not analyze the Panthers, it is plain that members lacked political education, were susceptible to rhetoric, and suffered from an undisciplined political strategy, so that they were easy marks for police infiltration. The book has heightened timeliness in light of the current Angela Davis and Berrigan trials. An essential case study for those who want to know how to handle provocation, for libertarians defending civil rights, and for students of police tactics.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Pantheon