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Sunday, 27 February 2011


Free Romaine Chip Fitzgerald Petitionwww.freechip.info
ROMAINE "CHIP" FITZGERALD was a member of the Black Panther party, as were the two other Black men in the vehicle with him when they were pulled over by the police at Compton Blvd and Van Ness Ave in Gardena, CA, on September 7th, 1969. The police claimed later, in court, that they had pulled over these three Black men for a "faulty taillight." (We know about these types of taillights, don't we?) The "traffic stop" ended up in a shootout, wherein the CHP officer was wounded, and Chip Fitzgerald shot in the head, as well. All three Black men escaped the scene, yet Fitzgerald's license was left behind. Later, during the trial that would see Fitzgerald given a death sentence, that very same police officer admitted he had been given orders to "to shoot members of the Black Panther Party" (of which all three men were members) but the Judge ordered the jury to ignore this statement.
The jury also, it seems, ignored the statements made by two women who shared the apartment with Fitzgerald (Doris Haughton and her sister, Janice Sadle) who testified that Chip did not leave the house 22 days later, the night Barge Miller, a security guard at Vons Shopping Center (El Segundo and Avalon Boulevards in Los Angeles) was killed. Mr. Miller was shot and killed while in his car at 1:42 a.m., and a witness, James Cole, claimed he saw two black men fleeing the scene. Mr. Cole claimed that he could not get a good look at the men due to the dim lighting at the nighttime scene, yet was confident that it was Chip, whom he could only identify while looking at him in court. This confident witness was shown several photographs of different men, including Fitzgerald, yet could not identify him in the photo. Nor did he mention seeing a white gauze bandage of the type that Fitzgerald was wearing since being shot in the head by the CHP officer. This "confident witness" could not even describe the courtroom judge without looking at him.
Despite Fitzgerald's witnesses and his own denial of involvement with the Barge Miller shooting; despite the flimsy testimony of the eyewitness to Barge Miller's shooting; despite the Police admitting they had orders to kill Black Panthers, Fitzgerald was sentenced to death. This sentence was later commuted to a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Romaine "Chip" Fitzgerald was 20 years old when he entered prison in 1970. He is the longest held political prisoner in the United States of America, and serving 2 life sentences for the murder of Barge Miller, and the attempted murder of the CHP officer. In 1998, he suffered a massive stroke and during his time in prison has been denied proper medical care for both this, and a degenerative spinal condition.
In 1969 the FBI special agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that his investigation of the Black Panther Party revealed that in his city, at least, the Black nationalists were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the career ambitions of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover's view that the BPP was "a violence prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means".
J. Edgar Hoover wrote in a memo that the "[p]urpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt the Black Panther Party and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge." Clearly, he got his wish, and to this day, the remnants of Black men who felt they had the same rights to live, eat, and defend themselves from hate and violence are being ground down into the grimy floors of prisons and the dark depths of early graves.
Romaine Chip Fitzgerald is not a legend, not a history lesson, not a cause. He is a man. He is an elderly, ailing, man locked away from the light of day for almost forty years. In a letter he wrote on January 23, 2007 he tells us that he is "...still on lockdown. They are dragging this nonsense out. They don't respond to adminstrative appeals because they investigate themselves, and turn a blind eye to each others violation and corruption." Prison is bad enough. Being on lockdown is punishment within punishment, keeping prisoners restricted in movement, activity, and not allowing them many basic needs, such as giving them a shower every 72 hours. This—on lockdown 24/7—for an almost 60 year-old man who has undergone major back surgery while in prison and who now walks with a cane and a limp.

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