“The need to suppress the growing movement of agitation, protest and rebellion caused the government to respond with the illegal COINTELPRO operation…It was necessary to not just destroy the BPP but also to demonize and criminalize its actions to dissuade future generations from its course. COINTELPRO was successful in its goals. Nearly forty years later many of its victims still languish in prisons, as demonized criminals and not as political prisoners.
COINTELPRO operations moved beyond use of the normal terrorist vigilante groups that had, historically, been relied upon by the wealthy elite. These operations included street gangs, national criminal syndicates, and pseudo-revolutionary groups…
Churchill shares a U.S. congressional report from the 1980’s with us:
… ‘The Subcommittee, in its review of undercover cases, has found that the undercover techniques carries with it the potential for subjecting the innocent to opprobrium, persecution and conviction. Because agents create crime, rather than merely detect it, they hold the power to create the appearance of guilt (Agents, 376,277).’
Of particular interest is the fact that the USA PATRIOT act had under its provisions, made legal most of the things the Church committee found illegal about the COINTELPRO operations.
….In sum, the propensity of humans to desire freedom and self-determination is universal. We are born to be free. Conflicts arise most often whenever one group decides to subjugate another group without its consent. Political prisoners and prisoners of war are the natural consequence of the suppression of the freedom and self-determination by a more powerful wealthy ruling class over those with less wealth and power. In the face of oppression, resistance continues globally, in forms ranging from the passive to the combative…
No healing can take place until these wounds are treated.”
- Marshall "Eddie" Conway
Recently released American Political Prisoner - former member of the Baltimore Black Panther Party- Written while behind bars in The Greatest Threat: The Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO
The ECLI was not founded to only be a debate camp, but a liberation institute. A space where students could get insight, guidance and wisdom informed by the struggles waged throughout America’s history to expand the scope of justice and equality.
Given the nature of this year’s high school debate topic, we at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle are more convinced than ever that the ECLI will allow students to get unique access to new intellectual insights which will help them link their debating to a larger understanding of social justice.
Eddie Conway is not what many in academia or debate would consider a “topic expert” on the issue of domestic surveillance. He does not have a Ph.d dissertation on the panopticon and has not conversed most French philosophers on the nature of modernity.
Eddie Conway, however, is a living testament to the nature of American domestic surveillance, serving over 40 years in jail as a victim of the FBI counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO). In his book The Greatest Threat: The Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO, Conway gives in depth person experience and political analysis with surveillance that can only come from living and experience the reality of the program.
This frames a key distinction between ECLI and traditional debate camp, rather than simply theorizing about issue related to debate, the students who come to Coppin State University this summer will be taught to relate what they use in debate to the material struggles and use these experiences to inform their scholarship.
Whether its Eddie Conway’s group Friend of a Friend advocating for changes to the parole process or LBS entering into the discourse on police reform and expanding the discourse beyond body cameras to toward more comprehensive packages of policing reforms, students will get have access to those who have engage the topic of domestic surveillance not only in theory, but in practice.
This focus on material engagement has informed the academic and coaching work. Our staff has had successes not only in the debate round, but also in the world of scholarship, publishing articles and writing books on the nature of debate, the system oppression, and even engaging and critiquing the academic surveillance studies which will be the heart of this year’s topic.