White Panther Party

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White Panther Party
FoundedNovember 1, 1968
Dissolvedc. 1980s
Political positionFar-left
National affiliationRainbow Coalition

The White Panthers were an anti-racist political collective founded in November 1968 by Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair.[1] It was started in response to an interview where Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was asked what white people could do to support the Black Panthers. Newton replied that they could form a White Panther Party. The counterculture era group took the name and dedicated its energies to "cultural revolution.” John Sinclair made every effort to ensure that the White Panthers were not mistaken for a white supremacist group, responding to such claims with "quite the contrary." The party worked with many ethnic minority rights groups in the Rainbow Coalition.

Michigan years[edit]

The group was most active in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and included the proto-punk band MC5, which John Sinclair managed for several years before he was incarcerated. From a general ideological perspective, Plamondon and Sinclair[which?] defined the White Panthers as "fighting for a clean planet and the freeing of political prisoners." The White Panthers added other elements such as advocating "rock 'n roll, dope, sex in the streets and the abolishing of capitalism." Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman praised the WPP in Steal This Book and Woodstock Nation, and John Sinclair often referred to himself as a Yippie as well.[2][3]

The group emerged from the Detroit Artists Workshop, a radical arts collective founded in 1964 near Wayne State University. Among its concerns was the legalization of marijuana; John Sinclair had several arrests for possession. It aligned itself with radical politics, claiming the 12th Street Riot was justifiable under political and economic conditions in Detroit.

Plamondon was indicted with John Sinclair in connection to the bombing of a Central Intelligence Agency office in Ann Arbor on September 29, 1968,[4][5] a year after the founding of the group. Upon hearing on the left-wing alternative radio station WABX that he had been indicted, he fled the U.S. for Europe and Africa, spending time in Algeria with exiled Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. After secretly re-entering the country, and on his way to a safe house in northern Michigan, he was arrested in a routine traffic stop, joining John Sinclair, who had been sentenced to nine and a half years in jail for violating Michigan's marijuana possession laws, in prison. Plamondon was convicted and was in prison when Sinclair was released on bond in 1971 while appeals were being heard on his case. Sinclair's unexpected release came two days after a large "Free John" benefit concert, with performances from John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder, was held at the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena.

Legal reforms[edit]

The group had a direct role in two important legal decisions. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1972 quashed Plamondon's conviction and destroyed the case against John Sinclair. The court ruled warrantless wiretapping was unlawful under the U.S. Constitution, even in the case where national security, as defined by the executive branch, was in danger. The White Panthers had been charged with conspiring to destroy government property and evidence used to convict Plamondon was acquired through wiretaps not submitted to judicial approval. The case U.S. vs. U.S. District Court (Plamondon et al.), 407 U.S. 297, commonly known as the Keith Case, held that the Fourth Amendment shielded private speech from surveillance unless a warrant had been granted, and that the "warrant procedure would not frustrate the legitimate purposes of domestic security searches." The judgment freed Plamondon, yet John Sinclair was free only on bond fighting his possession conviction. In 1972, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in the People v. Sinclair, 387 Mich. 91, 194 N.W.2d 878 (1972) that Michigan's classification of marijuana was unconstitutional, in effect decriminalizing possession until a new law conforming to the ruling was passed by the Michigan Legislature a week later. Sinclair was freed but the cumulative effects of the imprisonment had marked the end of the White Panther Party in Michigan, which renamed itself the Rainbow People's Party while John Sinclair and Plamondon were in prison. The Rainbow People's Party, headquartered in Ann Arbor, disbanded in 1973.


The headquarters of the White Panthers in Portland, Oregon were raided by the FBI on December 5, 1970. Two members of the group were arrested and accused of throwing a molotov cocktail through the window of a local Selective Service office.

San Francisco[edit]

White Panther Party[6][7][8] chapters[9] in San Francisco,[10][11][12][13] Marin[14][15] and Berkeley[16][17] remained active into the 1980s.[18][19] The WPP ran a successful 'Food Conspiracy'[11] that provided groceries to about 5,000 Bay Area residents at low cost, due to bulk buying and minimum markup.[20] The White Panthers held People's Ballroom in the Park concerts in Golden Gate Park.[21][22][23][24][25][26] In 1983, angry[27][28] because then-Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein proposed to ban handguns in the city, the San Francisco White Panthers mounted a successful petition drive that forced Feinstein[29][30] into a recall election,[31] which she won with about 82% of the vote.[32]

United Kingdom[edit]

Author and anarchist Mick Farren, a leader of the United Kingdom Underground, later founded the White Panthers UK, which was one of the organizations involved in the tearing down of the outer walls surrounding Isle of Wight Festival 1970.[33]

White Panther Statement[edit]

In November 1968, Fifth Estate published the "White Panther State/meant". This manifesto, emulating the Black Panthers, ended with a ten-point program:

  1. We want freedom. We want the power for all people to determine our own destinies.
  2. We want justice. We want an immediate and total end to all cultural and political repression of the people by the vicious pig power structure and their mad dog lackies the police, courts and military. We want the end of all police and military violence against the people all over the world right now!
  3. We want a free world economy based on the free exchange of energy and materials and the end of money.
  4. We want free access to all information media and to all technology for all the people.
  5. We want a free educational system, utilizing the best procedures and machinery our modern technology can produce, that will teach each man, woman and child on earth exactly what each needs to know to survive and grow into his or her full human potential.
  6. We want to free all structures from corporate rule and turn the buildings over to the people at once!
  7. We want free time and space for all humans—dissolve all unnatural boundaries!
  8. We want the freedom of all prisoners held in federal, state, county or city jails and prisons since the so-called legal system in America makes it impossible for any man to obtain a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his peers.
  9. We want the freedom of all people who are held against their will in the conscripted armies of the oppressors throughout the world.
  10. We want free land, free food, free shelter, free clothing, free music, free medical care, free education, free media, EVERYTHING FREE FOR EVERYBODY![34]

The ten-point program and "White Panther State/meant" were also published in the Ann Arbor Sun, which was a newspaper founded by John Sinclair in November 1968. The newspaper was originally called the Detroit Warren-Forrest Sun before it was changed to the Ann Arbor Sun when Trans-Love Energies moved to Ann Arbor in 1968.[35] The organization, founded by John Sinclair, his wife Leni Arndt Sinclair and artist Gary Grimshaw in 1967, set up shop at 1510 and 1520 Hill St, where the Ann Arbor Sun was produced and edited by the members of the group.[36] On July 28, 1969, the Ann Arbor Sun printed a revised copy of the White Panther's ten-point program.[34]

The newspaper was considered to be the mouthpiece for the White Panther Party for quite some time before the newspaper transitioned to an independent publication spreading views on local issues, left-wing politics, music, and arts.[35] Finally in 1976, the publication of the Ann Arbor Sun was suspended indefinitely.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaya Burgess (January 21, 2009). "Obama's inauguration hailed by White Panther founder John Sinclair". The Times. London. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
  2. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (March 3, 2014). "John Sinclair: 'We wanted to kick ass – and raise consciousness'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 29, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  3. ^ Tracey, Patrick (March 31, 2000). "Yippie Yi Yay". Washington City Paper. Archived from the original on October 9, 2017. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  4. ^ Zbrozek, C (October 24, 2006). "The bombing of the A2 CIA office". Michigan Daily. Archived from the original on April 22, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Salpukas, Agis (January 17, 1971). "DETROIT RADICALS FACE BOMB TRIAL; Defense Challenges Jury System and Wiretapping". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 31, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  6. ^ "Tom Miller papers, 1852-2003 (Bulk 1950-2003)". azarchivesonline.org. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  7. ^ bibliopolis.com. "Touch, White Panther Intercommunal News Service, issue V. by White Panther Party". Bolerium Books. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  8. ^ "The Jackson sun". Worldcat.org. Archived from the original on November 24, 2022. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  9. ^ "Freedom Archives". freedomarchives.org. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  10. ^ "Touch" (PDF). Itsabouttimebpp.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 6, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Curl, John (January 1, 2012). For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America. PM Press. ISBN 9781604865820. Retrieved April 10, 2017 – via Google Books.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Johnson, Art (April 3–16, 1969). "MC-5 in San Francisco - 1969". Fifth Estate. No. 76. Archived from the original on September 3, 2023. Retrieved September 3, 2023.
  13. ^ Hartman, Chester (October 1, 2002). City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520914902. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved April 10, 2017 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ White Panthers of Marin, who run one of Marin's food conspiracies from the big, rambling old house they occupy in Corte Madera
  15. ^ "Daily Independent Journal from San Rafael, California on July 16, 1971 · Page 23". newspapers.com. July 16, 1971. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  16. ^ "San Francisco Crusader" (PDF). Digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "Berkeley Barb November 13-19, 1970 — Independent Voices". revealdigital.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  18. ^ "Chapter 21 – June 1980, Measure D, Rent Control Round 4". berkeleycitizensaction.org. October 2, 2015. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  19. ^ "The June 1980 Election - Rent Control on the Brink of Extinction or Expansion". Berkeleyinthe70s.homestead.com. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  20. ^ Curl, John. "S.F.Collectivity". Red-coral.net. Archived from the original on July 3, 2016. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  21. ^ "2010.54.17304 | OMCA COLLECTIONS". Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  22. ^ "2010.54.17307 | OMCA COLLECTIONS". Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  23. ^ "San Francisco Examiner - Aug 1, 1974 - Communication from People's Ballroom in the Park, requesting hearings to consider revision of the noise ordinance. File No. 413-74. FILED". July 26, 1974. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  24. ^ "Paul Kantner - A memory". Djpreskool.com. January 29, 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  25. ^ Jgmf (July 26, 2015). "Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger: JGMS Marx Meadows video". Jgmf.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  26. ^ "Berkeley Barb Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 1974 — Independent Voices". Revealdigital.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  27. ^ "STEVENS v. RIFKIN - 608 F.Supp. 710 (1984) - upp71011212". Leagle.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  28. ^ "White Panthers discuss threats against them - San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive". sfsu.edu. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  29. ^ Macdonald, Katharine (April 27, 1983). "Mayor Feinstein Easily Defeats Recall Attempt". Washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  30. ^ DeNike, Max. "Dump Dianne: Revisiting the 1983 Mayoral Recall". sfweekly.com. Archived from the original on January 19, 2022. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  31. ^ San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet: Special Recall Election April 26, 1983 (PDF). City of San Francisco. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 19, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2022 – via sfpl4.sfpl.org.
  32. ^ "MAYOR FEINSTEIN, BY WIDE MARGIN, DEFEATS SAN FRANCISCO RECALL BID". The New York Times. April 27, 1983. Archived from the original on December 10, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  33. ^ Williams, Richard (July 19, 2013). "Mick Farren obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 7, 2023. Retrieved April 12, 2023.
  34. ^ a b "White Panthers Ten-Point Program" (PDF). Ann Arbor Sun. July 28, 1969. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 8, 2024. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
  35. ^ a b "Ann Arbor Sun - Freeing John Sinclair". Freeingjohnsinclair.aadl.org. Archived from the original on November 25, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  36. ^ "Introduction". The John and Leni Sinclair Papers, 1957–1999 at the Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2014.


  • The documentary film MC5: A True Testimonial (2002) features comments by Sinclair and MC5 on the party.
  • Essay: The Political Economy of the White Panthers
  • "60s radical takes long trip back to his roots," Marsha Low, Detroit Free Press, October 27. 2004, Sec B.
  • "White Panther Statement" John Sinclair, Ann Arbor Sun, 1968.[1]
  • "White Panther Party 10-Point Program" Ann Arbor Sun, 1968. [2]
  • Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "White Panther Party" [3], used under the GNU Free Documentation License
  • The documentary film The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006) assesses the FBI's investigation into John Lennon and Yoko Ono attending several White Panther Party meetings.
  • Carson, David. Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 2005.
  • Hale, Jeff A.. "The White Panthers' 'Total Assault on the Culture.'" In Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. Eds. Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle. New York: Routledge, 2002: pp. 125–156.
  • Luca Benvenga The cultural workers. Fenomeni politico culturali e contestazione giovanile negli anni '60, Bepress, 2014.

External links[edit]