Former Black Panther Leader Sues Oakland over Brawl

Elaine Brown and the Black Panthers (Jim Palmer / Associated Press)
Jim Palmer / Associated Press

Elaine Brown, 72, former head of the Black Panthers from 1974 to 1977, and who was implicated (though never charged) in the murder of accountant Betty Van Patter, is suing the city of Oakland for $1 million after Councilwoman Desley Brooks allegedly assaulted her at a local restaurant.

Brown is demanding $1 million from Oakland and $6 million after the contretemps at Everett & Jones Barbeque on October 30. She alleges that Brooks punched her, causing her to tumble “head over heels” into a stack of folding chairs, where she struck her head, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

On Friday, Brown’s attorney, Charles Bonner, claimed that the argument revolved around Brooks rebuffing Brown’s demand that Oakland to fund the conversion of a West Oakland lot into an urban farm and housing development. Bonner contended that even though the argument occurred in the restaurant, Brooks was acting in her official capacity because the two women spoke about “city business.” He added, “She abused the trust that people put in representatives by not acting with dignity, and by abusing an elderly person. People expect representatives to be dignified. They don’t expect representatives to be street hoodlums.”

Brown’s claim refers to Brooks as a “monster,” accusing the city of tolerating and even encouraging her “out of control” behavior. Yet Brown is the same woman, according to the Chronicle, who gave a speech on December 4 recalling the her halcyon Black Panther days when the Panthers took up arms against the police:

Elaine Brown was good friends with Governor Jerry Brown when she was involved with the Panthers, even being appointed as a Democratic Party delegate. She is claiming elder abuse, assault, battery and false imprisonment.

In Brown’s 1992 autobiography, A Taste for Power, she stated, “It is a sensuous thing to know that at one’s will an enemy can be struck down.”