When a Celebrated Activist Turns Out To Be an FBI InformantTruth Out
Nov. 13, 2012
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Richard Aoki was a well-known activist in the San Francisco Bay Area - celebrated for his role as one of only a handful of Asian American members of the Black Panther Party, a leader in UC Berkeley’s Third World Liberation Front in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a mentor to a generation of left-leaning activists.
So when the journalist Seth Rosenfeld alleged in August 2012 that Aoki was an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Rosenfeld shocked Aoki’s family, friends, and allies. He also sought to shake up how we tell black freedom movement history by playing up the fact that Aoki provided the founders of the Black Panther Party (BPP) with their first guns. In the process, Rosenfeld raised important questions about what it is that informants do and what it means when an ally in struggles against government racism and police repression turns out to be an informant for the government.