Maggs Bros Ltd

Wanted For Murder Gilligan, The Cop Lieut. Thomas Gilligan of The 14th Division. Harlem Defense Council 336 Lenox Ave. N.Y.C.

PROGRESSIVE LABOR MOVEMENT / HARLEM DEFENCE LEAGUE (1964.)

£1400.00 

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Original poster (44.5 x 28.9 cm)., one photographic portrait, titles in black, offset. N.p. [New York], N.p. [Harlem Defense League], N.d.,

An important poster issued during the Harlem Riots of 1964 that was created by a group of 'authentic' working-class, articulate black militants rejecting what they saw as 'white' police power. The poster, and Bill Epton's role in the surrounding events, have been overshadowed to some extent by the much more reported anti-police Watts riots and the funkier fine art graphics of west Coast Black Pantherism. As well as the presence of charismatic figures such as Malcolm X and Huey Newton in radical street literature and agitprop imagery.

This inflammatory poster is a fine example of the Maoist trend in worker or summary justice, 'peoples' courts' and so on. Historically, equally as inflammatory anti-police posters have played a pivotal part in either escalating or epitomizing unrest in periods of civil disturbance. These include Robbie Conal's 1991 poster depicting Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates in the crosshairs of a gun range target that was widely pasted on bus shelters and construction site hoardings across Los Angeles metropolitan areas in the wake of the Rodney King brutality case. 'Wanted For Murder' was probably designed almost entirely by the black worker-activist Bill Epton or at least in collaboration with his comrades in the Harlem chapter of the Progressive Labor Movement (PLM), formed of CPUSA splittists and anti-Stalinists. Epton was a Vice-Chairman of PLM up until 1970 when he left, after the group stopped supporting 'ethnic nationalism' amongst black youth.

Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan was off-duty when he shot James Powell, a teenaged student allegedly carrying a knife. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by a Grand Jury. The poster depicts Gilligan in what is presumably his dress uniform with decorations.The police officer later cited this poster as a core element in a defamation suit against Martin Luther King,

Contemporary newspaper accounts describe black people in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant rioting, throwing Molotovs at the police, smashing cars and white shopkeepers' windows. At least one person died, over a hundred were injured and thousands arrested. The unrest spread throughout the USA and a state of emergency was declared in New York City. After the state of emergency was declared, Epton made at least one public speech, protest-marched and distributed insurrectionist literature that, as is implied with the poster, called for a reckoning with the NYPD. The posters were apparently pasted-up on walls and handed out widely across New York. A contemporary photograph for the New York World shows a group of African-American men striding down 125th Street near Seventh Avenue holding the posters before them like a premonition of Mao's Cultural Revolution a year later.

Epton's First Amendments rights were essentially waived, using precedent, and he was later charged with conspiring to riot, advocating criminal anarchy and conspiring to engage in such advocacy and sentenced to three concurrent one year terms. At the time, the New York Court of Appeals quoted Epton as saying: ""They [the police] declared war on us and we should declare war on them and every time they kill one of us damn it, we'll kill one of them and we should start thinking that way right now. . . ."" (Paul Harris -Black Power Advocacy: Criminal Anarchy or Free Speech, p-710 California Law Review, 1968). His writ of certiorari was denied and the legal judgement that he was conspiring to overthrow the US Government was upheld. The evidence that Epton's speeches and opinions constituted a "clear and present danger" to the function of government was obtained by use of an undercover agent who was "..planted in the Harlem Progressive Labor Group The agent, wired with a 'minifon', taped a conversation in which Epton said the demonstration to protest police brutality would lead to violence" (ibid p214). He was convicted under a criminal anarchy statute first used in the original red scare of 1919 and last used, before Epton, in the anti-communist cases of the 1940s and 1950s.

Old browned, central horizontal fold, staple indentations, corners lightly creased.

Stock Code: 134117