Former Black Panther Party leader Pete O’Neal was unjustly convicted in 1969 and has been in exile in Tanzania for almost 50 years. He is now requesting a presidential pardon to re-enter the United States.
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O'Neal was arrested in 1969 for allegedly transporting a shotgun from Kansas City, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri. Although no physical evidence connected him to the firearm, O'Neal was convicted based on a photo found of him holding the shotgun. Undeterred by O'Neal's plea of innocence, a judge sentenced him to four years in federal prison. Pete O'Neal feared that he might be killed in custody, after fellow Panther Fred Hampton was murdered by Chicago Police. Instead of requesting an appeal, Pete O'Neal and his wife Charlotte fled the country. They have been living in northern Tanzania since 1972.
O'Neal and his family have maintained his innocence. O'Neal has stated that he refuses to go to prison for a crime he did not commit. "The only reason he was charged with that was because he was the leader of the Black Panther Party," his wife Charlotte O'Neal said.
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Pete O'Neal was the founder and leader of the Kansas City, Missouri chapter of the Black Panther Party. In addition to community protection, his chapter provided free community services; including a free health clinic, sickle cell anemia testing, and political education and literacy classes. The chapter also provided a free breakfast program that fed hundreds of children before school each morning. Like many 1960s civil rights movement leaders, Pete O'Neal has maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated.
Journalist and author Steve Penn has written a comprehensive book about Pete O'Neal's journey in exile, following his political life from a Black Panther Party leader to a humanitarian farmer in Tanzania. In Penn's 2012 book, Case for a Pardon, he argues that Pete O'Neal should be judged by his whole life, including decades of public service in Tanzania providing food, water, shelter education and transportation to locals and visiting Americans.
U.S. Representative Emmanuel Cleaver, who is a third cousin to Pete O'Neal, has been trying to get him a pardon for over 25 years. Now, he is petitioning the outgoing Obama administration. "This is a non-violent man at age 75, who's done remarkable things, even in Tanzania, for Americans," said Cleaver. "This is it, President Obama is the last chance," he said.
O'Neal wants to return home to his family. Particularly to be with his mother, who is now 96 years old.
Sign this petition to tell President Obama to pardon exiled civil rights leader Pete O'Neal.
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P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.
New York Times: A Black Panther's Mellow Exile: Farming in Africa
KCTV: Former Leader of KC Black Panther Party Hoping for Pardon