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The lasting legacy of 1967 Black Panther gun control protest at California Capitol

Remembering the historic Black Panther protest at California State Capitol
Remembering the historic Black Panther protest at California State Capitol 02:48

SACRAMENTO — May 2 marked the 57th anniversary of one of the most spectacular protests in California State Capitol history. 

The Black Panthers entered the capitol building armed with guns in protest. Entering the capitol with an open-carry gun was not against the law then. That changed quickly.

Video from that day shows the scene. Black Panthers in their trademarked berets and leather jackets carried handguns and shotguns through the halls of the capitol.

State police only stopped the men after ten had reached the assembly chambers.

The shocking protest was aimed at state gun control legislation seeking to prevent the Black Panthers' police patrols, their practice of following officers in Black neighborhoods.

Black Panther Bobby Seale spoke about the mission then.

"We don't hate nobody because of their color. We hate oppression," Seale said in an archived 1967 press conference.

Bill X Jennings is a Black Panther alumni who is now an activist in the Black Panther movement. He showed his collection including a photo of him walking into a courthouse with Black Panther founder Huey Newton.

Jennings said it was the capitol protest that put the Black Panther movement on the map.

"That particular incident went worldwide," Jennings said. "Because this is an image of a Black man, you know, standing up for themselves, 'Hey, we're not going to take this anymore.' "

Dale Allender is a professor of racial social justice at Sacramento State University.

"It forced us to really think about what folks were willing to do in desperate circumstances for sure," Professor Allender said.

Allender said the 1967 protest stands in stark contrast to most social justice movements now.

"And they see guns as part of the problem, our over-militarization in schools, in communities," Professor Allender said.

Following the 1967 Black Panther protest, Republican Assemblymember Don Mulford added an urgency clause to his gun control legislation, passed it, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed it into law. The new law made it a felony to publicly carry a loaded firearm without a permit.

More than 50 years later, the Mulford Act still stands as state law.

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