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ColorLines: Over 200 Pages of FBI Files Detail Richard Aoki’s Path to Informant

By ColorLines writer Jamilah King.

There’s now a paper trail that shows detailed evidence of former Black Panther Richard Aoki work as an FBI informant. In a report released Friday morning at the Center for Investigative Reporting, reporter Seth Rosenfeld outlines his findings of 221 pages of FBI files that show Aoki’s role as informant with the agency for 16 years, from 1961 to 1977.

Here’s what the records show: The FBI began targeting Aoki while he was still in high school, a striking point that speaks to just how aggressively the government worked to intervene in radical and people of color-led movements. Notably, the files do not detail exactly what information Aoki gave to the FBI, and in particular the redacted documents do not specify whether he informed on the Black Panthers, the political organization with which Aoki is most widely identified. However, the documents do show that Aoki was an informant during the critical years in which the Black Panthers had conflict with the police. Read the rest of this entry

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Famed Panther Activist Richard Aoki Named as FBI Informant

The following story first appeared in the San Francisco Chonicle, a bourgeois news source, and as such should be taken witha grain of salt.

Aoki is well known for having joined the Black Panther Party nearly from its inception, and was eventually promoted to the position of Field Marshall. While he was only one of several Asian-Americans in the Black Panther Party, Aoki was the only one to have a formal leadership position. 

The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s – was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.

One of the Bay Area’s most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Capitol.

Aoki went on to work for 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator at the Peralta Community College District, and after his suicide in 2009, he was revered as a fearless radical. Read the rest of this entry