Charles Barron

© Image Copyright Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: GFDL with Photo Credit: Thomas Good / NLN

Overview

  • Black nationalist Democratic councilman from New York
  • Onetime Black Panther who frequently inveighs against “white” influence
  • Apologist for Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro

Member of the Black Panther Party

Born in Queens, New York on October 7, 1950, Charles Barron holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hunter College. At age 18, he joined the Harlem branch of the Black Panther Party. “[M]y politics was shaped and molded by the Black Panther Party,” Barron recalls, elaborating:

“I learned about the Cuban revolution, and more about the Algerian Revolution, Chinese, Revolution, Indian revolution, and independence movements in Africa. Kwame Nkrumah [Ghana], Sekou Toure of Guinea. So … I learned about all these movements and in the Black Panther Party you had to do Political Education. You had to read Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah, The Little Red Book [quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung], and learned a lot about Marxism and Leninism and Maoism and those things, and it was strange because everybody that I was against, America was for.

“They [the U.S. government] claim they’re fighting for democracy and regime change in Iraq and other places, but yet historically America supported the Duvaliers, Papa Doc and Baby Doc in Haiti. Murderers! America supported [Augusto] Pinochet in Chile, a murderer of Salvador Allende, a socialist who was duly elected in Chile. [Ferdinand] Marcos in the Philippines and the Shah of Iran and the SAVAK where they [overthrew] [Mohammad] Mosaddegh in [1953] who was duly elected by the Iranian people, and the CIA came and wiped him out and put in the Shah who was a murderer! And of course in Cuba, [Fulgencio] Batista, a murderer! Capitalist murderer! And here came Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. And then the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, they [the U.S.] supported General Samoza in Nicaragua. A murderer! So America has always been on the side of murderous dictators, even Osama bin Laden was Ronald Reagan’s Afghani Freedom Fighter when Russia was in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein was America’s boy when they wanted him to fight against the Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian war. So this is a hypocritical country and I’ve learned a lot of my political education from the Black Panther Party and that’s why I still say I’m a Black Panther to my heart …”

By Barron’s telling, those Black Panther members who in the 1960s and ’70s were imprisoned for violent acts, were “political prisoners.”

Black Nationalism

In 1979, Barron joined the National Black United Front (NBUF) — a black nationalist, pro-Marxist organization — and was the founding chairman of its Harlem Chapter. In November 1982, Barron and NBUF strongly objected to the appointment of a white man, historian Robert Morris, to head the archives section of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. When Barron and Preston Wilcox (of the Institute of African Research) — along with ten to twenty fellow protesters — attempted to “forcibly remove” Morris from his office at the Center, they were arrested at the scene and were subsequently charged with harassment and criminal trespassing.

Soon after the Schomburg Center incident, Barron was appointed chief of staff to NBUF chairman Herbert Daughtry. From 1982-87 he served as Secretary General of Rev. Daughtry’s African Peoples Christian Organization.

Protesting Police Racism

On December 21, 1987, Barron participated in a “day of outrage” to protest — by blocking street traffic and subway trains during the evening rush hour — what they characterized as widespread racism in the New York City Police Department and local courts. Barron, who stood on the subway tracks to prevent the passage of trains, was one of more than 70 protesters who were arrested. Other notable figures taken into custody included Al Sharpton, Benjamin Chavis, Rev. Timothy Mitchell, Assemblyman Roger Greene, and lawyer C. Vernon Mason. When Barron was finally tried for this transgression in February 1990, he was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail. He also served an additional 25 days as a result of his participation (along with Sharpton) in a disruptive protest on behalf of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who had made false rape allegations against an alleged group of white racists. 

In January 2004, a 19-year-old black New York man named Timothy Stansbury Jr. was shot and killed by an NYPD officer named Richard Neri while the latter was patrolling the roof of a Bedford-Stuyvesant housing project. Neri and his partner went to open a door when it unexpectedly flew open, sending Neri’s partner reeling backwards. Startled, Neri shot Stansbury, who was standing on the other side. Barron called the tragic accident a “cold-blooded killing” and attributed it to white officers’ racist perception that all blacks posed a threat.

In the aftermath of a November 25, 2006 police shooting of a 23-year-old black man named Sean Bell in New York City, Barron made the following statements:

  • “There’s no consequences for killing a black person. I am fed up. I’m not asking my people to do anything passive anymore. We’re going to sit here and we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to pray, we’re going to march, we’re going to do all of that stuff and then we’re going to sit down, and if they don’t respond to none of that, don’t ask us to ask our people to be peaceful while they are being murdered. We’re not the only ones that can bleed.”
  • “[O]ur people [African Americans] are sick and tired of this, and don’t blame me if there’s an explosion in our community.”
  • “It’s still Giuliani time [a reference to New York’s former mayor, known for his tough anti-crime policies]. The mayor [Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg] will say he’s sorry. He’ll show up to funerals. But he doesn’t change policy. Don’t ask me to be peaceful when they are the ones being murderers.”
  • “[I]f we don’t get an indictment, there’s going to be an explosion. We’re not the only ones who can bleed. Maybe the rest of us need to get a shot off.”

Chairman of the Unity Party

In 1999 Barron became chairperson newly formed, black-led radical group, the Unity Party, which viewed the United States as an irredeemably racist nation.

Admirer of Khalid Abdul Muhammad

When the infamous anti-Semite and racist Khalid Abdul Muhammad died of a brain aneurysm in 2001, Barron, who had long admired Muhammad, attended the latter’s memorial service.

Elected to NY City Council

In November 2001 Barron won election as a Democratic member of the New York City Council, representing the predominantly black 42nd District in Brooklyn, New York. He would hold this post until December 2013.

Contempt for America’s Founding Fathers

Upon joining the City Council, Barron quickly advanced a sectarian political agenda based largely on the perceived grievances of his black supporters. A few days before he began his first term in the Council, he called for a portrait of Thomas Jefferson in City Hall to be replaced with a bust of Malcolm X. “The man is a pedophile,” Barron said of Jefferson. “He raped his slave Sally Hemings; whether it was consensual or not is irrelevant.” On other occasions, Barron referred to Jefferson as a “slaveholding pedophile” as well as “a hypocrite and a rapist.” That Barron delighted in race-conscious demagoguery was evident from the start of his tenure in the City Council: “We’re bringing the ‘hood to the Hall,” he proclaimed in 2002.

A November 2013 campaign video showed Barron in a City Council meeting, pointing with approval to clear plastic bags which had been installed (for reasons unknown) to cover a statue of Thomas Jefferson and a portrait of George Washington. Stating that he had long emphasized the “need to take some of these white men’s pictures down” and replace them with “black people,” Barron described George Washington as “a slave holder” who “sold us [black people] for molasses.” But because the portrait of Washington prominently featured a horse facing to the rear, Barron found it at least somewhat acceptable: “George Washington did enslave us too. I think that part of the horse’s anatomy is good for him to be pictured like that.”

Demanding Clemency for “Political Prisoners”

In June 2002 Barron introduced a resolution to the City Council—intended ultimately for the Governor of New York—calling for clemency for all prisoners “who have been persecuted unjustly for their political beliefs and activities.” Among those who earned Barron’s sympathies was Anthony Bottom, (a.k.a. Jalil Muntaqim), a former Black Panther convicted in 1971 for the murder of two New York policemen. Barron’s resolution was rejected.

In April 2016, Barron expressed dismay and concern regarding the death of 66-year-old Anthony Laborde, a former Black Liberation Army member who died of natural causes (related to a gall bladder ailment) in a New York hospital while serving a 25-years-to-life prison sentence for his 1981 murder of NYPD officer John Scarangella. Shortly after Laborde’s death, Barron contacted the state Department of Corrections and demanded an independent investigation. “’Any family would be concerned about the lack of information about the details that led up to their loved one’s death,” Barron told the New York Daily News. “I supported him because he was a political prisoner. He served his time and he was a political prisoner. It seemed that the system wants members of the Black Liberation movement to die in prison.” “We’re very concerned and I’m very suspicious when political prisoners die,” he added.

Supporting Reparations for Slavery

Addressing the crowd at an August 2002 “Millions for Reparations” rally in Washington, D.C., Barron called on the federal government to pay slavery reparations to black Americans. Among his remarks that day, was this infamous quote: “I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing,’ and then slap him just for my mental health.” Moreover, Barron repeatedly injected the word “fire” into his narrative and warned: “If they don’t pay us reparations now, we’re talking about scorched earth.”

During a commencement address which he delivered at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn in 2009, Barron called on the U.S. government to award slavery reparations payments to blacks in the United States: “And don’t forget that America owes you reparations. They paid everybody else back. It’s time for [the U.S. government] to pay you back. Give us [blacks] our reparations for 246 years of slavery. You [America] can keep your welfare. You can keep your college loans. We will have reparations. It is time for us to get paid. The Jews got paid [by Germany after the Holocaust]. The Japanese [who were interned in the U.S. during WWII] got paid. Pay the African people their reparations for free slavery. Pay us our fair share.”

Claims That College Admissions Standards Are Racist

When the City University of New York in 2002 raised its admissions standards and announced that it would no longer offer remedial courses for borderline students, Barron interpreted these new measures as efforts to minimize the number of nonwhite students on campus. “I think racism comes behind standards,” he said.

Supporter of Marxist & Totalitarian Dictators (Mugabe, Castro, Qaddafi)

In 2002 Barron invited Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to deliver a speech at New York’s City Hall that September. Describing the occasion as “a festive event,” Barron clasped hands with Mugabe as the two men ascended the steps of the building, and at one point he characterized Mugabe as “a dynamic, bold African man willing to stand up to the world for his people.” Years later, Barron would recall Mugabe’s visit as one of the “highlights” of his (Barron’s) political career.

Not long after Mugabe’s trip to New York, Barron headed a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe—an initiative that produced a report which concluded that “Zimbabwe remains one of the most stable countries in Africa,” and that “the media accounts” of Mugabe’s horrific tyranny were “exaggerated in many respects when dealing with the modalities of the land reform program, freedom of the press, and human rights conditions.” Regarding Barron’s report, the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers wrote a letter to Barron stating: “We are disturbed that the report in general seems to echo the Zimbabwe government’s official position on the various matters discussed.” Meanwhile, a 2002 report by Amnesty International stated that Mugabe’s rule was known for its “forced evictions, arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture, and political killings amounting to a pattern of deliberate, state-sponsored repression of opposition to the government or its policies.”

  • A number of years later — in November 2011 — Barron declared: “Robert Mugabe is my hero, and guess what, so is [Libyan dictator] Muammar Qaddafi!”
  • In 2014, Barron reiterated his high regard for Mugabe, saying: “I would love for him to come to Albany. I would love for him to come anywhere in the United States, really. I think he’s a shining example of an African leader on the African continent…. I see him as a freedom fighter….. All my heroes were America’s enemies.”

Additional examples of Barron praising totalitarian dictators include the following:

  • Barron has called Cuba’s longtime former president Fidel Castro “a true champion of human rights worldwide.”
  • Barron once attended a pro-Qaddafi rally in Harlem which was organized by Louis Farrakhan. There, Barron happily shared the stage with New Black Panther Party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz.
  • After Qaddafi was killed during the Libyan revolution in 2011, Barron eulogized the “Lion of Africa” at a gathering in a Brooklyn restaurant. He also referred to Qadhafi as “our brother” and as “a freedom fighter.”

Anti-War Activism

On January 19, 2003, Barron spoke at a massive Washington, D.C. rally organized by International ANSWER to oppose the seemingly imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Hater of Israel

One of the most consistently recurring themes of Barron’s career as a public figure has been his deep and unwavering contempt for Israel and the Jewish people. For example, consider the following:

  • When the New York City Council in 2003 tabled a resolution denouncing former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s assertion that “the Jews rule the world by proxy,” Barron cast the only dissenting vote, saying: “I will be voting against any resolution pro-Israel [sic] in this council until this council has the heart to be fair with the Palestinian cause and come up with a [similar] resolution.”
  • In March 2003—as a U.S. invasion of Iraq was becoming increasingly likely—Barron stated: “This threat of war is about oil, and we’re not spilling our blood for oil.” He also claimed that the war “is about protecting a single ally”—by which he meant Israel.
  • In the summer of 2009, Barron traveled to Gaza with British MP George Galloway’s anti-Israel, pro-Hamas group, Viva Palestina, to take medical supplies to the Palestinians and to promote the notion that Israel was guilty of widespread human-rights violations in the Gaza Strip. Following the voyage, Barron told reporters that the Gaza Strip was a giant “concentration camp”; that Israel was not only guilty of “deliberately caus[ing] the death of innocent children,” but of wholesale “genocide”; and that Gaza was “a virtual death camp, [replete with] the same kind of conditions the Nazis imposed on the Jews.” Others who participated in the Viva Palestina trip were U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as well as representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Cuba Coalition, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, MEChA, the International Action Center, the Answer Coalition, the International Socialist Organization, and the Workers World Party.
  • In 2010 Barron described “the government of Israel” as “the biggest terrorist in the world.” He also denied Israel’s right to exist, saying: “You want to discuss Israel becoming a state in 1948 when it should not have?”
  • At a rally in August 2010, Barron appeared in Harlem with members of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) who, during the event, referred to Fox News as “Fox Jews,” and to New York City as “Jew York City.” Shortly afterward, Barron expressed his allegiance with the Panthers, saying that he and the NBPP “are embracing each other with unity…”
  • Demonstrating that he had just as much contempt for Jews in his home city as for those in Israel, Barron in 2012 reflected on the 1991 riots in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section, in which a Jewish doctoral student named Yankel Rosenbaum had been brutally murdered by a mob of black rioters shouting “Kill the Jew!” “They [Jews] only make up 20 percent of the population,” Barron said of the Jewish community in Brooklyn, “but they’ve always walked these streets as if they owned them, and acted as if they were the only ones that mattered.”
  • Barron routinely conflates his condemnations of Israel with his denunciations of Jews, as evidenced by his complaints about the “Jewish lobby” rather than the “Israel lobby”—a distinction that even such anti-Israel figures as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have deemed important.

In 2009, Barron helped leadViva Palestina caravan that delivered aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Characterizing America As “Evil”

Barron took great exception to President George W. Bush’s recent characterization of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” “If you’re looking for the axis of evil,” said Barron, “look inside the belly of the beast,” meaning the United States. Indeed, Barron used the “axis of evil” characterization of America on multiple occasions.

Anti-White Remarks

When Barron campaigned briefly for the mayoralty of New York City in 2003, he said: “White men have too much power in this city.”

In 2005 Barron affirmed that one of his priorities was “to bust up the unbalanced white power structure.”

In March 2006 Barron heaped praise upon Autum Ashante, a 7-year-old black girl who had caused a stir at two Westchester County, New York schools when she: (a) recited a poem she wrote titled “White Nationalism Put U In Bondage,” which likened Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin to pirates and vampires, and (b) asked students to stand and recite the “Black Child’s Pledge,” which promoted race-conscious black pride. Barron characterized the girl as “brave” and “outspoken in telling the truth,” and he praised her poem as one that evoked “peace, power and pride about her heritage.” “We are very, very proud of you, Autum,” said Barron.

Failed Campaign for Congress in 2006

Also in 2006, Barron was a Democratic primary candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of representatives, a race he lost by 8 percentage points to rival Edolphus Towns.

Supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal, Cop-Killer

In 2008 Barron signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for the release of the convicted cop-killer, former Black Panther, and leftist icon Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Encouraging Black Identity Politics & a Revolutionary Spirit

In June 2009, Barron was the commencement speaker at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a mostly black institution. In the course of his remarks, he encouraged the African American graduates to always identify themselves first and foremost as black: “This is a great day for you, but as you rise up, remember, remember your people. Never forget who you are, and don’t be afraid to be black…. I don’t want you to be a lawyer who happens to be black. Be a black lawyer. I don’t want you to be an elected official who happens to be black. Be a black elected official. We got a black President. We got a black governor. Say black, black, black, black, black. They don’t even want us to say we’re black anymore.”

In a March 2010 interview, Barron spoke at length about his desire to promote the development of “a Black consciousness movement in America in all our communities.” “We need a cultural, Black arts movement,” he added, “a cultural revolutionary movement. We can’t be a post-racial society, we got to be pro our race, we got to be proud. We got to say we’re a Black doctor, not a doctor that happens to be Black. We got to be a Black president, not a president that happens to be Black. This is a different time and I think we need to raise more Black consciousness and commitment to our liberation.”

In the same interview, Barron articulated his undying commitment to revolutionary activism:

“Whatever I do in life I am first and foremost a revolutionary, an activist, a freedom fighter…. [W]hen you come into this 21st century and you look at the artists, you don’t see the same connections to the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement that some of the artists were in the 60s. And when you look at our athletes you don’t see them raising their black glove clenched fists to the American flag, they’re wrapping themselves in the American flag as they run around an take their little victory trots. So I want to continue to always be an activist to always be revolutionary and to always be radical no matter what I do.”

Condemning U.S. Killing of Somali Pirates Who Hijacked U.S. Ship in the Indian Ocean

In 2009 Barron denounced President Barack Obama for having ordered the killing of Somali pirates who had hijacked an American ship in the Indian Ocean. Said Barron: “How dare you go to Africa” and “kill three Somalians [sic] for trying to protect their water?”

Failed Campaign for NYS Governor in 2010

In 2010 Barron ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor of New York, on the Freedom Party ticket.

Condemning Walmart for “Plantation” Mentality

When the retail giant Walmart was planning to open its first stores in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2011, Barron griped: “Walmart, keep your plantation because there are no more slaves.”

Supporting Occupy Wall Street in 2011

In 2011 Barron supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. “Wall Street,” he said, “has a lot of greedy crooks that do not redistribute wealth to the people, to the neediest people in the city, and these [OWS rallies] are the kinds of demonstrations that will multiply across this nation…. Riots, what we call rebellions, are the voice, are the language of the unheard.”

Endorsed by Former Klansman David Duke in 2012

In 2012 Barron made a bid for New York’s 8th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he lost the Democratic primary to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, by a margin of 72% to 28%. Defiant in defeat, Barron blamed his loss on “the white media,” “the Wall Street elite,” and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Notably, Barron’s congressional campaign was endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who explained that his rationale for supporting Barron was rooted in the deep contempt for Israel that he and Barron shared. Said Duke: “In a race for Congress between an anti-Zionist black activist and a black activist who is a bought and paid-for Zionist Uncle Tom [i.e., Jeffries], I’ll take the anti-Zionist any day. In this election of limited choices, I believe that Charles Barron is the best choice. Why? Because I think there’s no greater danger facing the United States of America and facing the world than the unbridled power of Zionist globalism.”

Leaving the City Council

In 2013, Barron, whose 12-year tenure on the City Council was coming to a close due to term limits, campaigned for his wife, Assemblywoman Inez Barron, to succeed him in office. He also announced that he himself would run for his wife’s State Assembly seat in Albany.

Refusing to Stand for Pledge of Allegiance

Throughout his time in the City Council, Barron refused to stand while the Pledge of Allegiance was being recited at the start of each day’s proceedings—because of his belief that America’s history has essentially been an uninterrupted narrative of racism and oppression. On November 20, 2013, Barron used his Facebook account to post “A New Pledge Of Allegiance” that he himself had written: “I pledge allegiance to rid this nation, of racism, sexism, classicism and all forms of discrimination for which this nation stands. I pledge to fight for the eradication of poverty and an equitable distribution of wealth, income, and opportunity. I pledge to unite this nation under human rights until there’s liberty and justice for all.”

Elected to NY State Assembly

In November 2014, Barron was elected to the New York State Assembly. He has been re-elected every two years since then.

Characterizing the Democratic Party As Insufficiently Radical

Barron on a number of occasions has voiced dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, depicting it as being too conservative and out of touch “with the once loyal black masses.” But because he believes the Republican Party “is not an option” for black voters, Barron advocates the formation of a new third party to represent black interests.


Additional Resources

The Rise of a New York City Demagogue
By Nathaniel Botwinick
June 14, 2012An Anti-Semite for Congress?
By Michael Moynihan
June 14, 2012

A Candidate Known for His Unconventional Views
By Michael Grynbaum
June 15, 2012

Black Panther Charles Barron Invades New York City Council
By HipHopWired.com
March 11, 2010

Mugabe’s Victims: Mostly Black
By Nat Hentoff
May 2, 2003

Minstrel Show
By The American Spectator
March 21, 2003

Further Reading: “Charles Barron” (Votesmart.org, NYAssambly.gov, Ballotpedia.org); “King of East New York” (New York Press, 2-16-2015).

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