Last month we talked about a discovery made by the Free Beacon which revealed that a roughly $100K federal grant from the National Park Service (NPS) was being given to Berkeley for a project to “honor the history” of the Black Panther Party. At the time I questioned whether or not the current administration was aware of this award. The acting head of the NPS, Michael T. Reynolds, is an Obama holdover, but he reports to Ryan Zinke at Interior. It seemed an odd choice, given the current White House position on police and law enforcement in general.
That story made the rounds and it seems likely that neither Zinke nor President Trump were aware of it because in an update from the Free Beacon we learn that the grant has quietly been canceled.
The National Park Service told the Washington Free Beacon it is no longer providing funding for a controversial project “honoring the legacy” of the Black Panther Party after outrage that the agency would spend taxpayer dollars to memorialize a group that murdered a park ranger in the 1970s.
Yep. That’s one detail I’d missed the first time this story cropped up. In addition to the generally bad optics of giving a grant to a group the FBI still classifies as a terror organization dedicated to overthrowing the United States government, it turns out that one of the BPP members is still doing a life sentence for murdering a Park Service ranger. (Rember that the grant was being provided by the NPS)
A captain in the Black Panther Party murdered National Park Service ranger Kenneth Patrick while he was on patrol near San Francisco in 1973. Patrick was shot three times by Veronza Leon Curtis Bowers Jr., who is currently serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Patrick left behind a widow and three children.
Thanks to the exposure by the Free Beacon, the Fraternal Order of Police published a letter they sent to President Trump expressing their “outrage and shock” over this “appalling” decision. Along with other dismayed voices in the conservative press, the news quickly made its way into the President’s ear.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Zinke was (probably) called in to talk to Trump about this one. Here they’ve been busy allocating funds and resources to bolster the police in their efforts to fight gang violence and the NPS was about to write a nice, fat check to Berkeley for this. But the end result serves as a reminder, if only on a small level, of the value of a vigilant press which is actually interested in doing grinding, investigative work rather than simply playing politics. I realize that we’re “only” talking about $100K here, which isn’t even a drop in the federal bucket, but without someone doing the legwork to go through all of those budget line items, this likely never would have been exposed.
Hats off to the Free Beacon for not only exposing the news but prompting the government to action.