OAKLAND (BCN)—The Oakland City Council on Tuesday night will consider a proposal to name a section of De Fremery Park in West Oakland for a 17-year-old Black Panther Party member who was killed in a confrontation with Oakland police in 1968.
City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, said she and Councilman Larry Reid are recommending that the city name the grove of trees on the park’s south side “Bobby Hutton Grove” to recognize his contribution to Oakland.
Gibson McElhaney said Hutton’s death near De Fremery Park “marked a turning point in the history of Oakland and the Black Panther party” and the local community commemorates his passing every year with a celebration in the park.
Gibson McElhaney said she’s received numerous requests from community members to name a portion of the park after Hutton. In April, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers, the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission unanimously approved that action.
According to Gibson McElhaney, Hutton was born in Arkansas but moved with his family to Oakland when he was three years old after Arkansas was threatened by mobs who targeted black people.
At the age of 16, Hutton became the first person to join the Black Panther Party after it was founded in Oakland by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, Gibson McElhaney said.
On April 6, 1968, only two days after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Hutton and other Black Panthers were driving toward De Fremery Park to organize a community event for Newton, who was in jail, and to calm the community in the aftermath of King’s death, according to Gibson McElhaney.
Oakland police officers “confronted” the carload of Black Panthers, a shootout ensued and Hutton was killed and others were arrested, Gibson McElhaney said.
Hutton “was largely considered a martyr by party members after he was killed,” she said.
The memorial “symbolically advocates for justice and equality under the law for all people of color,” Gibson McElhaney said.
Many years after the shooting that claimed Hutton’s life, former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver said the shooting occurred when he ordered Hutton and other party members to assassinate police officers in retaliation for the assassination of King.
Officers alleged that Black Panther members opened fire first but Black Panther members said Hutton was shot by police while he was surrendering with his hands up.
Oakland Police Officers Association President Barry Donelan couldn’t be reached for comment on whether the police union is taking a position on the effort to name a part of the park after Hutton.