Almost four years ago, my book about the Republic of New Africa (RNA) came out entitled "How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa. In the book, I attempted to strike a balance between theory and social science versus simply telling the story of the RNA. Unfortunately, I had to leave a lot of information out of the book and some of the details that were otherwise fascinating were eliminated. In this series, I revisit the archive and present the material 50 years later. Apologies for not being able to continue this piece for a while but life interfered. Enjoy. I will try to work my way backwards from this event as well as forwards.
After the Shooting Stops
All told, 155 individuals were arrested at one time. It is commonly reported that about 140-145 were arrested but I have the police summaries of those in their custody on that evening. The arrested were later brought to a nearby police station, imprisoned and repeatedly interrogated through the next day before most were released.
Part of the reason why New Bethel stands out is the fact that up until that time the RNA had largely been left alone (at least overtly). This event was far from normal for the organization. Indeed, it represents the largest single mass arrest that the group experienced in its history and it followed a shootout that left individuals dead as well as injured. In short, the event was highly traumatizing and clearly signaled the high-risk nature of the claims making effort the RNA was engaged in. Still, while the raid, interrogation, and arrests were more severe than any repression the movement had previously experienced, this coercion did not kill any of the RNA participants. In this sense, it differs greatly from other forms of repression directed at eliminating organizational leaders and activists, such as targeted assassinations or disappearances.
While interrogating members, diverse forms of information were taken (which would prove to be useful for the state):
- Last name, first, middle (Christian name)
- aliases (free name or nicknames)
- family (members along with name, role/position in family, birthday, address, employment)
- associates (e.g., officers, delegates and members of the RNA)
- mo specialty (e.g., Minister of Interior, member of Black Legion [Army])
- criminal history (i.e., what they were arrested for according to the state, where and when)
- business or occupation
- birth date
- information submitted by
- dpd number
- cib number (criminal investigation bureau)
- fbi number
- other numbers (specify agency)
- fpc (got any clue?)
- localities frequented
- remarks (basically notations from surveillance records about where the individual had been seen, what roles they played, etc.)
The police also attached a photo. In addition to the daily surveillance records, this allowed the government to have a rather extensive understanding of the RNA. For example, one could easily figure out which members of the group under arrest were on the radar of different policing organizations (displayed below). Now, I am not saying that this was done but that it could be.