In the early hours of May 22, 1969, heavily armed police broke down the door of the New Haven headquarters of the Black Panther Party, arrested seven people, searched the premises and seized personal items, party literature and party funds. An eighth person was arrested in Bridgeport. All eight were held without bail until bench warrants for their arrest could be issued from the New Haven Superior Court.

The arrests were front-page news in New Haven the next day. An eight-column headline in the New Haven Register identified those taken into custody as Panthers. They were alleged to have participated in the "kangaroo trial" and "torture murder" of Alex Rackley, a Black Panther from New York whose body had been discovered in a swamp near Middlefield, Connecticut, late in the afternoon of May 21.

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