|The Thursday Club|
Sergeant Gil Souzawas born and raised in Oakland. A descendent of Portuguese immigrants, he flew Hellcat fighters for the Navy over Japan in World War II, became an Oakland cop in 1951, and was a sergeant during most of the 1960s. With a son at UC Berkeley, Souza often found himself facing demonstrators there, admonishing his troops for picking on long-haired stereotypes as they battled the students. Souza is proud of his reputation as a tough street fighter, and his comments on police brutality and excessive force are chilling reminders of the dilemmas facing police officers and society on the streets. Sgt. Souza died in 2003, shortly after he was last interviewed for the film.
Captain Robert Fordis the Thursday Club's encyclopedia, the well to which other members turn to jog their memories. A superb storyteller who re-creates dialogue that is sometimes 40 and 50 years old, he was born in East Oakland's Fruitvale district, and served as a marine at Guadalcanal and Bougainville. He joined OPD in 1947. Ford stood next to the infamous police car in Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, listening sympathetically to Mario Savio's historic speech. He was captain of the watch in 1969 when two Oakland patrolmen got drunk and attacked the Black Panther headquarters.
Hadwick Thompson IIIwas the great-grandson of a slave who came to California during the Gold Rush and purchased his own freedom. A Pearl Harbor survivor, Thompson emerged from WWII a decorated submarine officer, and became one of the first black police officers in Oakland. He taught race relations inside the police force under five chiefs, but his career is marked by family tragedies involving two sons. Fortunately for the film, several hours of interviews were conducted with Hadwick Thompson before his death in July 2002.
"Had" Thompson, Hadwick's son, joined the Oakland PD after serving in Vietnam, and was disabled when he was shot by a criminal on a rampage in 1985. Ironically, his brother is serving a life sentence for murdering a San Jose policeman in 1970. "Had" Junior describes the dissonances of working with white officers from the suburbs in all-black Oakland neighborhoods.
Herb Coffmanwas too short to become a Washington State Trooper so he found a home at the Oakland PD. A prankster among the Thursday Club crowd, Coffman's exploits include an encounter with singer Joan Baez during Stop the Draft Week in 1967, and a run-in with Black Panther founder Huey Newton during a robbery.
Lt. Booker Ealyjoined the Oakland PD in 1964, and was one of the founding members of the Oakland Black Officers Association. He describes the role he played in breaking various color barriers as he rose through the ranks. Ealy witnessed a number of confrontations between the OPD and the Black Panthers, including the death of Panther Bobby Hutton.
Jack Richardson, a homicide detective who grew up as the son of a guard in San Quentin prison, became a crack shot with a pistol. He used his marksmanship skills at fairs, but became afraid of using his weapon against suspects. He ended up risking his life more than once rather than draw his gun.
Judy Murraywas the first woman to infiltrate the Thursday Club's lunches. Her original purpose, to research a historical novel, was soon supplanted by a deep attachment to the characters in the group. Her ambivalence, simultaneously supporting and challenging the values and ethics of her new friends, provides yet another perspective in the film.
The interviews are intercut with photographs from the personal files of the officers and their families, The Oakland Tribune archive photographs housed at the Oakland Museum, photographs and clippings from the History Room of the Oakland Public Library, newspapers from Raquel Scherr Salgado's collection of the Berkeley Barb, and from the collection of police department photographs once displayed on the walls at the Clambucket. Archival news footage from a variety of sources, including Mark Kitchell's classic documentary film, Berkeley in the Sixties, and Black Panther from California Newsreel, bring the events to life.
The Thursday Club was produced with support from the California Council for the Humanities, the Oakland Cultural Arts Program, and Channel 10-KTOP. The Oakland Museum of California has assisted the project since 1999, when it first granted access to the Oakland Tribune photo archive now housed at the museum. The Oakland Police Department, and Chief Richard Word, provided valuable assistance to the project, allowing access to the OPD's collection of training films, and by permitting interviews with active duty police officers. The project's fiscal sponsor is Film Arts Foundation of San Francisco. Bob Johns composed the music for the film.