The Brown Berets were a Chicano nationalist organization that believed in Chicano self -determination and self defense of the community against racism and police brutality. The Brown Berets formed in 1966 as the "Young Chicanos for Community Action" in East Los Angeles by Chicano students like David Sanchez and Carlos Montes. The next year they took on the name "Brown Berets." They dressed in brown khaki uniforms and wore Brown Berets and took on a look similar to the Black Panthers.
In 1967 Chicano students at Merritt College, the same college where Bobby Seale and Huey Newton had formed the Black Panthers, decided to contact the LA Brown Berets about starting a chapter in Oakland. Oakland would be one of the first chapters outside of Los Angeles. Based out of the Fruitvale district, they began forming an Oakland chapter made up of students and community youth. The Brown Berets in Oakland began doing security at protests like the Third World Liberation strike at UC Berkeley and the Oakland Chicano Moratorium at San Antonio Park. They also did security for Chicano leaders like Corky Gonzales, Reies Tijerina, and Cesar Chavez when they would come and give speeches in Oakland. The Brown Berets also taught self defense against police brutality and patrolled the streets like the Panthers and the Chicano Revolutionary Party to make sure Chicanos were not harassed by the Oakland Police.
The Oakland chapter of the Brown Berets also worked very closely with a Chicano Theater Group called Teatro Triste which was a theater group that did Chicano political theater. Teatro Triste and the Brown Berets had a free breakfast program for Chicano youth based out Fruitvale Congregational Church on Fruitvale ave and E16th st. The Brown Berets also had a community newspaper called La Causa which they sold on the streets of Oakland and at college campuses. The Oakland Brown Berets disbanded around 1972. FBI, police infiltration and in-fighting in the Los Angeles chapter brought on the demise of the Oakland Chapter of the Brown Berets. Other Bay Area cities had Chapters of the Brown Berets as well including San Francisco, Berkeley, Hayward, Union City, Richmond, Pittsburg, and Redwood City.
In 1974 Union City Police Chief William Cann was shot by a sniper after a Chicano named Alberto Terrones was killed by the Union City Police. Later in the early 1980's several former Brown Berets, some of them former members of the Oakland Chapter and Decoto Chapter were indicted for the murder of Chief William Cann.
The Brown Berets in Oakland were also in solidarity with the Black Panthers. Both organizations worked together. They held Black and Chicano unity student conferences and the Brown Berets would attend the Free Huey Newton rallies and protest when Huey Newton was facing murder charges for a shoot-out with an Oakland Police officer.
More about the Chicano Movement in Oakland: