On December 4th, Remember The Life Of Fred Hampton

| Educate!

Above Photo: Fred Hampton, left, the head of the Illinois Black Panthers rallies with others against the trial of eight people accused of conspiracy to start a riot at the Democratic National Convention. The rally was held outside the Federal Building on Oct. 29, 1969. Editors note: There is damage to this historic print. (photo: Don Casper/Chicago Tribune).

 

here is one thing that’s even worse than being attacked by the police on the street.

That’s being attacked by the police – and the FBI – and the local prosecutor – in your bedroom while you’re asleep.

There is one thing that’s even more inspiring than Martin Luther King breaking down segregation.

Fred Hampton portrait by Erin Currier. (photo: Erin Currier)

Fred Hampton portrait by Erin Currier.

 

That’s people – where they live – in motion – for liberation.

That’s the story of Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers in Chicago.

Panthers like Fred set up school breakfasts so poor kids wouldn’t suffer all morning because they were hungry.

People like Fred worked for peace treaties with gangs like the Blackstone Rangers to worry less about turf and more about power to the people.

Fred worked with lefty rednecks like the Young Patriots – he could see past their Confederate flag emblem and knew they wanted to unite the disparate Scots-Irish with inner city youth.

 

Solidarity overcoming racism.

Solidarity overcoming racism.

 

Fred served as the chair of the Inter-Racial Council at his high school, which met whenever there was friction. He led a walkout against the school policy that only white girls could be nominated as homecoming queen. The school had its first black homecoming queen that year.

Fred wanted to be a lawyer but knew he didn’t have “enough time.”

Fred and the Panthers taught the children in Chicago to stand against war. To stand with the people. To look each other in the eye and say, “I am a revolutionary.”

In November 1969 there was a shoot-out between an ex-Panther and the police. The police wanted revenge.

On December 4th, 1969, the police, the FBI, and prosecutor Edward Hanrahan joined forces. At night, under the guise of an arms raid, they entered the home of Fred Hampton under the leadership of the prosecutor. No one was given an opportunity to surrender before the police shooting began. Law enforcement fired about a hundred shots, hitting almost everyone in the dwelling.

Fred Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark were dead, killed in their sleep. Fred had been dosed with barbiturates by his bodyguard, who turned out to be an FBI informant.

Fred had just turned 21-years-old. He would be 66 today.

The raiders made one mistake. They left without securing the crime scene.

The Panthers led people on tours of the crime scene. The bullet holes went into Fred’s bedroom door. Many people couldn’t believe that the police could do such a thing. Others knew all too well.

At a mass, a local priest burst into tears as he tried to explain the meaning of Fred’s life to the African American schoolchildren.

“… the next thing I knew here was one of our eighth grade boys – he jumped up and said, ‘I am Fred Hampton.’ And then a girl in the sixth grade, she jumps up. ‘I am Fred Hampton.’ Another kid in first grade, ‘I am Fred Hampton.’ And before you knew it the whole church, kids were all shouting, ‘I am Fred Hampton.’”

 

Gun violence.

Gun violence.

 

The LAPD tried a similar raid on the LA Panthers five days later. Geronimo Pratt was in charge of the chapter’s defense. Pratt, a Vietnam veteran, made sure the entire headquarters was lined with sandbags.The LA Panthers held off the LAPD in a four hour gun battle. No one died.

This humiliation of the LAPD led to the birth of the SWAT team, which quickly spread to every corner of the land.

Predictably, there was a grand jury in the wake of Fred’s death. The grand jury refused to indict Fred’s attackers.

Because of the outrage in the African-American community, a special prosecutor was appointed. A second grand jury was empaneled. They indicted Fred’s attackers on the minor charge of “obstruction of justice.” Everyone was acquitted.

Fred’s friends then filed a lawsuit. The suit was dismissed.

Fred’s friends filed an appeal. The suit was restored.

An agonizing 18-month trial then began. In the midst of the trial, the FBI was forced to reveal thousands and thousands of documents. These documents said “COINTELPRO.” Fred was the target of a federal government counterintelligence program designed to neutralize its opponents.

The family and the lawyers had to read these documents while the trial was ongoing.

At the end of the trial, the judge dismissed the case rather than let the jury decide.

Another appeal was filed. Because the community was unified in its outrage, a precedent-setting decision resulted. The police and the FBI could not claim immunity for planning to kill its dissidents.

Another trial beckoned. Fred’s opponents were cornered. They offered his family money and bought peace.

After all this, Fred’s mother was asked what was proved from this twelve-year legal battle.

“They got away with murder.”

Bobby Rush, a prominent Chicago Black Panther, has been a Congressman for more than twenty years.

Bobby Rush is the only person to defeat Barack Obama in an election for public office. He beat him by thirty points.

I was going to call for a campaign for the day of Fred’s assassination – Friday, December 4th – to be a national holiday.

But that would be a mistake.

Gil Scott-Heron wrote a book about his campaign and concert tour with Stevie Wonder to declare Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. Gil’s book is called The Last Holiday.

There won’t be any more national holidays for national heroes. Not until we can push back hate.

Fred is a national hero, and his supporters can’t even name Fred’s street after him. Too much hate.

There won’t be any more national holidays until America fundamentally changes as a nation. We can’t even make Election Day a national holiday. Too much hate.

Veterans who died in war abroad are given memorials. It’s called Memorial Day in the spring. Veterans Day in the fall.

Fred and the others who died – those who died at the hands of the police – those who died for liberation – are entitled to a memorial.

They died in the war at home.

They died holding this country to its promises.

They died so we can be free.

Hold them in the place of the highest honor.

On Friday, December 4th, hold them in your heart.


Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of us who live here agree on a few basic things. One is that it’s always a good time for people to rise up. For more on Fred Hampton, read The Assassination of Fred Hampton, by Jeffrey Haas (also see this Democracy Now! interview with the author); Stanley Nelson’s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution can be seen at many theaters.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    We will always remember the legacy of Brother Fred Hampton. He was a very intelligent, strong black man who saw injustice and wanted to stop it. He had great leadership skills and he understood class analysis. He worked in the Black Panther Party in Chicago so black people can have liberation. He also believe in all power to all people, so he wanted all in the human family to be free too. He organized truces among gangs and he supported the great Breakfast program in Chicago, which feed a lot of children everyday. He abhor police brutality, poverty, and racism. He wanted the world to know in public that he is not with the one percent, but he is a proletariat. We are not in favor of the agenda of capitalist exploiters.

    We are part of the proletariat and we want economic justice as comrades. It is that language that red Hampton used in public in standing up for black people. He was murdered by the Chicago Police. J. Edgar Hoover was an evil, despicable person who used policies that violated the civil liberties of Americans. Therefore, we understand the legacy of Fred Hampton, which dealt with community development, solidarity, forming alliances, and standing up for the freedom of black people. Fred Hampton opposed the unjust Vietnam War and he was in favor of the self determination and liberation of all freedom loving peoples of the world. We owe a lot to him and we are inspired by his courage, his strength, and his political analysis.

    We are in a battle. The agenda of the 1% has surely failed to caused economic justice. Therefore, we advocate progressive policies in order to end this system, so a system of justice can exist in its place.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    J. Edgar Hoover was a beloved attack dog of the worse of the ruling elite since WW1, an American Dzerzhinsky at the start that developed into something much worse.

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    I totally agree with you. J. Edgar Hoover was an enemy of freedom par excellence. He lied and said that he was promoting democratic values, but he executed COINTELPRO, slander, and other violations of human rights which are part of his deplorable actions.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Contrary to popularly disseminated mythology the administration of Woodrow Wilson under which Hoover entered the government was a singularly disastrous one among the horrors that presidential administrations generally have been, The Federal Reserve, the personal income tax, the swindle into WWI, the police state suppression of dissent are only the peaks of a cordillera of crime against the American people.

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    For decades, many people haven’t understood the nefarious legacy of Woodrow Wilson. Under the guise of his promotion of the League of Nations, which failed, he advanced imperial policies overseas and segregation domestically in America. He supported the Palmer Raids (Eugene Debs was arrested too), which violated civil liberties too. He once overtly opposed intervention in WWI and then he supported WWI. Wilson has been denounced legitimately by the left and the right (albeit for different reasons).

    #Black Lives Matter.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    If you haven’t already, you might try doing a duckduckgo com search for:

    New World Order: The Founding Fathers

    The Creature from Jekyll Island

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    OK.

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  • badkitty61

    I remember when Fred Hampton and Mark Clark died. 1969 was a bad year. It is up to us to try to live a revolutionary life in their memory. Be aware of what you buy, how it was produced, what it is made of, and who sells it. And remember what the FBI used to get information besides informants. I still have not been able to bring myself to buy a cellphone (I’m not on Facebook either!) and it’s not just because of what they’re made of and the working conditions under which they’re made. I’m still paranoid from the surveillance of the late Sixties and early Seventies and anyone who remembers the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark knows what I’m talking about.