This article is about the life, death and legacy of Fred Hampton. Peorian, Mark Clark was on the front line with Hampton.
|Source: Return of the Black Panther Party (click to enlarge)|
Why the assassination of Fred Hampton matters today
by David Love
Fred Hampton. Say his name.
On this anniversary of the slaying of the Black Panther leader in Chicago — when black people face the fight of their lives — it is important for us to understand why his life and death mean so much to us now.
The charismatic chair of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party accomplished a great deal before he was cut down at the age of 21. Hampton headed the Chicago chapter of the Panthers, where he formed a multiracial “rainbow coalition” of organizations, including Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers street gang, and a Puerto Rican organization known as the National Young Lords. He also started a community service program that included a free breakfast program for children and a free medical clinic, and held political education classes.
And under his leadership, the Chicago Black Panthers monitored the police and looked out for instances of police brutality. Most of all, Fred Hampton brokered a truce among Chicago’s major street gangs.
The Black Panthers, and Hampton, caught the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI. Through his Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, Hoover sought to “prevent the rise of a black messiah” and “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.” Hoover targeted black figures such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and organizations such the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Christian Leadership Conference, and the Panthers.
And Hoover viewed the Black Panthers breakfast program for schoolkids as the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America — grits, not guns.
In the hallowed American tradition of going after youthful black power and excellence, and stopping them in their tracks, the FBI took out the Black Panthers. And they took out Fred Hampton.
We should be clear that this was a Chicago gangland execution, an assassination plot by the Hoover, the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. In the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, the police raided Hampton’s apartment. Hampton and Mark Clark, a Panther leader from Peoria, Illinois, died. Deborah Johnson, Fred Hampton’s fiancée ,who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, survived, and was charged with attempting to murder the police. A federal investigation found that only one shot came from Hampton’s house, while the cops fired 82 to 99 bullets. The murders ended the career of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan.
The cops could not contain the glee on their faces when they carried out Hampton’s body. Over 5,000 people attended Hampton’s funeral, and Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy eulogized him.
Meanwhile, William O’Neal, Hampton’s bodyguard, was an FBI informant who provided the police with the floor plan indicating an “X” for Hampton’s bed, and likely drugged Hampton the night of the raid. O’Neal later committed suicide.
No one went to prison, as all law enforcement agents were cleared of wrongdoing. The families of Hampton and Clark received a $1.85 million settlement in 1983.
As much as we would like to believe that things have changed so much since the lynching of Fred Hampton, a victim of police violence, have they really? Hampton struggled against the same problems black America faces today, and lost his life for it. His life mattered.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove
Source: The Grio