Fred Hampton remembered
Friday, December 4, 2009
By: Carlito Rovira
Despite a life cut short, young Black Panther left behind an enduring
legacy of struggle
The wave of repression unleashed on the Black liberation movement in
the 1960s and 1970s by the FBI's "Operation COINTELPRO" reached its
height with a series of murderous attacks on the Black Panther Party.
One of the most horrendous episodes of this onslaught took place 40
years ago. On Dec. 4, 1969, Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton
and Mark Clark were assassinated by police.
In a coordinated effort between the Illinois State Attorney's Office,
Cook County Police Department, the Chicago Police Department and the
FBI, a heavily armed assault was launched in the early morning hours
on Fred Hampton's residence. With a vicious sense of racist hatred
and no regard for human life, the police fired their weapons at will
at the wall separating the hallway from the apartment. The two
revolutionaries were killed.
In the days that followed, law enforcement officials were quick to
reinvent the facts. They claimed that the occupants of the apartment
fired guns at police. Their story never held water. Evidence gathered
from the forensic investigation and other inquiries pointed
exclusively to police savagery in the attack.
The shaping of a leader
Hampton's life was brief, but was rich in struggle.
Hampton was born in Chicago on Aug. 30, 1948. His parents originated
from Hayneville, La., where sharecropping and racial injustice were
common. His great-grandparents had worked on a plantation in that
region under the horrors of slavery.
Like millions of African Americans, Hampton's parents left the South
during the Great Migration of the 1930s to look for a better life and
flee the constant threat of racist terror. They settled in Maywood,
Ill., a suburb of Chicago where they worked at the Argo Starch Company.
An event that likely affected the young Fred Hampton, much as it
affected most of Chicago's Black community, was the 1955 gruesome
lynching of Emmett Till. The 14-year-old Till was visiting family in
Mississippi when he was abducted and killed for allegedly whistling
at a white woman. Till was the son of family friends and neighbors of
Hampton was attracted to books, and took it upon himself to read the
speeches and writings of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Joan Elbert,
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others. He gained a reputation
for his knowledge of Black history and began to sense the need for struggle.
As a student at Proviso East High School, he noticed that most of the
students who failed were Black. Hampton began to speak out against
the school administration for not providing tutoring and remedial
programs for students. He was also critical of the fact that the
faculty and administration were all white when one-fourth of the
student body was Black.
Hampton challenged the school's exclusive racist practice of
nominating only white girls to compete for "Miss Homecoming Queen."
He organized a protest, walk-out and school boycott. As a result, the
following year Black female students were included in this contest.
Fred Hampton was respected by white and Black students alike. The
year after he graduated from Proviso East, a school administrator
requested his help to calm racial tensions among students.
At Triton Junior College, he studied law as a defense against police
brutality aimed at the Black community. He joined the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People and became the
leader of its youth council at the West Suburban branch, galvanizing
a membership of 500.
While Hampton was in the NAACP, the Black Panther Party was opening
chapters across the country and becoming a prominent force in the
Black liberation struggle. Hampton began to absorb and understand the
revolutionary content of the Panthers' political perspective, and
joined. He soon demonstrated his leadership abilities and became
deputy chairman of the party's Illinois chapter.
His disposition and skills as a speaker earned Hampton a moral
authority. His political achievements included brokering peace with
the supposed "street gangs" of Chicago, amongst them the Puerto Rican
group the Young Lords. Hampton was instrumental in transforming the
Young Lords into a revolutionary political organization.
Hampton valued the need for a multinational revolutionary struggle,
and organized the original Rainbow Coalition comprised of the I Wor
Kuen of the Asian community, the Brown Berets of the Mexican
community, the poor white workers of the Young Patriots, the Young
Lords and the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party set standards
for waging struggle. Their enthusiastic projection of socialism
allowed many to envision its relevance to African Americans and other
The white, racist U.S. ruling class was appalled. How dare the
descendents of African slaves call themselves socialists and aim to
achieve Black people's right to reparations! Even more daring was the
Black Panther Party's call for the overthrow of capitalisma demand
the ruling class could never tolerate. Their ability to forge unity
in struggle was a threat in itself.
All this was happening while resentment for the war in Vietnam was on
the rise. The men of privilege and wealth, with a stake in preserving
the imperialist system, grew apprehensive the more it became apparent
that a mass revolutionary movement was arising.
These circumstances compelled the government to destroy the Black
'The greatest threat to national security'
Operation COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program,
was established in the mid-1950s to deter the development of any
movement deemed a threat to the existing social, economic and
political order. It remained secret until 1971, when anti-repression
activists broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pa., and
confiscated files revealing the hidden operation.
As the Civil Rights movement advancedgalvanizing strength from all
sectors of the population, breaking the despicable Jim Crow laws and
compelling the U.S. Congress to pass other progressive
legislationthe FBI increasingly turned its attention to the Black
The Black Panther Party openly advocated for socialist revolution,
and openly supported the Chinese and Cuban revolutions. The Panthers'
breakfast program for children, among other social programs,
underlined their commitment to meet the needs of communities that
received nothing but oppression and neglect from the government.
The staunch anti-capitalist stance of these young revolutionaries who
declared themselves Marxist-Leninists made them the target of the
most ruthless, racist elements in power. On numerous occasions, FBI
Director J. Edgar Hoover expressed a special disdain for the Black
struggle, particularly towards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm
X. Many were not surprised when Hoover declared the Black Panther
Party "the greatest threat to national security."
The slanderous editorials against the Panthers in the
capitalist-owned mass media, combined with Hoover's frequent verbal
attacks, reflected the wishes of the ruling class who sought the
complete destruction of the Black Panther Party and the ideals it
embodied. Internal FBI memos show that the government had a special
interest in Hampton's political activities and his associations;
Chicago police were encouraged by the FBI to find a way to lock up Hampton.
Prior to Hampton's death, police raided the Panthers' Chicago office
on three separate occasions. William O'Neal, Fred Hampton's
bodyguard, was a police informant who was instructed to draw up a
floor plan of the targeted apartment weeks earlier. Law enforcement
used the information gathered by O'Neal to murder Hampton.
Hampton's murder was part of a pattern of police raids, false
imprisonment and executions of Black Panthers. COINTELPRO documents
proved that assassination of Black leaders was among its aims. Fred
Hampton and the Black Panther Party had to be eliminated simply
because they had touched upon capitalism's greatest weaknessthe
decisiveness and strength that a multi-national movement has in a
battle against this system.
The Black Panther Party arose from the struggles of the African
American people, historically the most oppressed and exploited group
in the United States. They symbolized hope and received the greatest
affection. They attributed Black oppression to the capitalist system,
and dared to pick up arms against the state. The militancy and
defiance of these young revolutionaries deeply impacted the Civil
Rights and socialist movements.
Hampton and the Black Panthers believed all would benefit if the
banner of the struggle against racism and national oppression was
taken up by the white masses as their own. Hampton knew that it was
possible to smash the racial barriers created by capitalism to divide
and conquer the working class. His confidence was based on the strong
belief that this system provides a motive for all to unite and engage
in revolutionary struggle.
Long live the memory of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party!
Forty years since Fred Hampton's murder
5 December 2009
"I'm gon' die for the People. 'Cause I live for the people. 'Cause I
love the People. Power to the People!" Fred Hampton.
40 years ago on December 4, 21-year-old Black Panther Party (BPP)
leader Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed by the Chicago Police
Department in an FBI-orchestrated raid.
Apparently drugged by a police agent who had been acting as his
bodyguard, Hampton never woke up during the raid, despite police
claims of a shoot-out.
This was at the height of the FBI's campaign of violent repression
against the BPP.
The BPP were founded in Oakland in 1966 as a response from radical
Black youth to police violence and to fight for Black liberation
and socialism. The Panthers grew in popularity among Black youth and
were targeted by an FBI campaign of infiltration, sabotage and
violence. Dozens of Panthers were killed, or framed and jailed.
A brilliant orator and organiser, Hampton was one of the Panthers'
most effective young leaders.
Before his death, he had created alliance of groups called the
"rainbow coalition". This included Chicago's largest street gang, the
Blackstone Rangers (now known as Black P. Stone Nation), minority
community groups, like the Puerto Rican Young Lords and the left-wing
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
The Panthers captured the imagination of Black youth by standing up
to the racist police that brutalised Black communities. BPP activists
carried weapons openly as they "patrolled" the police to observe and
prevent police brutality.
The popular image of a BPP activist remains one of a militant with a
gun-in-hand, symbolising armed revolution. Yet, Hampton's example
shows the reality was different.
Hampton was a strong supporter of the rounded political approach the
Panthers were developing. Not long before his murder, he denounced a
rampage of vandalism in Chicago organised by the ultraleft Weathermen
group in SDS, which wasfollowed by brutal police raids in the Black community.
White leftist Steve Tappis said that Hampton "told them to go off and
organise breakfast programs or something".
When BPP members patrolled the police, they did so with a gun in one
hand (as they were legally entitled to do) and the law book in the
other. Such audaciousness caught people's imagination.
But their real support base developed in tandem with their programs
of political struggle mass rallies and electoral campaigns and
their Survival Programs, such as breakfasts for school children,
buses for the elderly, and sickle-cell anaemia testing.
The Panthers also ran programs providing free food, clothing and
shoes, legal aid, employment, and many more. BPP founder Huey P.
Newton wrote that the programs were "not revolutionary nor reformist
but a tactic and strategy by which we organised the people".
Hundreds of thousands benefited from the Survival Programs.
Hampton explained Panther strategy in a 1969 speech: "A lot of people
think [the Breakfast for Children program] is charity, but what does
it do? It takes the people from a stage to another stage. Any program
that's revolutionary is an advancing program. Revolution is change.
"Honey, if you just keep on changing, before you know it, in fact,
not even knowing what socialism is, you don't have to know what it
is, they're endorsing it, they're participating in it, and they're
supporting socialism …
"And a lot of people will tell you … the people don't have any
theory, they need some theory. They need some theory even if they
don't have any practice …
"We say that the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic
program. It teaches the people basically that by practice, we thought
up and let them practice that theory and inspect that theory.
"What's more important? You learn something just like everybody else."
At their height, the Panthers were a force to be reckoned with. They
had chapters in 47 cities around the US and their weekly newspaper
reached a circulation of over 200,000 copies.
Despite FBI's intense campaign of repression, the Panthers lasted
through to the end of the 1970s.
In recent years, much of the often forgotten history of the Panthers
has been published. In memory of Hampton, and all the other Panthers
killed, exiled or jailed for decades (some are still there), it is a
good time to re-read their history.
One recent book is The Black Panther Party Service to the People
Programs, edited by David Hilliard (a founding BPP member) and Cornel
West, published in 2008 by University of New Mexico Press.
"The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago
Police Murdered a Black Panther"
December 04, 2009
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Black Panther
leader Fred Hampton. On December 4th, 1969, Chicago police raided
Fred Hampton's apartment and shot and killed him in his bed. He was
just twenty-one years old. Black Panther leader Mark Clark was also
killed in the raid. While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened
fire on the police who were there to serve a search warrant for
weapons, evidence later emerged that told a very different story:
that the FBI, the Cook County state's attorney's office and the
Chicago police conspired to assassinate Fred Hampton. We speak with
attorney Jeffrey Haas, author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton:
How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.
Jeffrey Haas, author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton. He
co-founded the People's Law Office in 1969 and was the attorney for
the plaintiffs in the federal suit Hampton v. Hanrahan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of
Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. On December 4th, 1969, Chicago
police raided Fred Hampton's apartment, shot and killed him in his
bed. He was just twenty-one years old. Black Panther leader Mark
Clark was also killed in the raid.
While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police
who were there to serve a search warrant for weapons, evidence later
emerged that told a very different story: that the FBI, the Cook
County state's attorney's office and the Chicago police conspired to
assassinate Fred Hampton. Noam Chomsky has called Hampton's killing
"the gravest domestic crime of the Nixon administration."
Today, on this fortieth anniversary of his death, we spend the rest
of the hour on Fred Hampton. In 1969, he had emerged as the
charismatic young chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party. This
is some of Fred Hampton in his own words.
FRED HAMPTON: So we saywe always say in the Black Panther Party that
they can do anything they want to to us. We might not be back. I
might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you'll
remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a
revolutionary. And you're going to have to keep on saying that.
You're going to have to say that I am a proletariat, I am the people.
A lot of people don't understand the Black Panthers Party's
relationship with white mother country radicals. A lot of people
don't even understand the words that Eldridge uses a lot. But what
we're saying is that there are white people in the mother country
that are for the same types of things that we are for stimulating
revolution in the mother country. And we say that we will work with
anybody and form a coalition with anybody that has revolution on
their mind. We're not a racist organization, because we understand
that racism is an excuse used for capitalism, and we know that racism
is justit's a byproduct of capitalism. Everything would be alright
if everything was put back in the hands of the people, and we're
going to have to put it back in the hands of the people.
With no education, the people will take the local foundation and
start stealing money, because they won't be really educated to why
it's the people's thing anyway. You understand what I'm saying? With
no education, you have neocolonialism instead of colonialism, like
you've got in Africa now and like you've got in Haiti. So what we're
talking about is there has to be an educational program. That's very
important. As a matter of fact, reading is so important for us that a
person has to go through six weeks of our political education before
we can consider himself a member of the party able to even run down
ideology for the party. Why? Because if they don't have an education,
then they're nowhere. You dig what I'm saying? They're nowhere,
because they don't even know why they're doing what they're doing.
You might get caught up in the emotion of this movement. You
understand me? You might be able to get them caught up because
they're poor and they want something. And then, if they're not
educated, they'll want more, and before you know it, they'll be
capitalists, and before you know it, we'll have Negro imperialists.
We don't think you fight fire with fire; we think you fight fire with
water. We're going to fight racism not with racism, but we're going
to fight with solidarity. We say we're not going to fight capitalism
with black capitalism, but we're going to fight it with socialism.
We're still here to say we're not going to fight reactionary pigs and
reactionary state's attorneys like this and reactionary state's
attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We're
going to fight their reactions with all of us people getting together
and having an international proletarian revolution.
Black people need some peace. White people need some peace. And we
are going to have to fight. We're going to have to struggle. We're
going to have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace,
because the people that we're asking for peace, they are a bunch of
megalomaniac warmongers, and they don't even understand what peace
means. And we've got to fight them. We've got to struggle with them
to make them understand what peace means.
Bobby Seale is going through all types of physical and mental
torture. But that's alright, because we said even before this
happened, and we're going to say it after this and after I'm locked
up and after everybody's locked up, that you can jail
revolutionaries, but you can't jail the revolution. You might run a
liberator like Eldridge Cleaver out of the country, but you can't run
liberation out of the country. You might murder a freedom fighter
like Bobby Hutton, but you can't murder freedom fighting, and if you
do, you'll come up with answers that don't answer, explanations that
don't explain, you'll come up with conclusions that don't conclude,
and you'll come up with people that you thought should be acting like
pigs that's acting like people and moving on pigs. And that's what
we've got to do. So we're going to see about Bobby regardless of what
these people think we should do, because school is not important and
work is not important. Nothing's more important than stopping
fascism, because fascism will stop us all.
AMY GOODMAN: The words of Fred Hampton, those excerpts courtesy of
the 1969 documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton, produced by the
Chicago Film Group. After Hampton was killed, Black Panther leader
Bobby Rush spoke at his funeral about his life and legacy.
BOBBY RUSH: We can mourn today, but if we understood Fred and we are
dedicated that his life wasn't given in vain, then there will be no
more mournings tomorrow, then all our sorrow will be turned into
action. He said, "But you have to remember one thing, and that's 'be
strong.'" He wasn't afraid of anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Black Panther and now Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush.
For more on Fred Hampton's life and death, we're joined in our
Democracy Now! printing press studio by attorney Jeffrey Haas. He is
the author of a new book called The Assassination of Fred Hampton:
How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. In 1969,
Jeffrey Haas co-founded the People's Law Office, whose clients
included the Black Panthers, SDSthat's Students for a Democratic
Societyand other political activists. He was the attorney for the
plaintiffs in a federal suit, Hampton v. Hanrahan, filed against the
Chicago police, the prosecutor, and later the FBI.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!
JEFFREY HAAS: Thank you. Good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: So, go back in time with us forty years ago. Where were
you when Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were gunned down in their beds
in Chicago by the police?
JEFFREY HAAS: Forty years ago this morning, I got a knock on my door
at 7:30 in the morning. It was my partner, Skip Andrew, who happened
to live up the street from me. When I opened the door, he was already
dressed in a suit and tie and said, "The chairman's been killed. The
pigs vamped on his crib this morning." And I couldn't believe it,
because I had seen Fred just two days earlier in the office, bigger
than life, giving orders, talking about the breakfast program,
talking about political education classes. I looked at Skip, and I
was, as I said, somewhattotally taken by surprise. And Skip said,
"I'm going to go to the apartment." And I said, "Well, what do you
think I should do?" And he said, "Why don't you go interview the
survivors?" And with that, he was gone. And I thought, "Wow! Here's
this guy who was bigger than life, and all of a sudden he's dead."
So, that morning, which was exactly forty years ago this morning,
just about this time, I went to see the survivors. It turned out that
Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed in the police raid, four
other Panthers were shot, were at the hospital, and the three who
were only beaten up were at the Wood Street police station. So
IHanrahan had given ordersHanrahan, the police were assigned to
himnot to allow anyone to see them. But I sort of worked my way through that.
And the first person I saw was Deborah Johnson. She was Fred
Hampton's fiancée, and she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with
their child. So, very much like this table, although a smaller one, I
was sitting there, and I looked at this woman, and she was still
crying, and I said, "What happened?" And she said, "Well, the pigs
came in shooting. We were in our bed. I got on top of Fred at one
point to try to protect him. Somebody pulled me out of the room.
After I was pulled out of the room, two policemen entered the room,
and one of them said, 'Is he dead yet?' I heard two shots, and then
the other one said, 'He's good and dead now.'"
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to leave it there for a moment, break and
come back, and then hear from Deborah herself. This is Democracy
Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: On this fortieth anniversary of the FBI and police
killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Black Panthers in Chicago,
we're going to turn right now to Deborah Johnson. Deborah Johnson was
the fiancée of Fred Hampton. She was in bed with Fred when the police
raided the apartment. She was, well, more than eight months pregnant.
This is how she described the raid. Her son Fred Hampton, Jr. is
sitting on her lap as she describes how his father was killed.
DEBORAH JOHNSON: Someone came into the room, started shaking the
Chairman, said, "Chairman, Chairman, wake up. The pigs are vamping."
Still half asleep, I looked up, and I saw bullets coming from, it
looked like, the front of the apartment, from the kitchen area. They
werepigs were just shooting.
And about this time, I jumped on top of the Chairman. He looked up.
Looked like all the pigs had converged at the entranceway to the
bedroom area, back bedroom area. The mattress was just goingyou
could feel bullets going into it. I just knew we'd be dead, everybody
in there. When he looked up, just looked up, he didn't say a word. He
didn't move, except for moving his head up. He laid his head back
down, to the side like that. He never said a word. He never got up
off the bed.
The person who was in the room, he kept hollering, "Stop shooting!
Stop shooting! We have a pregnant woman, a pregnant sister in here!"
At the time I was eight-and-a-half, nine months pregnant. My baby was
to be delivered in two weeks. Pigs kept on shooting. So I kept on
hollering out. Finally, they stopped.
They pushed me and the other brother by the kitchen door and told us
to face the wall. Heard a pig say, "He's barely alive. He'll barely
make it." I assumed they were talking about Chairman Fred. Then they
started shooting. The pigs, they started shooting again. I heard a
sister scream. They stopped shooting. Pig said, "He's good and dead
now." The pigs were running around laughing. They was really happy,
you know, talking about Chairman Fred is dead. I never saw Chairman Fred again.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Deborah Johnson, the fiancée of Fred Hampton.
On her lap, their little son, Fred Hampton, who is now an activist
around prisoner rights and prisoner issues around this country.
Jeffrey Haas is our guest. He is author of The Assassination of Fred
Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.
Talk about what came of that, after this day, forty years ago.
JEFFREY HAAS: While I was interviewing the survivors, my partners
went to the apartment. And when we gathered all the evidence, it
turned out that the police had fired ninety shots into the apartment
with a submachine gun, shotguns, pistols and a rifle. There was only
one outgoing shot, and that came from a Panther who had been fatally
wounded, and it was a vertical shot, after he was hit himself.
So, Hanrahan, who wasthe police were assigned to the state's
attorney, a politically ambitious law-and-order prosecutor who wanted
to get the political advantage of having attacked and taken out the
Panthers, was on the TV that morning saying the Panthers opened fire.
It turned out, we proved, that, quite to the contrary, it was a
shoot-in, not a shootout.
What we uncovered years laterwe also filed a civil rights suit after
the charges were dropped against the Panthers. And in addition to
proving, as I said, that it was a one-sided raid, that the police
came in firing, the evidence also showed that Fred Hampton was in
fact killed with two bullets, parallel bullets, fired into his head
at point-blank range. He wasn't killed with the bullets through the walls.
But what we uncovered was that the FBI had obtained a floor plan of
Fred Hampton's apartment. That floor plan was complete with all the
furniture, including the bedroom where Hampton and Johnson slept and
a rectangle showing the bed. And it turned out that this FBI
informant, William O'Neal, and his control took that floor plan and
gave it to Hanrahan's raiders before the raid, so that they came in
knowing the layout, knowing where Fred would be sleeping. And when we
looked at the directions of the bullets, in fact, they converged on
the bed where Fred Hampton was sleeping that morning.
JUAN GONZALEZ: As I recall, a lot of the bullets were shot from the
floor below, as well, as they were
JEFFREY HAAS: No, they were mostthey were from the front door and
the back door, and then they took the one with the machine gun and
stitched the wall in the front, and that went through all of the
bedrooms in the apartment.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the role of the FBI and of COINTELPRO, the FBI's
massive program against dissidents in the United States, how did you
uncover that, as well?
JEFFREY HAAS: Well, first, there was a burglary at the Media,
Pennsylvania FBI office, in which some draft dodgers uncovered that
there was this program that talked aboutbasically, it was an attack
on the entire black movement and particularly on the Panthers. And it
talked about disrupting, destroying and neutralizing the Panthers by
any means necessary. And one of their objectives was prevent the rise
of a messiah who could unify and electrify the black masses.
Fred Hampton, at twenty-one, was a tremendously charismatic and
powerful figure in Chicago. He could talk to welfare mothers, gang
kids, and he could talk to law students and college students. He had
the ability to pull people together. You got a little glimpse of that
in whatthe clip that you saw. But he made people believe in
themselves. He made people feel powerful and that they could bring
about change. And that was his real threat.
And so, we knew there was this program to prevent the rise of a
messiah. We knew about the floor plan. Then we uncovered a document
that they gave the informant a bonus after the raid, because his
information was invaluable to the success of the raid. So,
internally, the FBI actually took credit for this raid, for the
results that Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Willie O'Neal.
JEFFREY HAAS: William O'Neal was thewhen wehe was uncovered because
he became a witness in another case. And I guesswe all knew William
O'Neal. He was a very flamboyant person. And I guess my idea of an
informant was somebody who sits quietly in the corner and takes
mental notes. That was not William O'Neal. He was a provocateur. He
built an electric chair that was supposedly to threaten potential
informants in the party, when he was an informant. He attempted to
build what he called a rocket that would go from the Panther office
to City Hall until Fred Hampton
AMY GOODMAN: Explain his position in the Black Panthers.
JEFFREY HAAS: He was the chief of security, and at one point he was
Fred Hampton's bodyguard. And he was present the night of the raid
and left. And there was evidence that Fred Hampton was drugged. And
he's never admitted it, but some of that evidence suggests that
O'Neal was the one who drugged him the night of the raid.
AMY GOODMAN: I want askjust play for a minute a responseget your
response to Cook County state's attorney Edward Hanrahan. After the
raid, he repeatedly claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the
police. This is how he described what happened.
EDWARD HANRAHAN: The immediate, violent, criminal reaction of the
occupants in shooting at announced police officers emphasizes the
extreme viciousness of the Black Panther Party. So does their refusal
to cease firing at the police officers when urged to do so several times.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Ed Hanrahan, the Cook County state's
attorney. Your response to him? And also, what happened to Hanrahan
as you sought to pursue the truth of the murder of Fred Hampton?
JEFFREY HAAS: When we gathered the evidenceand you can tell which
way a bullet enters, from the smaller hole, and exits with a larger
hole and the wood splayed outwardit became clear that, as I said,
ninety shots came in, and at most one, a vertical shot, went out.
The Panthers were smart enough to invite the community in. The police
never sealed it. And the black community, which had been divided on
the Panthers, was not divided on the fact that a young man was
murdered in his bed, a young leader, at 4:30 in the morning. So there
was a tremendous reaction. And Hanrahan became defensive and told the
story that you just saw.
And later on, he even went further and said, "Well, Fred Hampton
personally was firing at the police." And he gave the Chicago Tribune
a photograph. The photograph had two black dots on it, and he says,
"These are the gunshots that Fred Hampton fired." We invited the
press out there. It turns out those dots were nail heads.
And I think that was the beginning of the end of Edward Hanrahan. He
never got elected to anything again. Even a Republican was elected
state's attorney of Cook County, which was unheard of. He ran for
mayor. He ran for congressman. And basically his political career
ended on December 4th, just at the time when he thought it would rise.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I want to talk about the overall context with
Jeffrey Haas, but in 1969, I mean, you were one of the leaders of the
Columbia student protests, one of the founders of the Young Lords.
What was the effect forty years ago today? Where were you on this day?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I remember very well the news coming about Fred
Hampton's death. And, of course, as you mentioned his ability to
unite people, very few people are aware that Fred Hampton was the
original creator of the concept of the Rainbow Coalition that Jesse
JEFFREY HAAS: That's correct.
JUAN GONZALEZ: that a young Jesse Jackson then adopted later,
because he was building unity between the Black Panthers and the
Young Lords and some white radical organizations in Chicago, and he
called them the Rainbow Coalition
JEFFREY HAAS: That's right.
JUAN GONZALEZ: which is what Jesse then adopted into his main
program. But he had this ability to unite all kinds of different
groups, as you say, racial groups as well as across economic lines.
And in terms of the legacy of Hamptonobviously Bobby Rush, who later
became a congressman in Chicago, still is a congressmanwhat has been
in Chicago the way that the political establishment has dealt with
the reality of this assassination and of the historical impact of
JEFFREY HAAS: Well, I think, for one thing, it marked the
independence of the black political leaders in Chicago, who had, up
until then, had been pretty much lackeys of the mayor and the
Democratic machine. And a young congressa young state senator named
Harold Washington spoke out, and Danny Davis spoke out, and Jesse
Jackson welcomed Bobby Rush. And all of a sudden you had an
independent and much more progressive black political machine, or
part of the machine, that was independent. And I think that group and
white liberals were given credit for eventually electing Harold
Washington mayor, as Chicago's first black mayor.
Of course, there's also the legacy that, without a young leader, I
think the West Side of Chicago degenerated a lot into drugs. And
without leaders like Fred Hampton, I think the gangs and the drugs
became much more prevalent on the West Side. He was an alternative to
that. He talked about serving the community, talked about breakfast
programs, educating the people, community control of police. So I
think that that's unfortunately another legacy of Fred's murder.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Jeff Haas, you talk in the book also about how
you, a white radical raised in the South, ended up in Chicago that
day as part of the People's Law Clinic there, working with the
Panthers. Could you talk about your own trajectory and how you got
involved in this story?
JEFFREY HAAS: Well, I grew up in the South. I came from a progressive
family, but also it was a segregated South. And I think being a white
person there, we all accommodated ourself in some way to segregation.
I think it made cowards of us all.
When I got to Chicago, I was influenced by what was going on
nationally. Chicago was sort of the hub of all this political
activity. You had the Democratic convention there. Dr. King had
marched there. You had the conspiracy trial starting. You had the
national office of SDS. All the forces were converging, and I was
very much moved by the Black Power movement, the civil rights movement.
So we wanted to be lawyers for the people. We wanted to beso we
started the People's Law Office in a sausage shop. And I think we
started it with a sense of collectivity. So it wasn't just me. There
were four or five of us who, from the get-go, worked together.
And our mandate was to expose the murders, who the killers were of
Fred Hampton. We did not know that it would take us to J. Edgar
Hoover and John Mitchell and the seat of government. But, of course,
it turned out that way. And the more we dug and the more we
uncovered, the more interested we got and the more we realized that
this was a national program. Some people have compared Hanrahan's
group to sort of a local hit squad, in orderbut was utilized by the
federal government and by Hoover. And I think, unfortunately, or not
surprisingly, no one has ever done a day of time for the murder of
Fred Hampton, for that raid. So I think another legacy is to try to
hold our government officials accountable.
And interestingly enough, when the Church Committee in the '70s began
to investigate COINTELPRO
AMY GOODMAN: We have fifteen seconds.
JEFFREY HAAS: as well as Watergate, it was Dick Cheney and Donald
Rumsfeld, Ford's chief aides, who opposed any kind of exposure of
this illegality or any kind of restraint on the intelligence committees.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much
for being with us, Jeffrey Haas. The Assassination of Fred Hampton is
his book, How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.