Was Fred Hampton Executed? | The Nation


Was Fred Hampton Executed?

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Despite the elaborate re-enactment for TV and the explanations given by the fourteen policemen, it soon became apparent that the official version was at variance with the facts. The "bullet holes" in the Tribune photograph turned out to be nail heads. Although officers Groth and Davis both alleged that Brenda Harris fired a shotgun blast at the doorway as they approached, there was absolutely no evidence of such a blast.

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Ultimately, a federal grand jury determined that the police had fired between eighty-three and ninety shots--the Panthers a maximum of one. The grand jury indicated that, if the Panthers fired at all, it was one shot that Mark Clark fired--apparently after he had been shot in the heart. If the cops had, in fact, demanded a ceasefire on three occasions, they were talking only to themselves. The official explanation amounted to a cover-up, and a massive one.

In attempting to resolve this issue, the raid on Chicago Panther headquarters must be put into context. That the FBI supervised a nationwide effort to destroy the Black Panther Party is no longer seen as the paranoid rantings of leftists, but as a fact documented by the Staff Report of the Church committee. The report stated that the FBI's COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence program) used "dangerous, degrading or blatantly unconstitutional techniques" to disrupt Left and black organizations. It went on to liken the FBI's harassment of Martin Luther King to the treatment usually afforded a Soviet agent.

On March 4, 1968 (exactly one month before King was assassinated), Hoover issued this directive:

Prevent the Coalition of militant black nationalist groups. In unity there is strength, a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness. An effective coalition...might be the first step toward a real "Mau Mau" in America, the beginning of a true black revolution.

Prevent the rise of a "messiah" who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a "messiah"; he is the martyr of the movement today...Elijah Muhammad is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed "obedience" to "white liberal doctrines" (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism. Stokely Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way.

This memo was drafted three weeks after the Panthers had accomplished a short-lived alliance with Stokely Carmichael and SNCC. (Until the Hampton suit released this document in full, the names had been deleted.)

After King's death, Hoover called the Panthers "the single most dangerous threat to the internal security of the United States." Of the 295 actions taken to disrupt black groups, 233 were aimed at the Panthers. The bureau's main tactic was to provoke warfare be-tween the Panthers and other black organizations. These actions, according to the Staff Report, "involved risk of serious bodily injury or death to the targets."

Over the years of COINTELPRO, the FBI paid out more than $7.4 million in wages to informants and provocateurs, more than twice the amount allocated to organized crime informants. Operating out of forty-one field offices, COINTELPRO agents supervised agents-provocateurs, placed "snitch jackets" on bona-fide Panthers by having them mis-labeled as informants, and drafted poison-pen letters and cartoons in attempts to incite violence against the Panthers, and divide the party leadership.

All the weapons in COINTELPRO's arsenal were used against the rising "black mes-siah," Chairman Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party. Documents released by the suit have exposed the local "get-Hampton" campaign. Roy Mitchell, a.defendant in the case and an ace handler of FBI informants, testified that he had between seven to nine informants in the Chicago Panthers at the time of the raid. Adding that number to those working for the state and the Gang Intelligence Unit of the Chicago Police, one comes up with approximately thirty informants reporting on about sixty-five active members. The names of these informants have been deleted from the documents. This estimate does not include any informants working for the CIA or military intelligence, a sub-ject which the plaintiffs have not been allowed to probe.

One informant whose name we do know, William O'Neal, figures very prominently in the case. He was planted in the chapter almost from its inception and soon became head of security. Among his many schemes as security chief was the construction of an electric chair to be used on informers. It was disassembled on Hampton's orders. After the raid, O'Neal suggested to remaining party members that the steps leading to the apartment on W. Monroe be electrified so that any future raiders would be fried.

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