Monday, March 27, 2006

Fred Hampton controversy - and spin

ABC News covered the controversy of the sign being put up honoring Fred Hampton. One of their stories had a little spin in it as well as erroneous information, the NBC story was just odd. I will not print either in their entirety, just the relevant parts.

Union head blasts plan to name street after Black Panther
ABC Team Coverage

February 28, 2006 (CHICAGO)
The plan would designate a four-block stretch of West Monroe Street, where Hampton was killed by police officers in 1969,

"It's only one block -- and it's not even a long block." Haithcock said.

For the record, Hampton and another Panther, Mark Clark, were killed in an early morning police raid in December of 1969. Rush and others called it murder, but no one was ever convicted, including the man who ordered the raid, former state's attorney Edward Hanrahan.

however, after a federal investigation, according to The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

Ch. 5, “Black Liberation Movement,” pp. 139-141):
[I]n mid-November 1969, COINTELPRO specialist Roy Mitchell met with William O’Neal, a possibly psychopathic infiltrator/provocateur who had managed to become Hampton’s bodyguard and chief of local [Black Panther Party] security, at the Golden Torch Restaurant in downtown Chicago. The agent secured from O’Neal the accompanying detailed floorplan of Hampton’s apartment [reproduced on p. 139 of the book], including the disposition of furniture, and denotation of exactly where the BPP leader might be expected to be sleeping on any given night. Mitchell then took the floorplan to Richard Jalovec, overseer of a special policy unit assigned to state’s attorney Edward V. Hanrahan; together, Mitchell and Jalovec met with police sergeant Daniel Groth, operational commander of the unit, and planned an “arms raid” on the Hampton residence. On the evening of December 3, 1969, shortly before the planned raid, infiltrator O’Neal seems to have slipped Hampton a substantial dose of secobarbital in a glass of kool-aid. The BBP leader was thus comatose in his bed when the fourteen-man police team—armed with a submachine gun and other special hardware—slammed into his home at about 4 a.m. on the morning of December 4. He was nonetheless shot three times, once more or less slightly in the chest, and then twice more in the head at point-blank range. Also killed was Mark Clark, head of the Peoria, Illinois, BPP chapter. Wounded were Panthers Ronald “Doc” Satchell, Blair Anderson and Verlina Brewer. Panthers Deborah Johnson (Hampton’s fiancée, eight months pregnant with their child), Brenda Harris, Louis Truelock and Harold Bell were uninjured during the shooting. Despite the fact that no Panther had fired a shot (with the possible exception of Clark, who may have squeezed off a single round during his death convulsions) while the police had pumped at least 98 rounds into the apartment, the BBP survivors were all beaten while handcuffed, charged with “aggressive assault” and “attempted murder” of the raiders, and held on $100,000 bond apiece. A week later, on December 11, Chicago COINTELPRO section head Robert Piper took a major share of the “credit” for his “success” in the accompanying memo [reproduced on p. 141], informing headquarters that the raid could not have occurred without intelligence information, “not available from any other source,” provided by O’Neal via Mitchell and himself. He specifically noted that “the chairman of the Illinois BP, Fred Hampton,” was killed in the raid and that this was due, in large par, to the “tremendous value of O’Neal’s work inside the party. He then requested payment of a $300 cash “bonus” to the infiltrator for services rendered, a matter quickly approved at FBI headquarters. The Hampton-Clark assassinations were unique in that the cover stories of involved police and local officials quickly unraveled. Notwithstanding the FBI’s best efforts to help “keep the lid on,” there was a point when the sheer blatancy of the lies used to “explain” what had happened, the obvious falsification of ballistics and other evidence, and so on, led to the indictment of State’s Attorney Hanrahan, Jalovec, and a dozen Chicago police personnel for conspiring to obstruct justice. This was dropped by Chicago Judge Phillip Romitti on November 1, 1972 as part of a quid pro quo arrangement in which remaining charges were dropped against the Panther survivors. The latter then joined the deceased in a $47 million civil rights suit against not only the former state defendants, but a number of Chicago police investigators who had “cleared” the raiders of wrongdoing, and the FBI as well. The Bureau had long since brought in ace COINTELPRO manager Richard G. Held, who replaced Marlin Johnson as Chicago [Subversives Activity Control], in order to handle the administrative aspects of what was to be a monumental attempted cover-up. But even his undeniable skills in this regard were insufficient to gloss over the more than 100,000 pages of relevant Bureau documents concerning Hampton and the Chicago BBP he claimed under oath did not exist. Finally, after years of resolute perjury and stonewalling by the FBI and Chicago police, as well as directed acquittals of the government defendants by U.S. District Judge J. Sam Perry (which had to be appealed and reversed by the Eighth Circuit Court), People’s Law Office attorneys Flint Taylor, Jeff Haas and Dennis Cunningham finally scored. In November 1982, District Judge John F. Grady determined that there was sufficient evidence of a conspiracy to deprive the Panthers of their civil rights to award the plaintiffs $1.85 million in damages.
“The Hampton-Clark assassinations were hardly an isolated phenomenon,” Churchill and Vander Wall add at the outset of their very next paragraph.

Though it is true no one was convicted, it would have been worth noting that a dozen people were indicted including the State's Attorney. Having enough evidence for a Grand Jury indictment is no small potatoes.

NBC Police Furious Over Black Panther Street Name
Alderman: Police Union Leader Should 'Get Over It'

POSTED: 3:44 pm CST February 28, 2006
UPDATED: 7:06 pm CST February 28, 2006
... The Black Panthers that Hampton chaired were a revolutionary group in the late 60s. They used incendiary threats against police and preached violence against the establishment, Kay reported.

Now is it just me, or does this next statement seemto contradict what Dic Kay just said, rather than reinforce it....
"I want to leave a message with you anarchists -- you idiot fools that like to go out and get people's heads beat off," Hampton said at a rally in 1969. "The Black Panther Party doesn't endorse any criminal action."

Though contrary to the ABC spin, they did get this right, fair and balanced.

On Dec. 4, 1969, state's attorney's police staged an early-morning raid on Hampton's house on West Monroe, claiming they were looking a stash of guns. They fired almost 100 shots into the house, killing Hampton. Police claimed it was a shootout, but a grand jury found that only one shot came from the Panthers.


At March 29, 2006 9:09 AM, Blogger Thomas Westgard said...

I have trouble understanding this story. Despite the quote from Hampton against criminal action and violence, it seems as though there was other reason to think that he might resort to violence. Assuming that's true (but correct me if it's not), then the police response appears to have been an overreaction, not a completely unjustified attack.

The bullshit here seems to be that both sides seem to be painting themselves as completely without fault, demonizing the other side. So let's assume that the police overreacted. Dozens of shots, multiple indictments, etc. Okay, we get it already. The police have blame to bear. No further question. Done. Decided.

What about Fred Hampton? You have the one quote from Fred Hampton that presents him as being against violence. Is that truly the end of the story on Fred Hampton and violence? It wouldn't be the first time someone said something they didn't really mean. Is there other activity that shows he meant what he said? I mean, the quote sounds like Gandhi or MLK. Is that how Fred Hampton acted the rest of the time?

The facts that are missing in this story are why the police thought Fred Hampton might behave violently. My sense is that the CPD did something indefensible (overreacted), and that fact is being used to (pardon the expression) whitewash something that wasn't nearly as innocent and pure as certain people find it politicaly convenient to have us believe.

But you tell me. Does that quote really tell us who Fred Hampton was?

At March 29, 2006 2:39 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Tom - that quote from Hampton denouncing violence is what NBC had in their news report - I'm guessing to back up what Kay said about him preaching violence.....that's what amazed me....Hampton talked...a lot - I couldn't believe that was the best quote they could come up with to support the police positon or their own reporting because frankly - it doesn't.

I guess I should have left it in red - it being their quote - I can see how that would be confusing.....

At March 29, 2006 2:46 PM, Blogger Julie said...

and in answer to your question - no that does not tell us who he really was....but in the end do we ever really know who anyone was? It many times just depends on how the press paints the picture.

At the height of the BPP breakfast program he was feeding thousands of kids before school, he instituted a program that tested African-Americans for sickle cell when they were dying in record numbers. No one checked back then. He set up free medical clinics for people that had no insurance. And he brokered a truce between the largest south side gangs and told them their activity was keeping their people in poverty.

You don't hear about that stuff either. I don't believe any person is (pardon the expression) black or white....I believe we all are big grey areas....

At March 30, 2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Thomas Westgard said...

I think I'll avoid the color imagery, given the topic...

But I can't agree that we're all the same, at least when it comes to how we're treated by the police. I think it's GOOD if the police adapt their responses to people, depending on whether people have a known history of crime and violence. I want my own clear criminal history and lack of violent behavior to count for something. I want people to have reason to believe that they build a reputation that counts for something when they avoid crime and violence. I don't want the police to think that the only way I'll talk with them is if the SWAT team kicks in my door.

Not everybody shares my beliefs about violence. There's a whole gangsta/prison culture out there that thinks it's a great activity. Some people actually are violent criminals, and deserve to be treated as such. It's a good thing that the police use heavier-handed tactics with people who earn harsh treatment when they choose to be violent.

The inference I take from your posts is that Fred Hampton was a person who was known to buy kids breakfast, and he was also known to be a violent criminal. You haven't put up anything that refutes that inference. So the police overreacted versus Fred Hampton, but not without provocation. Apparently, he had done things in the past that gave them good reason to fear violence on that day. I'm still prepared to be proven wrong, but at this point I think you would have written something to the contrary if it could be supported.

Assuming that's true, it seems that the police have the morally superior position in objecting to there being a street named after Fred Hampton. He was a violent criminal, and the police who shot him were (apparently) violent criminals. Given that everybody involved was a screw-up, nobody should be honored with a street or anything else.

Turn in the other way around. Instead of naming the street after Fred Hampton, should the police put up a monument here to "enthusiastic police work?" No. They fucked up. But Fred Hampton wasn't a hero either, and if he was a known violent criminal, the police aren't solely to blame for what happened that day.

So painting Fred Hampton as a hero who did something deserving of an honorary street name looks like it's the bullshit/spin being played here. If the police were trying to put up their own monument, maybe that would even things out a bit. They aren't.

Correct me if my inference about Hampton is wrong. If Fred Hampton's past did not give the police reason to fear violence from him (and from the other people in his house), put that up here. I'd like to be wrong about that, since the police were obviously wrong in shooting the house into matchsticks. One-sided stories about justice are much simpler and easier to deal with than what this looks like.

At March 31, 2006 1:22 AM, Blogger Julie said...

I agree that one's "good citizenry" should count for something. I take pride in the fac that I have a pristine police record. I thoroughly expect, that if I am stopped for a traffic violation, my lack of a record should give me the reasonable expectation of not being treatd as a potential criminal.

As for Hampton, I will look up his police record the first chance I get. From what I've read, though he is accused of many things, the only written account of his criminal record is stealing an ice cream cone in Maywood (right now I'm operating by memory so don't hold me to that, but I know it had something to do with ice cream and it was something stupid).

From what I've read, the police believe he was responsible for the death of a police officer, but he was never arrested or charged for that (again to my knowledge) so that is pure supposition on their part. Remember he was operating in neighborhoods heavily infested with Gangster Disciples, Blackstone Rangers, etc who I would guess are also very likely candidates for this type of criminal activity.

So in answer to your query, I will look it up. It is public record. It just depends on how quickly I can make it to the Daley Center. But I would be interested to know as well.

By the way, they didn't buy breakfast, they had home cooked meal programs, administered by the parents and community volunteers, on which todays free breakfast programs are based.

Though I will say, since you brought it up, the police said it would be better to name a street after every cop who died in the line of fire rather than have one street named after Hampton.

Personally, I'd rather have a street named after every kid who died in the line of fire to remind us of the failure of our society and hopefully to kick start all of us into finding some real solutions.

At March 31, 2006 12:13 PM, Blogger Thomas Westgard said...

It wouldn't be right to judge the situation solely on actual convictions, though. After all, the police who shot up the house were never convicted of anything, so by that measure they were completely innocent too (which I don't buy). So only determining the presence or absence of convictions is not the end of the story.

At April 01, 2006 3:30 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Actually, the police who shot up the place were never even arrested for that, they were tried for obstructing justice, as was the FBI agent, for trying to cover up what they did.

The Mayor of Maywood was calling for their arrest on murder charges but it never happened.

I'm a bigger fan of convictions. I still believe one is innocent until proven guilty. Arrests are what happens before you are afforded due process...I like the checks and balances...cops aren't perfect...of course neither are judges.

BTW - the county's online records only go back to 1984 or somewhere thereabouts. So finding the records will take some more digging, probably a trip to some county office or another.

But you have piqued my interest as well.

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