(The Panther Series) The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas

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“Fred never really woke up. We were sleeping. I woke up hearing shots from the front and back. I shook Fred but he didn’t open his eyes.”

“Then she described two police officers going into their bedroom, hearing one of them fire two shots, followed by, “He’s good and dead now.” -Deborah Johnson

Excerpt pg. 158

“They took me out of line. They made me lie on a table naked on my back and put a football under my chin. They put their burning cigarettes out on me. Some dropped them from the catwalk above and were laughing. They told me if I moved and the football hit the ground I was dead. I tried not to move. I was sure they were going to kill me. They knew that I was in charge of security and used me as an example to scare everybody else, because nobody else got this treatment” – Interview by Author (Jeffrey Hass) with Big Black (Prisoner of Attica during the Attica Riot in 1971)

What level of offense must we commit to no longer deserve to be treated like human beings, to deserve to be stripped of all dignity and power to protect our bodies?

And what does this say about us who commit these reactionary acts or those of us who allow them to happen?

Excerpt pg. 161

“Who is Attica”

“Attica is all of us”

Are we all not the best and the worst parts of our society? Are these not our creations?

Excerpt pg. 176

“The FBI had blackmailed Dr. King by threatening to release tapes showing his infidelity if he didn’t kill himself. “There is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is,” the cryptic FBI note attached to the tapes read.”

Speechless!

The lengths the FBI and power structure were willing to go to dismantle the forward movement of black people towards equality. This is even lower than assassination. The FBI wanted King himself to do their dirty work in the most egregious form of action.

“…it was the Panthers whom Hoover labeled “the biggest threat to the security of the United States. “We had copies of the FBI memos in which Hoover ordered FBI agents to attack the Panthers with “hard-hitting programs to destroy, disrupt, and neutralize” them”

Were the panthers so highly feared because of the perceived possibility that they would go rogue or underground and turn offensive rather than defensive with their weapons?

Excerpt pg. 197

“They [the FBI Agents who brought Waxman the diagram of 2337] looked at me as if to say, ‘you know what to do with this.’ But I didn’t want to take the weight for them and destroy it. They were pissed when I turned the document over to you guys.”

How can this be considered democracy when we are not furnished the full truth? When documents can so easily be destroyed or tampered with?

Is this what happens when a minority are given too much power?

Does power negate morality?

Should not all things, processes and systems, bend toward honesty? Or has winning become most important even if it means the expense of human life.

Excerpt pg. 204

“When Holly and Ralph Hurvitz graduated from Northwestern Law School, they turned down the opportunity to make a minimum twenty-five thousand dollars per year, even at a Legal Aid job. They could have earned two to three times that in a private practice. Instead, they accepted the one hundred dollars per week that PLO would try to pay them.”

“We used to say that satisfaction from our work was our real compensation.”

If someone is not willing to sacrifice there will be no change for the greater good.

— If not now, when? And if not you, who?

Excerpt pg. 206

“John Coglan, Groth’s attorney, had already stalled Groth’s deposition for six months”

How was this not illegal based on violation of constitutional right to a speedy trial?

“Coghlan was trying to find a dead panther who might qualify as Groth’s informant if Groth were ever ordered to name someone”

Note: Sergeant Daniel Groth lead the additional Special Prosecutions Unit, a group created by Hanrahan [State Attorney] to deal with gangs.

Excerpt pg. 207

“When we finally got the transcripts of these interviews after the trial, they showed Coghlan suggesting, begging, and even threatening witnesses to place Babatunde at 2337 prior to the raid, “I don’t recall seeing him there,” was the universal response.”

Note: Tapes refer to the deposition tapes of Coghlan’s interviews with witnesses

2337 refers to 2337 W. Monroe the address where the police raid on the Panther Chicago headquarters took place resulting in the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and the wounding of other Panthers who were present at the time of the raid.

Babatunde is the name of the Dead Black Panther who was named as Groth’s informant. This was an attempt to cover up the FBI involvement in the assassination of Fred Hampton.

Coercion?

Are lawyers allowed to blatantly lie and deceive witnesses as to benefit their case and clients?

Groth – “He apologetically stated that he authorized his officers to carry their own personal weapons on the raid. This included shotguns, automatic pistols, and Glove Davis’s .30 caliber rifle. He also approved Officer Gorman being issued a .45-caliber machine gun, although he admitted no one had ever taken a machine gun on a previous raid led by him. Groth said he hadn’t run the raid a 8:00 P.M. when his informant told him the apartment would be vacant, and instead changed the raid time to 4:00 A.M., because he wanted to use “surprise.” He chose not to take bullhorns or make a phone call to announce the police presence, although he knew that when the FBI had done this in June it had led to the Panthers not resisting their entry. He also decided against tear gas.”

The motives seem ill-intended. It was as if they wanted to catch the Panthers at their worst.

Could this be seen simply as a response to the media’s negative portrayal of the panthers (Specifically as a violent, separatist, anti-police cadre) if so, how much is the media to blame for the massacre that took place at 2337 W. Monroe and all the other Panther raids and killings that took place as a result of their over-sensationalized stories?

Why no tear gas? Not lethal enough?

If the police were able to respond to the supposed heightened violent tendencies of the Panthers then why would the Panthers be unable to respond to the police’s proven heightened violent tendencies?

Excerpt pg. 215

“The December 4th Committee,…was holding monthly fundraisers to help defray expenses with performers like Chaka Khan, Oscar Brown Jr., and Dick Gregory”

“Only his generosity allowed us to continue discovery.”

The omnipresent theme of human generosity throughout this book is a reminder of how important it is that we do what what we can, no matter how small or large a gesture, to help one another.

Excerpt pg. 217

“The documents showed the FBI had monitored Fred Hampton on a daily basis and recorded nearly everything he did, from speaking at colleges to serving breakfast to kids.”

Is this not invasion of privacy? Do we not have legal protection against such violations? And who are the people who deserve to have their rights to privacy obstructed? What is the minimum perceived threat that warrants maximum surveillance?

Excerpt pg. 252

“During Piper’s testimony the FBI produced two new volumes of instructions to FBI agents that bore Piper and Johnson’s signatures. These directed FBI agents to “destroy what the BPP stands for,” “escalate actions against the BPP,” and “destroy the Breakfast for Children Program.”

Note: Piper refers to Robert Piper, FBI Chicago field office supervisor and Johnson refers to Marlin Johnson Head of the FBI Chicago field office.

The Free Breakfast Program served two ends. First, to feed children of the American underclass and second, to forge a positive attitude and create a better understanding of the BPP and its goals with the community. This would also help to negate the negative image of the party that made groups hesitant to work with them.

By destroying the Free Breakfast program, the government intended to destroy the possibility of the community developing positive attitudes towards the party as well as hinder the party’s ability to develop ties with other community and grassroots organizations. If it meant stopping poor American children from being fed, it wasn’t too high a price for the power structure.

Excerpt pg. 253

“On December 3, Piper initialed the COINTELPRO status report to Hoover stating the Chicago FBI office expected a “positive course of action” to result.

Note: The positive course of action is referring to the desired result of the raid planned for December 4th.

Hoover refers to J. Edgar Hoover, Head of the FBI

What else could a positive course of action mean when the goal is to disrupt, discredit, and/or neutralize.

Excerpt pg. 258

“The news stories contained Truelock’s description of O’Neal’s effort to induce Panthers to commit burglaries and robberies and use explosives. Our jury never heard it. “

Note: Truelock refers to Louis Truelock, member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

O’Neal refers to the FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party and served ad Fred Hampton’s bodyguard.

Imagine the verdict if the jury had heard this.

Photo of William O’Neal, FBI Informant

Excerpt pg. 263

“There’s something else,” he said, looking down. “The reason I told you that daily copy was three dollars per page was because Coghlan told me he and the other defendants’ lawyers would pay me that rate for each copy if I charged you the same. Normally the three dollar fee would be split among all the lawyers. You should be paying one dollar.” Youker told us we’d been cut off because Coghlan found out he was giving us the transcript for less and he threatened to stop paying the extra. Youker also said Coghlan warned him “to keep our deal a secret,” and that he had been contacting him consistently to make sure we weren’t getting transcripts.”

The extra financial strain that was placed on an already income devoid law firm presents the same question, How different of an outcome would there have been if the playing field were even?

“Not only had the higher fee kept us from daily copy, the city, county, and feds were paying tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars extra so we couldn’t afford it.”

In the interest of justice?

“Coghlan’s deal had already cost taxpayers more than one hundred thousand dollars.”

Is it democracy when we have no control over where our tax dollars are allocated?

Excerpt pg 275

“Did you check his breathing”

“Sir, I was in a hurry”

“The evidence was there. In closing argument, we could explain that the reason Carmody never checked to see if Fred was alive was because he had shot him two times in the head and knew he was dead.”

Pictured is the bed where Fred Hampton slept, December 4, 1969

What kind of mental and spiritual state must a person be in to lethally shoot someone while they’re sleeping? Does it make it any more or less justifiable because the shooter is in a police uniform?

What could be the motivation for such a heinous crime? Fear? Hatred? The Black Panthers were surely hated and feared by police and the power structure who commanded the raid on December 4th.

Excerpt pg. 304

“Flint pointed out the defendants’ meetings, their planning, the floor plan, and the resulting bullets directed toward Fred’s bed–clearly marked on the floor plan–to show intent and malice, requirements for the awarding of punitive damages. I focused on the volume of the police shots, the beatings, kicking, and racial slurs inflicted on the plaintiffs after the raid, and the photos that showed how the defendants tore up the apartment when they were done shooting.”

” A model of Fred Hampton’s apartment, shown at FBI offices in Chicago on May 15, 1970 “

“Of all the photos,” I said, “the one that demonstrates their intent most clearly is the one of Fred on the door, bleeding from his head. Nobody checked his life signs or attempted to help him. Nobody covered him up. They waited for the photographers.”

No call for an ambulance. 2 people fatally shot and others wounded. No one cared whether they lived or died, and the particular “nobodies” in this instance were police officers. Those paid to protect life. At best, this demonstrates lack of concern and at worst, blatant undeniable ill-intent.

Not covering up his body is reminiscent of the aftermath of the killing of Mike Brown. His body was also left uncovered. Examples of modern day lynchings?

Excerpt pg. 307

“Throughout their effort, they have worked 70 and 80 hour weeks at negligible pay trying to win for the plaintiffs 47.7 million in damages from the police raiders.” “…Their enthusiasm never has flagged,…”

The level of dedication is nothing less than commendable. How many people would work 70-80 hour weeks for 18 months while knowing they’re being underpaid and with the constant fear of impending jail time? (Contempt of court)

Excerpt pg 330

Note: Here the author describes Pontiac Correctional Center

“First I gathered information on the conditions there, which included weeks and then months of twenty-four-hour-a-day lockdowns in tiny cells fives tiers high in a steel cell house that was brutally hot during the day and freezing at night. Food, often containing rat feces and human hair, was passed to the prisoners through chunkholes in their cell doors.”

“He and I walked the intensely hot galleries strewn with stinking, uncollected garbage, watching comatose men sleeping in their underwear at noon.”

Again I pose the question, what level of offense, how gruesome of a crime must a person commit to deserve to be subjected to such conditions? And if such conditions persist throughout our prisons then what is their purpose? To rehabilitate or to punish? Does knowing those who have perpetrated a crime against us are living in such conditions make us whole again? What does it say about us if it does?

Maybe if we could see, maybe if we had to endure such conditions, we’d change our minds about our systems of punishment.

Excerpt pg. 338

“On August 4, 1981, he allowed us to join and charge as defendants in the conspiracy John Mitchell, Hoover’s estate, Jerris Leonard, and the D.C. heads of COINTELPRO–everyone we wanted with the exception of the FBI itself, which he ruled had sovereign immunity as a federal agency.”

Immunity in this case? Should anyone or any entity be given immunity in a case that pertains to actions that lead to the loss of two lives.

Excerpt pg. 339

“It always pisses off victims of the police to learn taxpayers foot the bill. ‘It isn’t right,’ I said. ‘But the police contract requires they be indemnified. I wish we were getting money from them too. It might deter them next time.”

How much of a role does indemnity play in carelessness and negligence? Would police act differently if they knew they’d literally pay the cost for their actions.

Excerpt pg. 346

“ I understand the plaintiffs and defendants have agreed to settle for 1.85 million with one-third coming from the city, one-third from the county, and one-third from the federal government,…”

“The money would mean a lot to our clients, but did it make up for what had been done and the decade spent uncovering it?”

Did the forces who truly represented the pursuit of justice, freedom, and liberty truly win in the end?

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