by Demetrius Patterson
Some old emotional wounds never heal. Former Black Panther and now Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-1st) said healing is especially tough for him when recounting the life and tragic death of his former Panther leader and comrade, Fred Hampton. Hampton, who was killed on Dec. 4, 1969 along with fellow Panther Mark Clark in a hail of bullets during an early morning raid by Chicago policemen on his apartment at 2337 W. Monroe, became the center of controversy in the city again on Monday after Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) pushed through an ordinance in the City Council’s Transportation Committee to rename a portion of West Monroe Street as “Chairman Fred Hampton Way.”
As soon as leaders of the Chicago Local 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police heard about the proposal, they quickly denounced the idea and Hampton’s legacy.
“I am vehemently against it,” Sidney Davis told the Defender Tuesday. Davis, an African American, is the recording secretary for Lodge 7 of the FOP.
“Fred Hampton preached violence,” Davis continued. “He more than on one occasion preached kill the policemen, kill the pigs. I’ve heard people say police abused him, but I am not aware of it. Fred Hampton was part of a violent organization. He lived his life violently and he died violently. I don’t care what good the Black Panthers might have done, you can’t erase the violent aspect of his life.”
Rush, minister of defense for the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, said Tuesday he finds the comments of Davis and FOP President Mark Donahue totally outrageous and offensive.
“The president of the Fraternal Order of Police has tried to return us back to a past that was very strident; a past that was very divisive; a past that was very unjust,” Rush said at a news conference Tuesday. “I am just upset that this man would use the kind of rhetoric that he used to try to redefine Chicago’s history so that it would serve his political purposes.
“And I also feel very, very strongly that Fred Hampton was assassinated for political reasons. And I’m not going to stand here and let his name be dishonored for those same political reasons.”
Davis said he doesn’t buy into conspiracy theories of Hampton being murdered by the Chicago Police.
“Bobby Rush says on many occasions that Fred Hampton was assassinated,” Davis argued. “Where is the proof? He has yet to produce anything that validates that there was an assassination.”
Rush countered at his press conference that in 1969 Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan had a hand in what Rush called the murder of Hampton.
In addition, Rush contended that Hanrahan and the Chicago Police had also planned to kill him.
“We had a loose cannon as a state’s attorney who wanted to use the Panther Party as a stepping stone, or elevation to his election as the mayor of the City of Chicago,” Rush said. “The next morning the police department came to my house seeking me. They shot my door down. My son, who is standing behind you now, was home. He was about one year old.
“At that time, I wasn’t there. But had I’ve been there, I would have been dead. They came at me twice, first at my apartment on December 4th; then they came after me at my apartment at 23rd South State.”
Haithcock, who did not return phone calls to the Defender Tuesday, reportedly said she came up with the idea of giving Hampton the street naming honor at the request of his son, Fred Hampton Jr.
She has said she would consider rescinding her proposed naming of the section of Monroe Street – between Western and Oakley – after hearing of descent from the FOP.
“The Fraternal Order of Police will do everything legally in our power to make sure no banner, no sign, no monument, no anything goes up in the City of Chicago that would honor Fred Hampton,” Davis, who is African American, said.
Fred Hampton Jr. said on The Roland S. Martin show Tuesday on WVON-AM/1450 that he wasn’t surprised at the FOP’s reaction.
“This is something that this argument is going down in February (Black History Month),” Hampton Jr. said from Oakland, Calif., where he was working. “I am not talking about the contributions (my father) only made to African people, but to humanity. There were no free lunches; there were no free breakfasts at school prior to the Black Panthers instituting the first free breakfast program in Chicago.”
“The first people I ever came in contact with was the Chicago Policeman’s revolver that he placed on my pregnant mother’s belly,” he continued. “He place that on my mother’s eight and half month pregnant belly. I was in jail in my mother’s belly.”
As the Defender was leaving Rush’s office on Tuesday, the congressman was on the phone with Haithcock trying to get her to stand by her proposal.
“I only hope that the aldermen would support me on this local legislature and vote it through in the same way I have supported them on many of their measures in the past,” said Rush, a former alderman. “I have a commitment to seeing that Alderman Haithcock’s ordinance renames West Monroe Chairman Fred Hampton Way. We will fight for it. We will make sure it passes the city council with 26 votes. I will lobby various members of the city council, those that I have helped in the past.”
Many aldermen and Mayor Richard Daley’s office were pretty quiet on Tuesday about the controversy surrounding the proposed Fred Hampton Way.
Ald. Dorothy Tillman (D-3rd) refused to comment on the matter when contacted by the Defender on Tuesday night.
“Well, I can’t comment on a press conference I haven’t seen, now can I,” Tillman said when pressed on Rush’s comments and the issue as a whole. “When we have a hearing tomorrow on this ordinance you will hear my comments then.”
When asked what she thought about renaming a portion of Monroe Street for Hampton, Tillman said she was in a meeting and hung up the telephone.
Kate Sansone, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office, said Daley stated in a press conference on Tuesday that the issue was a local matter, and the mayor felt it was up to the city council and the community to decide what they wanted to do.
“In the paper today, Alderman Haithcock said she would rescind the idea if many were against it, but at this point we believe it is up to the people in that community (2nd District) to make a decision about this,” Sansone said. “We just have to wait and see.”
Hampton grew up in Maywood and began life as an activist during his teenage years.
As a leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, Hampton, Rush and other members in the organization were known for feeding breakfast to hungry Black kids who were on their way to school in some of Chicago’s most poverty-stricken communities.The day that Hampton was killed, his apartment was riddled with bullets. Police claimed that many of those bullets came from Hampton and Clark, but later reports in the Chicago Defender clearly showed that nearly every bullet fired came from the Chicago Police.
In a Dec. 6, 1969, exclusive in the Defender, Hampton’s brother, Bill Hampton, called the incident “murder” and said Mayor Richard J. Daley and “the entire pig (police) force” were behind it.
“They knew Fred sometimes stayed at that apartment on the Westside and they had planned to kill him in retaliation for a lot of things,” Bill Hampton said in 1969. “I’ve noticed them following me before, so I recognized them. They followed me when I left Loop College all the way to my home in Maywood.”
A week later after the slaying, Defender editor Louis Martin wrote: “It is ironic that those authorities who seem most determined to destroy the Panther Party are following a course of action that is best calculated to strengthen and extend the influence of the party.
“The police are apparently hell bent on proving the Panther thesis, that the cops are really pigs, that they are the mortal enemies of the black and the poor, and that genocide is just around the corner.
“Perhaps Oscar Wilde had a point when he suggested that there was no greater sin then stupidity.”