Political Education

The Assassination of Fred Hampton and Mistrust for the Chicago Police Department

Mistrust for the Chicago Police Department is not new. Let us look at the case of Fred Hampton. Fred Hampton was a graduate of Proviso East High School, a student at Triton College. He was also a convicted felon for armed robbery, had been active in the NAACP, and in the late 1960’s was chairman of the Black Panther Party in Cook County, Illinois.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover claimed the Black Panther Party was “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Tensions had been high in Chicago ever since the 1968 Democratic Convention. The Chicago police attacked demonstrators in what the media called a ‘police riot‘.

The Assassination of Fred Hampton

While Hampton’s Panthers were into weapons and military discipline, they also ran a preschool breakfast program. They were planning a medical clinic for black neighborhoods.

On December 4, 1969, police assigned to Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan raided the apartment of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 W. Monroe St. on Chicago’s West Side. The officers had a warrant authorizing a search for illegal weapons. While they were serving the warrant, the police shot and killed Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark. Four other Panthers suffered critical gunshot wounds.

Hampton had slept through or had been unconscious during the raid. Evidence later emerged that a paid FBI informant might have given Hampton a sedative. That same informant had provided a floor plan of Hampton’s apartment. The police were not injured in the raid. The police fired their weapons at least 90 times after a blast from a shotgun held by Mark Clark. The weapon may have been fired after Clark fell after he was shot in the heart.

Hoping to counter “the orgy of sensationalism in the press and on television.” Hanrahan released crime scene photos that he claimed showed bullet holes from shots fired by the Black Panthers. The images, he said, would “conclusively proved the Panthers opened the battle by firing a shotgun blast thru the apartment door”. Alleged Panther bullet holes turned out to just nail heads. The state dropped its charges of attempted murder against the surviving seven Panthers on May 8, 1970. Hanrahan admitted that ballistics and forensic issues did not support the state’s case. In 1982, Chicago, the Justice Department, and Cook County settled a civil suit filed by the families of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, and other survivors of the raid for $1.82 million.

Continuing Mistrust of the Chicago Police Department

A recent U.S. Department of Justice investigation found that trust for the CPD in Chicago’s crime-ridden neighborhoods

“has been broken by systems that have allowed CPD officers who violate the law to escape accountability. This breach in trust has in turn eroded CPD’s ability to effectively prevent crime; in other words, trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined.”

The Case of Adam Toldeo

On March 29, 2021, a CPD officer shot and killed thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo. Initial reports given to the public stated that Toledo was armed. Body camera video was recently released showing that Toledo complied with the police officer’s request and was unarmed when the officer shot him. Public reactions to this incident show this as the latest episode of continuing mistrust in those broken systems.

For a biography film on the life of Fred Hampton see ‘Judas and the Black Messiah‘:

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Stephen Hogan at Wikipedia Commons for the image of 2337 W. Monroe St., the site of Fred Hampton’s assassination.

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