Since we’re a week removed from the anniversary of the Dec. 4, 1969 assassination of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, I’ll reprise a snippet of an interview I did with Hampton’s brother, Bill, who died in 2018.
Fred Hampton was killed on Dec. 4, 1969 in his West Side apartment during a raid conducted by law enforcement officials from Cook County, the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. At the time, Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan said that the raid was a “shoot-out” even though virtually all of the bullet holes found in the apartment came from the government’s assault team.
Bill Hampton recalled the day he learned of his brother’s death and what Fred’s assassination means today.
I never want to experience [that moment] again. I was at work. I had talked to him on the phone the night before. We talked about a lot of family things. The next morning, after I got off work, I saw his picture on the front page of the paper that said, ‘Cops kill panther leader.’ I rushed home and my family was there.
It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain. I felt I had to something. But I’m glad I wasn’t able to do some of the negative things I may have wanted to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do very much from jail or on drugs, saying, ‘Well, those white folks killed my brother.’ I’m glad that I’ve been able to keep his legacy alive.
On the truth rising up
[There’s this myth that the Panthers were totally against the police]. Nobody ever said that the whole police force was all bad. For example, the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League worked very closely with the Panthers. The [patrolmen] caught slack. They were harassed because they wanted to be decent policemen.
Loretta Lynch, the former attorney general, came here and said that the Chicago Police Department needs to be shook up. What happened in Ferguson, Cleveland, New York (‘I can’t breathe’), and to Laquan McDonald — all that shows there’s something wrong and it goes way back to Fred and even Emmett Till [who my mother used to babysit]. The woman who accused Emmett said he didn’t do those things she claimed he did. We left the door to Fred’s apartment open for 10 days so people could see that all the shots went in.
See, Hanrahan thought he was going to advance from [Fred’s assassination] but he just went down, down, down …