Chairman Fred Hampton Way
By David Peterson at Mar 01, 2006
The headline of Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times read:
Seems that on Monday, February 27, the Chicago City Council's Transportation Committee accepted, without vote and with almost no one knowing what the heck they were doing, a proposal by the 2nd Ward Alderperson Madeline Haithcock to rename a single city block located in her West Side Ward "Chairman Fred Hamtpon Way." Hardly a trivial undertaking within establishment Chicago political circles, Fred Hampton, along with Mark Clark, having been two members of the Black Panther Party assassinated in December 1969 by gunmen from the Chicago Police Department in a Gestapo-style raid on their apartment while they slept in their beds. Hampton most certainly, and perhaps both men, rendered unconscious by a “substantial dose of secobarbital [slipped] in a glass of kool-aid” by an infiltrator working on behalf of the FBI as part of its dirty and violent wars in recent decades against American political dissidents, best known by their Hooveresque acronym COINTELPRO (or counter-intelligence programs), as Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall recount in their superb volumes Agents of Repression and The COINTELPRO Papers (South End Press, Rev. 2002).
Not to let a juicy story slip, the page-one headline of today’s (Wednesday’s) Chicago Sun-Times picked up where yesterday's left off:
Once again, a page 3 report by Fran Spielman set out to explain everything. As did a report by the Chicago Tribune's Gary Washburn. Though the story has yet to receive headline treatment in the Trib. Instead, the Trib placed the report on page 6 of its Metro section (Sect. 2). Still. The Trib's report helps set the scene ("Daley is mum on renaming of street," Gary Washburn, March 1):
BLACK PANTHER STREET NAME:
OR FAIR TRIBUTE?
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) himself a one-time Black Panther leader and Hampton friend, strongly supported the honorary street naming.
"Fred Hampton was assassinated for political reasons, and those same forces are responding to this initiative for political reasons," he declared. "No matter what the police union or anybody else wants to say, they cannot rewrite history."
The Panther Party "stood for self-defense against police forces throughout the nation that wantonly murdered and brutalized unarmed individuals in the black community," Rush said.
Tim Fallon, secretary-treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the proposed honor "completely ridiculous."
"They are trying to honor a man whose goal in life was to kill policemen," he said. "Putting that name on a street is an insult
An accompanying photograph in the March 1 Sun-Times even shows "Bobby Rush (left) and Fred Hampton...in January 1969 at the Illinois Black Panther Party headquarters at 2350 W. Madison"---maybe a couple of blocks from the site of the assassinations some 11 months later. But aside from these perfectly accurate words from Bobby Rush---in point of fact, Fred Hampton was assassinated for political reasons---I've yet to find another voice quoted by either of Chicago's two mass-circulation dailies that comes close to the same degree of candor. (Though for those of us reading closely, the Sun-Times's Andrew Herrmann did report in a very backhanded way that "A federal grand jury later concluded that police, led by then-Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, fired between 83 and 99 shots while the occupants had fired once.")
As Churchill and Vander Wall explain in more detail (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. Indeed.
Which makes the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police’s objection all the more full of shit. Imagine a situation in which Chicago’s Finest conduct themselves as an urban death squad, firing between 83 and 99 rounds of ammunition while one of their targets get off one round in response (maybe). Clearly, taking out Fred Hampton not only was their goal---but they succeeded. Surely this successful political hit by an urban death squad that included members of the Chicago Police Department merits some form of commemoration.
Perhaps, then, should the best and the brightest who now serve on the Chicago City Council, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, and even The Man Himself, Chicago Mayor Richie Daley, see to it that Alderperson Madeline Haithcock’s proposal to rename that single city block on west Monroe Street, between Western and Oakley avenues, “Chairman Fred Hampton Way,” falls prey to the old-fashioned plantation politics, Chicago-style, other candidates for renaming this city block might take its place?
Thus, if not “Chairman Fred Hampton Way,” then how about Assassination Way? Or COINTELPRO Way?
After all, there is no denying that these would be accurate titles for the kind of political violence that the American state has unleashed against serious black dissidents over the course of the past 140-odd years.
Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall (South End Press, Rev. 2002)
The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall (South End Press, Rev. 2002)
Ward and Alderman List, Chicago City Council
"Blacks, police at odds over naming of street for Black Panther leader slain by Chicago police," Demetrius Patterson, Chicago Defender, March 1, 2006
"Chicago police refuse to admit to rampant terrorism against Blacks during turbulent 60s," Editorial, Chicago Defender, March 1, 2006
"Hampton Way vote postponed; Allen introduces amendment to end honorary street signs," Mema Ayi, Chicago Defender, March 2, 2006
"Fred Hampton’s family speak on loss of some 37 years later," Demetrius Patterson, Chicago Defender, March 2, 2006
"Support Chairman Fred Hampton Way!" Editorial, Chicago Defender, March 2, 2006 (Includes a contact list for all 19 black Chicago alderpersons, and urges readers to contact them and "make sure they are on board.")
"Nearly half of Black aldermen to vote for Chairman Fred Hampton Way," Mema Ayi, Chicago Defender, March 3, 2006
"Hampton controversy breeds new coalition," Mema Ayi, Chicago Defender, March 8, 2006
"Perceptual apartheid, Chicago-style," Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2006 [Also see below]
"Chairman Fred Hampton Way," ZNet, March 1, 2006
Postscript (March 4, 2006): In the five days since 2nd Ward Alderperson Madeline Haithcock proposed renaming a single city block on Chicago's West Side "Chairman Fred Hampton Way," I have monitored three Chicago-area print dailies to assess the kind of reporting the Haithcock proposal has received: The Chicago Defender, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Given the absolute centrality of the U.S. Government's COINTELPRO campaigns not only to the murder of Fred Hampton, but to the criminal abuses heaped upon black political movements during the quote-unquote "Civil Rights Era," I find it appalling that there has been not so much as a single mention of the wonderfully Hooveresque acronym 'COINTELPRO' anywhere in these three print dailies. In fact, we need to reach as far back as last December 5 for a commentary in the Defender by the Chicagoan and National Black United Front Chairman Conrad Worrill before we find a substantive mention of COINTELPRO ("A reminder of why they owe us!" December 5, 2005). Thus, writing about the "historic responsibility to demand reparations from those forces of white supremacy that continue to benefit from what they did to [black Americans] that lingers on as part of the vestiges of our enslavement," Worrill listed some 18 or 19 different reasons to support the Reparations Movement, among which there were the following:
13. Assassination of Black Leaders--Malcolm X, Dr. King, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark to name a few.
14. COINTELPRO--This was a government program, established by the FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, designed to destroy the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 70s.
Still. To date, nowhere within the three print media that I've surveyed these past five days has anyone mentioned the U.S. Government's assassination of Fred Hampton as belonging to, or as orchestrated by, its much larger COINTELPRO campaign. Since it simply cannot be the case that (for example) Ald. Haithcock, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, or Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, the surviving members of Fred Hampton's family (his son Fred Jr., his widow Akua Njeri, his brother Bill, or his elderly parents Francis and Iberia), the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, the gatekeepers at the Officer Down Memorial webpage, Chicago's African-American Police League, and none of the several reporters and editors at the Defender, the Sun-Times, and the Tribune who have been covering the reactions to the Haithcock proposal have never heard of COINTELPRO or recognized the logical place that the assassination of so charismatic a black American political figure as Fred Hampton occupied within this bloody, repressive Government campaign, such silence has been truly deafening.
FYA ("For your archives"): As always, my preference would have been simply to provide weblinks to each of these four reports. But then the best I could have done was to provide temporary links, as they would have been susceptible to changes at their source---a serious drawback for anyone trying to navigate this electronic medium, while seeking the relative permanance of print. And, on top of this, you'd have to become a registered user to access the Trib's. (Apologies. But as more material continues to appear in the days or weeks ahead, I'll simply deposit copies of it at the bottom. Also, note that if and when the Chicago Defender's material ceases to be available electronically, I'll start posting copies of it too.)
February 28, 2006
Street name outrages cops (p. 6)
By Fran Spielman
Fred Hampton -- slain state chairman of the Black Panthers party that urged followers to "off the pigs" -- would join the parade of Chicagoans afforded honorary street designations, under an ordinance advanced Monday that outraged the police union.
Hampton and fellow Panther leader Mark Clark were gunned down by Chicago Police officers working under Cook County State's Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan in an infamous December 1969 raid at Hampton's apartment that ultimately cost Hanrahan his job.
But it was the violence that Hampton and the Panthers advocated against police officers that stuck in the craw of Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue.
Donahue was incredulous when informed that the City Council's Transportation Committee had voted without debate to rename Monroe Street -- from Western to Oakley -- as "Chairman Fred Hampton Way." The ordinance was sponsored by Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd).
Requested by Hampton's son
"You've got to be kidding me. I can't believe they would do that," Donahue said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
"It's a dark day when we honor someone who would advocate killing policemen and who took great advantage of the communities he claimed to have been serving. We have real, everyday heroes within the department who would be better honored than someone of the stature of Fred Hampton."
Haithcock said she proposed the honorary designation for the street that runs in front of Hampton's former South Side home at the request of Fred Hampton Jr., son of the Panther leader.
"I'm not going on the negative. I'm only going on the good things they did for the community. The Black Panthers were the first ones to start breakfast programs in the schools," she said.
"I don't think their purpose was to go out and destroy police officers. Their purpose was housing, education, clothing and justice. They fought racism and discrimination. That's the part I was going on. Only the good things."
Told that the police group was furious about the designation, Haithcock initially defended it. "There's a lot of negative things that a lot of people have done. We're doing negative things right now in Iraq."
Pressed further, Haithcock said she would gauge reaction to the designation before putting up the sign proclaiming "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
"It's only one block -- and it's not even a long block. But I don't want to cause dissension among our police officers. If that's going to cause dissension with all of the negative things the Black Panthers did, then I won't put up the sign," she said.
Honorary street designations are a Chicago tradition and a way for aldermen to curry favor with clout-heavy constituents. But it's a perk that's been mired in controversy over the years.
In April, 2000, female aldermen and women's groups managed to defeat in committee an honorary street sign for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, whom they called the "world's biggest pornographer," only to have Ald. Burton F. Natarus (42nd) use a parliamentary maneuver to ram it through the next day.
February 28, 2006
Fatal raid led to indictments, but all acquitted (p. 6)
By Andrew Herrmann
"You can murder a liberator but you can't murder liberation," a fiery Fred Hampton said in a speech in the spring of 1969.
By winter, Hampton was dead at age 21.
Was it murder? Hampton's supporters say that police, on Dec. 4, 1969, executed Hampton and another man in a pre-dawn raid at 2337 W. Monroe, an apartment that served as the local headquarters of the Black Panthers.
A federal grand jury later concluded that police, led by then-Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, fired between 83 and 99 shots while the occupants had fired once.
An activist as a Maywood teen in the 1960s -- at 19, he led a protest over the lack of swimming pools in that western suburb's black neighborhoods -- Hampton, along with now-U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and two others founded the Illinois branch of the Black Panthers.
In his April 1969 speech, Hampton boasted that the Panthers were well-armed and not afraid to use those weapons. The group's free breakfast program was being undermined by whispers the Panthers were Communists. "You put your hands on that program mother------ and I'll blow your mother------- brains out," Hampton warned authorities in the speech.
"I'm not afraid to say I'm at war with the pigs," Hampton told the Chicago Sun-Times shortly before the raid.
Hanrahan told reporters that the raid had been a gun battle, but Sun-Times writer Brian Boyer reported a version that contradicted the state's attorney's account. As criticism mounted, Hanrahan re-enacted the raid for a WBBM-Channel 2 newscast and gave the Chicago Tribune photographs of doors in the apartment supposedly riddled by Panther gunfire. The Sun-Times countered with a story showing that the "bullet holes" were really nail heads.
Hanrahan and several police officers who either participated in the raid or investigated it were later indicted for obstructing justice. They all were acquitted.http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/02/fred_hampton_wa.html
February 28, 2006
Fred Hampton Way? No way!
By Eric Zorn ("Change of Subject" weblog)
My opposition to the controversial proposal to designate a portion of Monroe Street as honorary "Chairman Fred Hampton Way" is consistent with my dormant "Take Down the Brown" crusade to stop this silly, annoying and potentially divisive practice once and for all.
Hampton was a Black Panther leader who was killed by Chicago police in a raid at his apartment in 1969, and without getting too far into a debate over whether his good deeds (helping start breakfast programs in the schools, for instance) outweighed his bad (advocating violence against the police, for instance), I'd simply point out that the warmth of the debate itself is further proof that we shouldn't be creating such civic memorials casually.
Putting a name on a city street sign, presumably forever, ought to be a serious business. But, as I pointed out in a column six years ago, the City Council approves scores of the brown, honorary street names every year with no discussion or debate, very little fanfare or explanation.
They're goofy, small-town and way out of hand. I live near two strange examples -- Honorary Casimir M. Pulaski Way, a segment of Pulaski Road, which is already named in honor of Casimir M. Pulaski; and Seoul Drive/Mayfair Parkway, twin honorary designations given the same blocks of West Lawrence Avenue.
No one ever uses the honorary names in addresses or directions, they clutter sign poles and, I'm told, they confuse tourists, especially when they're not right next to the green signs that disclose the street's actual name.
No standards govern who or what should get a brown sign and under which circumstances. Therefore the honor signals nothing but the whim of an alderman--whose prerogatives in such matters always prevail--and not the acclaim or gratitude of the city or its people.
In that sense they are much more like the windy commemorative proclamations of legislative bodies--"whereas . . . whereas . . . whereas . . . we therefore declare this to be articulated zeppelin week . . ."--than actual tributes. And as such they belong on the walls in the homes of the designees or their kin, not on poles at our intersections.
And truly significant figures in local history deserve better--real streets named or renamed in their honor, for instance, or parks, bridges, buildings, golf courses or beaches.
Yes, actually renaming something is a big step--costly, initially confusing, offensive to tradition--but certain people are so important that they deserve the recognition. Mike Royko, I'd argue, is worth changing the maps for. Sir Georg Solti, Michael Jordan, Saul Bellow and Clarence Darrow also come to mind, as do (and I'm not even trying to name them all so don't bother complaining) Walter Payton, Helmut Jahn, Ernie Banks, Mahalia Jackson, Nelson Algren, Cardinal Bernardin, Red Grange, Bobby Hull, Philip Klutznick, Saul Alinsky, Jean Baptiste DuSable, Oprah, Eppie and Studs.
The city has plenty of pavement not yet named for anyone: Western, North, Milwaukee, California, 35th, 95th and Michigan Avenues; State and Division Streets, Lake Shore Drive and Northwest Highway are still ripe, just to name a few big ones.
A move to rename one of them Terkel Avenue, Ann Landers Lane or Payton Place would be worthy of serious, even passionate discussion. Such designations--among the highest honors a city can bestow--are the symbols we leave to history of our values and priorities.
What should history say of Chicago's regard for Hugh Hefner? The question popped up in 2000 when a portion of Walton Street was designated for the legendary founder of Playboy.
Detractors blasted him as a pimp and pornographer and supporters hailed him as a civil rights hero and conquering general in the war against sexual repression. The debate ended when the sign went up, which was too bad, because the questions were starting to get good:
* What impact have Hefner's Playboy magazine and related enterprises had on our culture, positive and negative?
* When it comes to sexuality and gender issues, in what ways are we better and worse off than we were pre-Playboy, and how much is Hefner to credit or blame for those changes?
* How should we evaluate him in the context of all the other imperfect men and women whose names will forever grace our thoroughfares?
It's not like you have to have led a saintly life to get a street named after you. Good lord, Italo Balbo was a fascist henchman for the murderous Mussolini (and was charged himself with the murder of a priest). When we rank the villains of history, Balbo will be way closer to the top than Fred Hampton, yet he gets a green street sign.
What other rogues have streets named after them? Your comments please.
February 28, 2006 Tuesday 3:51 PM EST
HEADLINE: Police oppose Fred Hampton street sign
DATELINE: CHICAGO, Feb. 28
The union representing Chicago police officers is opposed to a proposed honorary street sign for slain Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton.
Hampton was 21 years old when he and Mark Clark were killed in a 1969 police raid on a West Side apartment. Although 37 years have passed the old wounds won't heal.
The Fraternal Order of Police says it's crazy to have an honorary street sign for a political radical who advocated "Off the Pigs," the Chicago Sun-Times said.
While police say Hampton advocated violence, Alderman Madeline Haithcock says the Panthers are remembered by the black community for service, including the city's first free breakfast program for poor children.
The City Council's Transportation Committee voted without debate to rename one block of Monroe Street honorable "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
"I don't think it was their purpose to go out and destroy police officers," Haithcock told the newspaper. "Their purpose was housing, education, clothing and justice. They fought racism and discrimination. That's the part I was going on. Only the good things."
March 1, 2006
Street name: 'Embarrassment' or fair tribute? (p. 3)
By Fran Spielman, City Hall Reporter
It's been 37 years since Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were gunned down by police working under Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan in an infamous raid at Hampton's West Side apartment.
But judging from the nerve Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) touched when she proposed naming a street for Hampton, you'd think the raid had happened yesterday.
"We're engaged in battle now," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago), a former Black Panther defense minister who said he fully supports Haithcock's proposal and "will stand right beside her and, if necessary, I will stand in front of her."
"I didn't seek this fight," Rush said. "I didn't go looking for this fight. But I am determined to fight for this street designation until the bitter end. It will become a reality in the city of Chicago."
But the controversy had a lot of other Chicago politicians running for cover.
"It's a no-winner. You end up getting somebody upset" no matter what you say, said West Side Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).
South Side Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) said she, too, had "nothing to say."
"A lot of people feel very strongly about it. Why would you want to say something that gets the police people mad at you? And I don't want to do anything to get people who supported the Black Panthers mad at me," Lyle said.
Haithcock to wait a month
Former Mayor Richard J. Daley considered the Black Panthers a street gang and among those he held responsible for the looting and burning that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
But Richard M. Daley didn't want to touch the controversy for fear for alienating black voters.
"Everybody has a right to name things. . .. I don't go down the list. . .. There's so many of them. . .. We've got honorary after honorary. We've got some [streets] that have five names. . . . You see these honorariums going in every day now," Daley said, calling the designation a "local matter."
After being pressed repeatedly about the violence Hampton and his cohorts advocated against police officers, Daley added, "That concerns everyone any time anyone espouses . . . killing a police officer."
The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that the City Council's Transportation Committee had voted without debate to rename Monroe Street -- from Western to Oakley Blvd. -- as "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
Haithcock sponsored the ordinance at the behest of Hampton's son, Fred Hampton Jr., a political activist who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1993 for the firebombing of two Korean-owned stores in Englewood. Hampton Jr., who has since been released from prison, has said he was an innocent "political criminal."
The street name proposal has infuriated Fraternal Order of Police president Mark Donahue, who called it a "dark day" in the city's history "when we honor someone who would advocate killing policemen."
Haithcock on Tuesday did not knuckle under the pressure but did say she plans to wait another month before calling the ordinance for a final vote in the full City Council. "We're going to work on this, get some support. I want to talk to my council members. It's my ward. I vote for whatever they want in their ward."
'Fred Hampton was murdered'
Northwest Side Ald. Tom Allen (38th) called the proposal "an embarrassment" and said he flat out missed it Monday when the Transportation Committee he chairs approved the designation.
Rules Committee Chairman Richard Mell (33rd) likened it to naming a Chicago street "David Duke Way" after the founder of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
A handful of African-American aldermen had equally harsh things to say against those who oppose the designation.
"I'm a person who believes that Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed. So for law enforcement officers to object to some recognition for the good work the Panthers did is pretty ironic," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th).
Bill Hampton, brother of the slain Panther leader, predicted that "most community leaders and residents" would support the designation over the objections of those "few people who still hold that negative grudge against Fred and the Party.
"They were protesting police brutality, oppression and other social ills that were hurting the black community. . .. I don't say that justifies it. But people understood what they really meant by it," Bill Hampton said.
[Contributing: Shamus Toomey, Frank Main]
March 1, 2006
Daley is mum on renaming of street
Stretch would honor slain Black Panther (Sect. 2, p. 6)
By Gary Washburn
Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday refused to enter the fray over a controversial proposal to rename a stretch of a West Side street in honor of slain Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton.
Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) won preliminary approval on Monday for her proposal to make a short stretch of Monroe Street honorary "Chairman Fred Hampton Way," setting the stage for a possible fight on the City Council floor.
As the controversy heated up Tuesday, Haithcock said she would temporarily withhold the matter from a vote but vowed to bring it up in the near future.
Hampton was a Black Panther leader who critics say espoused violence. He died in a hail of gunfire during a controversial 1969 police raid.
Daley on one hand said it is up to individual aldermen to decide who is honored in their wards.
"Everybody has the right to name things," he said. "I don't go down the list of [honorees], there are so many of them."
But the mayor also said that calling for violence against police "concerns everyone."
Later, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) himself a one-time Black Panther leader and Hampton friend, strongly supported the honorary street naming.
"Fred Hampton was assassinated for political reasons, and those same forces are responding to this initiative for political reasons," he declared. "No matter what the police union or anybody else wants to say, they cannot rewrite history."
The Panther Party "stood for self-defense against police forces throughout the nation that wantonly murdered and brutalized unarmed individuals in the black community," Rush said.
Tim Fallon, secretary-treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the proposed honor "completely ridiculous."
"They are trying to honor a man whose goal in life was to kill policemen," he said. "Putting that name on a street is an insult to everybody who lives on that street who goes to work every day and is a law-abiding citizen."
Haithcock later said she will ask that her proposal be held from consideration when the council meets on Wednesday to allow more discussion. But she vowed to call for a vote at the next meeting, heeding the wishes of Hampton's family and of people who live on the West Side and have asked for the honorary designation.
"You have to understand I can't back down on this," she said. "I am just not that type."
The council appeared divided on the matter Tuesday.
Ald. Thomas Allen (38th), chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee, termed the proposal an "embarrassment" and said he now may call for aldermanic sponsors to submit brief biographies of people they are seeking to honor.
The Hampton measure, one item in a lengthy agenda approved pages at a time at a committee meeting on Monday, passed without debate.
Allen said he was unaware that the "Chairman Fred Hampton" who was listed was the late Black Panther.
"He could be chairman of a rock band, the chairman of some church, could be the chairman of some neighborhood group or club," Allen said.
The proposed naming is as offensive to some Chicagoans as honoring the white racist David Duke would be to others, asserted Ald. Richard Mell (33rd).
"I just don't know if it sets a good precedent," he said.
Haithcock said colleagues who oppose the honor for Hampton "have to tell me when did Fred Hampton do anything to the police but run his mouth. The brutality was against him."
"I am a person who believes Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th). "I believe in freedom of speech ... I think you have to look at what the Panthers actually did. They fed poor kids breakfast and did all kinds of good things."
On another issue, Daley strongly reiterated his re-election support for Cook County Board President John Stroger. But, disagreeing with Stroger, the mayor said that challenger Forrest Claypool "did a good job at the Park District" when he served as general superintendent.
March 2, 2006
Curb on honorary street names urged (p. 6)
By Fran Spielman, City Hall Reporter
Emboldened by the furor over "Chairman Fred Hampton Way," an influential alderman moved Wednesday to end honorary street designations in Chicago -- and Mayor Daley didn't shoot it down.
"Everybody will want a street sign -- every citizen. Some corners will get three or four signs. If anybody reports that I was on such-and-such a street and we don't ... send an ambulance, we're liable," Daley said.
"The aldermen have to look at it. I think they should do something differently."
For the third time in nine years, Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen (38th) tried to freeze the number of honorary street designations at 1,280 as families of police officers killed in the line of duty mobilized in opposition to the honor for Hampton, slain state chairman of the Black Panther Party.
Family members fired off angry e-mails to committee chairmen and Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd), who touched off a racially charged firestorm with her proposal to rename Monroe Street -- from Western to Oakley -- in honor of Hampton.
All 50 aldermen will be getting similar messages.
"The lady [Haithcock] is saying he did some good with the breakfast program. Well, so did John Wayne Gacy. He was a precinct captain and a clown for children's parties before he killed all those boys. Do we give him a street name?" said Donna Marquez, whose brother Donald was gunned down four years ago.
'What kind of role model is this?'
"This adds salt to the wound. My brother doesn't have a street name, but we're going to honor a man who advocated violence? This is blasphemy. It's a disgrace. Bobby Rush [former deputy defense minister for the Panthers] says he's in it till the bitter end. So are we. This can't happen."
Bob Gordon, whose son Michael was killed when his squad car was broadsided by a drunken driver, said he would "lose all faith in the city" if a street were named in honor of Hampton. "This man advocated violence toward police officers in the 1960s -- especially with his phrase 'Kill the pigs.' What kind of role model is this setting for kids who live on the West Side?" Gordon said.
Haithcock countered, "I've supported the [police] widows on everything they wanted -- their pension and everything else.... It doesn't besmirch anything. They do not know the history. If you read the history of Fred Hampton, you won't see anything that bad about him. All he said is he was going to defend himself against policemen. And evidently he didn't because they murdered him."
As promised, Haithcock did not call for a vote on the designation at Wednesday's City Council meeting, postponing a showdown vote until March 29 at the earliest.
But now that the Hampton street name has been approved by the Transportation Committee, Haithcock said she's not about to "re-refer" the matter to committee for a full-blown hearing. "We've never had a hearing on an honorary green sign," Haithcock said.
'We still have racism'
Asked if she was surprised by the uproar, Haithcock said, "Yes I am. I'm appalled. I cannot believe it ... I'm in awe of all this. I thought [we were] past this in our city. But evidently, it isn't. We still have racism."
Twice before, Allen has tried and failed to control honorary street designations, which have been a tradition and a way for aldermen to curry favor with clout-heavy constituents.
Wednesday, he gave his colleagues a choice: either eliminate the perk or require aldermen to submit a biographic description of the honoree. That way, there won't be a repeat of what he called Monday's "embarrassment" -- when "Chairman Fred Hampton Way" breezed through Allen's committee without a word of debate.
HONORARY SIGN (p. 6)
Who has an honorary street designation? Who doesn't?
There are about 1,280 honorary street designations across the city.
Frank Sinatra has two. Athletes from Walter Payton to Jesse Owens are honored. Politicians like the late Ald. Vito Marzullo and the very much alive Secretary of State Jesse White are recognized. Places, like the Lyric Opera, and things, like WXRT-FM, have won special designation.
[Fran Spielman and Andrew Herrmann]
March 2, 2006
Family: Keep violent words in context (p. 6)
By Andrew Herrmann, Staff Reporter
Akua Njeri was awakened by shouts of, "Chairman, chairman! The pigs are vamping!''
As bullets flew in the West Side apartment she shared with Fred Hampton, their mattress vibrated amid shattering plaster.
Hampton was killed in that police raid in December 1969. Three weeks later, Njeri, then 19, gave birth to their son, Fred Jr.
Mother and son were at City Hall on Wednesday to support efforts to name a stretch of Monroe Street for Hampton, a founder and chairman of the Black Panther Party.
Njeri told reporters that Hampton's violent words must be seen in the context of the times. "The rhetoric had to address the inflammatory, vicious terrorist attack we experienced every day,'' she said. At the time, Njeri was a firebrand herself: Days after the 1969 raid, she urged a crowd at a West Side church to "pick up your guns and be men. Sisters, you pick up your guns and fight the pigs, too. If you don't, they're gonna kill you all for sure.''
Wednesday, Njeri said the party "was fighting for the right to self-determination when it wasn't popular, when it wasn't a fashion show, when it wasn't a bunch of phrase-mongering.''
Police were acquitted of criminal charges in the raid, but in 1982, survivors and family members of those killed shared a $1.85 million legal settlement from the city, county and federal governments.
March 2, 2006
A day, a street, whatever: Hampton equals controversy (p. 2)
By Mark Brown, Columnist
We need a new Chicago's oldest restaurant. Why? Because the other one closed, and because I don't have the heart or the stomach to tackle what seems to be the hot topic of the week, the Fred Hampton honorary street sign.
Before I duck the issue completely, however, does anybody remember we went through this not all that long ago?
Back in 1990, the City Council passed a resolution establishing Dec. 4 as Fred Hampton Day in Chicago.
Yes, it caused a big stink then, too, for all the same reasons, just the way it always will, even when the only people left to fight about Hampton's legacy are those whose knowledge is based only on what they've read -- like those who still argue about the Haymarket riots.
Fred Hampton Day 1990 was one of those symbolic, honorary things that slid through without anybody paying any attention until the Fraternal Order of Police caught wind of it.
In the ensuing uproar, 16 white aldermen who had voted in favor of the catch-all measure containing the Hampton resolution asked that their names be removed from the roll call of affirmative votes.
Ald. Edward Burke opined afterward that those aldermen may have thought they were voting to honor Bears great Dan Hampton. Bobby Rush, then still a member of the City Council, referred to his colleagues who had second thoughts as "sniveling cowards who are shaking in their boots."
Mayor keeping his distance, again
But the resolution stood, because the only way to undo it would have been in a City Council meeting, and Mayor Daley, facing re-election the following spring, wasn't about to allow that to happen, knowing it could infuriate the African-American community.
Daley made clear he would not cancel Fred Hampton Day.
"The resolution was passed," Daley said then, according to a Sun-Times story. "No one is ever perfect in their entire life. Basically, the aldermen are saying that there were some good things that he [Hampton] accomplished -- some of the day-care and other programs that he ran on the West Side."
A few weeks later at the next City Council meeting, Daley outraged FOP officials further when, instead of rescinding the resolution, he posed for a photo at the mayor's rostrum with Hampton's mother, Iberia, and brother Bill.
Then just to prove that there's no way to win on this topic, Iberia Hampton told reporters that Daley was just posing for the pictures because "he needs votes, that's all. He didn't impress me at all."
Can you blame the mayor now for not wanting to take a position on the street sign?
I see that some aldermen are coming around to the idea that the way out of this pickle is to do away with honorary street signs altogether.
I would like to remind you that I thought I made a pretty good case for that four years ago when Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) slipped through a street sign honoring Hyman Tucker, one of the city's most notorious ghost payrollers.
Fun in the sun
Tucker had managed to remain on the City Council payroll for years after he had moved to Florida, a neat trick even by Chicago standards. It earned him a federal conviction and a great newspaper nickname, "The Ghost with a Tan."
But Tucker had been such a valuable member of the 39th Ward Democratic Organization that his criminal behavior was overlooked in favor of the good things he did in his life, and to my knowledge, the sign still marks the 6200 block of North Avers.
Likewise, another honorary street sign at Noble and Hubbard pays homage to Orlando "Wurley" Catanese. Nobody demanded that Ald. Walter Burnett remove the sign when I reported that, before his death, Catanese's main claim to fame was as the operator of adult bookstores with alleged mob ties.
But I don't want to make Catanese's family mad at me again, too.
March 2, 2006
Signs of discontent in the city
Alderman seeks to end practice of honorary street designations, Metro (Sect. 2, p. 3)
By Gary Washburn, Tribune staff reporter
With honorary street signs already dotting Chicago's landscape at nearly 1,300 locations--and a proposal to name a stretch of West Monroe Street after slain Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton generating increasing heat--a veteran alderman on Wednesday called for an end to the city's sign program.
Ald. Thomas Allen (38th), chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee, introduced a measure that would ban the spread of the ubiquitous special placards, citing everything from the cost to confusion that he said they generate.
But with signs in all 50 of the city's wards in a program used routinely by aldermen to curry favor with constituents, the fate of the legislation is unclear.
The controversial proposal to erect a sign commemorating Hampton simmered beneath the surface in a City Council that goes to great lengths to avoid internal conflict over race but whose members' views nevertheless are affected by life experiences and the color of their own skins.
Many white aldermen view Hampton, who was slain in a controversial 1969 police raid, as a terrorist who advocated violence to change the system, said Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), who is African-American.
Many black aldermen see Hampton as someone who stood up against discrimination and oppression and helped lead an organization that fed African-American schoolchildren, he said.
"I think it depends on whether you are the minority or the majority and how you color and paint history," Brookins said.
The council happily voted on another racially-tinged, but much less controversial issue on Wednesday when it officially recognized Jean Baptiste Point du Sable as Chicago's first non-native settler. The ordinance citing du Sable, a Haitian of African heritage, passed unanimously.
Allen's measure notwithstanding, Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) said she would push ahead with her proposal to name a short portion of Monroe in her ward as "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
Haithcock said she was "appalled" at the flap over the issue.
"If you read the history of Fred Hampton, you won't see anything that bad," Haithcock said. "All he said is he was going to defend himself against policemen, and evidently he didn't because they murdered him."
Fred Hampton Jr. and his mother, Akua Njeri, attended Wednesday's meeting.
"It is not only important to me personally but also to African people and humanity in general that the contributions that Chairman Fred made be acknowledged," Hampton said.
The Panther party "courageously stood up and fought for the rights of people to self-determination, land, bread, education, clothing, justice and peace ... under the leadership of the Illinois Chapter of Chairman Fred Hampton," said Njeri, who was with the senior Hampton and was pregnant with her son at the time of the police raid.
The Fraternal Order of Police vigorously has opposed the honorary treatment, and so have some aldermen.
Allen on Tuesday called preliminary approval of the honorary sign by his committee an "embarrassment" that came without debate because committee members were unaware the Hampton on the agenda was the Black Panther leader who critics said threatened to kill police.
Allen, who long has contended the honorary street sign program has been out of control, decided to draft his legislation following the Hampton episode.
Credentials of those honored aside, Allen said the city expends the resources and labor of the city's Transportation Department to erect the signs, and the placards' presence is confusing to tourists trying to make their way around Chicago.
Selecting honorees also is "highly subjective [and] there are no criteria," Allen said.
And aldermen are put into an "awkward situation" when they are asked by supporters to honor someone, whether or not the candidate may be worthy.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) disagreed.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with the program," he said.
"I think it is a way of honoring citizens of Chicago," including "people who have made contributions to the city."
Mayor Richard Daley did not directly voice support for Allen's proposal, but he said that people seeking to honor someone should do things such as contribute to a scholarship program or an environmental program in their honor.
And multiple signs at a location can lead to confusion when someone calls for police or other emergency response, Daley said.
"We become liable for that," he said.
"Lawyers are going to sue us for that."
As a backup, Allen also introduced a measure that would require submission of a biography of the proposed honoree with any honorary street sign submission.
The last major controversy over a sign came when Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) sought to honor Chicago native and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.
Despite heavy opposition, a "Hugh M. Hefner Way" placard went up at Michigan Avenue and Walton Street.
That was in 2000 when there were 859 honorary signs in the city, about 400 fewer than there are today.
Allen at the time unsuccessfully introduced a measure that would have limited additional signs to two per ward per year.
A similar proposal failed three years earlier at a time when the sign total stood at 594.
The sign program began in 1984.
Honorees range from celebrities and business leaders to local pastors, community leaders and institutions.
March 2, 2006
Honor this: Allen yes, Balbo no, Metro (Sect. 2, p. 1)
By Eric Zorn, Columnist
I tell you who deserves to have a street named in his honor: Ald. Tom Allen (38th), the brave politician trying to put a stop to honorary street names.
Allen has twice before failed to move similar legislation through the City Council. And one reason he's keen on the idea, he told me Wednesday afternoon, is because the current, haphazard, no-standards system gives "no protection against us getting blindsided" by rubberstamping a honoree whom many might consider less than honorable."
Was he referring to anyone in particular? Say former Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, whose mixed legacy includes service to poor children and threats of death to police officers, and whose death in a blizzard of bullets in a 1969 raid remains an ugly stain on the reputation of local law enforcement?
Allen wouldn't bite on that question: "Fred Hampton, Jack Brickhouse, Hugh Hefner, I don't care," he said. "We shouldn't be in the business of deciding who gets a street sign."
Agreed. At least not honorary ones.
But everyone now sputtering indignantly about Hampton's alleged lack of fitness for an honorary street should realize that our city is in no position to judge Hampton unworthy as long as we have a real street named for Italo Balbo, a Fascist general and leader of the Blackshirts under World War II Italian dictator and Nazi ally Benito Mussolini.
The Blackshirts did more than just talk about killing people. And Balbo himself was suspected in the 1923 murder of Rev. Giovanni Minzoni, an anti-Fascist priest. This suspicion "probably has some truth to it" in the view of Dominic Candelero of Chicago Heights, the executive director of the American-Italian Historical Association and author of the book "Chicago's Italians."
However, Candelero said, Chicago officials renamed 7th Street Balbo Drive in 1933 to honor Balbo's achievements as an aviator and his spectacular visit to the Century of Progress, not his fascism. Of course. Nobody's perfect.
But come on. If we don't take steps now to take Balbo's name off a green street sign and replace it with the name of a more virtuous person of Italian descent - one of my readers suggested Nobel Prize winning Physicist Enrico Fermi, who developed the first nuclear reactor while at the University of Chicago; I thought of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin - then we should cool it with the handwringing about Fred Hampton and his unfortunate pronouncements. Nobody's perfect.
Ald. Allen, meanwhile, said he expects his no-more-signs proposal (I'd go further and take them all down) to die in committee again. Which is why he also introduced a second proposal Wednesday, this one requiring that all aldermanic requests for honorary street signs come with supportive documentation, such as biographies and summaries of achievements, "so at least we know who we're supposed to be honoring," he said.
What a guy! You don't suppose he's Italian, do you?
March 3, 2006
Foes of Hampton sign cite cops' slaying (p. 8)
By Fran Spielman, City Hall Reporter
Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) and Fred Hampton's brother have made the case for renaming a West Side street after the slain Black Panther leader by arguing that "Off the pigs" was just a figure of speech used by the Panthers during the turbulent 1960s.
But a Web site dedicated to fallen police officers is posting details of Chicago Police officers gunned down by Black Panthers to shoot down the claim that the Panthers were all talk and no action.
The Officer Down Memorial Page, www.odmp.org, wants to put two faces on the issue that has reopened decades-old racial wounds in Chicago: Officers Frank G. Rappaport and John Gilhooly.
On Nov. 13, 1969, Gilhooly, 21, and Rappaport, 36, were "ambushed by a member of the radical group Black Panthers on a false call of a man with a gun," according to the Web site.
"As the officers entered a gangway between two buildings, the man opened fire with a shotgun from a porch below, striking Officer Rappaport in the chest and Officer Gilhooly in the face and neck. The suspect then shot Officer Rappaport again as he lay on the ground, killing him," according to the narrative that appears below the names and photos of both slain officers.
Panther members killed 2
"Officer Gilhooly was transported to Billings Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds the following day. Officer Gilhooly's killer was shot and killed in an exchange with other officers."
Gilhooly came from a family of cops, including his father, a 29-year officer, and an uncle. According to news reports, one of Gilhooly's relatives was assigned to guard the Bridgeport home of Mayor Richard J. Daley.
A Chicago Daily News story quoted Hampton as confirming that Spurgeon Winters, 19, who was killed in the shoot-out, and Lance Bell, 20, who was charged with the murder of the two officers, were both Panther members.
The proposal to rename a Chicago street in honor of Hampton caught Rappaport's son off-guard. Michael Rappaport, 45, and now a father himself, said he had not been following the controversy. Rappaport, who was in fourth grade when his father was shot, said he found the idea distasteful. "All they thought about was shooting cops,'' he said. "I don't understand why they would honor somebody like that.''
Chris Cosgriff, chairman of the Officer Down Memorial Page, said he's planning to e-mail the information about the officers to aldermen before a March 29 City Council vote on "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
"What I'm trying to show is that what those words ["Off the pigs"] caused people to murder police officers," Cosgriff said.
On Dec. 4, 1969, two weeks after Rappaport and Gilhooly were killed, Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark were gunned down by Chicago Police officers working under Cook County State's Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan. The infamous raid at Hampton's West Side apartment cost Hanrahan his job. Hanrahan, now in his mid-80s, refused to weigh in on the controversy Thursday. "Oh, I do [have an opinion on it]. But I'm not going to subject it to editors. I'm not interested in that," said Hanrahan, who was cleared of criminal misconduct along with officers in the raid.
Alderman: They don't know history
Haithcock could not be reached for comment about Gilhooly and Rappaport. Earlier this week, she argued that the families of slain officers mobilizing to block the street name don't "know the history" and that Hampton's words were only that -- words. "If you read the history of Fred Hampton, you won't see anything that bad about him," she said.
Hampton had a criminal record that included a conviction for robbing an ice cream truck at a Maywood playground in July 1968. Hampton had testified he was not there the day of the robbery. While in prison, he was indicted along with 15 other Panthers in connection with a kidnapping in Summit. Police said the kidnapping charge stemmed from a woman hiding weapons the Panthers had entrusted to her. She was burned with a propane torch after she refused to say where the weapons were hidden.
March 3, 2006
On West Monroe, Hampton's name still resonates (Sect. 1, p. 1)
By Ron Grossman and Oscar Avila
At City Hall, where politicians are debating honorary street signs, the life and death of Fred Hampton seem like distant history.
But on the block where the Black Panther leader was slain 36 years ago, Hampton is a part of daily conversation. His story, while reawakening memories around the city, never was forgotten here.
To Velma Droughns, Hampton is an everyday presence. She rents an apartment in a newer building constructed on the spot where law enforcement officers killed Hampton and Mark Clark, another Panther leader.
"It's like someone is up there, like a ghost. My kids think I'm going wacko, but I believe that," said Droughns, 53. "Even when I turn the heat up, it feels cold."
On the 2300 block of Monroe Street, new, upscale townhouses and condos sit side by side with scenes of blinding poverty. Next door to Droughns' apartment, a handmade sign hanging from a chain-link fence reads:
"Food for thought: Fred Hampton fed the kids. Question: Who is feeding them now?"
Young men on the West Side still say they flinch and watch their steps at the sight of blue uniforms.
As Antwan Carter, 21, and a friend walked down the block Thursday morning, they talked about why Hampton and the Panthers should be commemorated with an honorary street sign, as Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) proposed last week, sparking a heated debate.
"They might have done some illegal things, but they did some good things, too," Carter said. "If people will check their history, they would know that."
A few police officers who have patrolled nearby beats see things differently. Honoring a man who called for violence against police is not an innocuous nod to the past, said Sidney Davis, an African-American who is now recording secretary for the Fraternal Order of Police, Local 7.
"There is a small percentage of citizens, to this day, who disrespect and dislike the police and might even utter the same words, `Kill the pigs,' " said Davis, 54, a police officer for 23 years. "It's a dangerous message we are sending to put a sign up with this man's name on it."
That the tragedy of Fred Hampton could be recalled so passionately--and so differently--underscores the episode's importance as a turning point in black history.
Historian Timuel Black had known Hampton from the time Hampton was in high school in Maywood. The school's teams were mainly black, but Hampton questioned why the cheerleading squads were white.
When the school rebuffed him and the NAACP wouldn't back him, Hampton was attracted to the Black Panthers, then gaining prominence, Black said. Although FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the Panthers a menace, many West Side residents revered them for starting food banks and health clinics.
Black compared Hampton's legacy to that of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago whose 1955 murder in Mississippi quickened the civil rights movement.
"We got a street named after Emmett Till," he said, wondering why Hampton has reignited this controversy.
On Dec. 4, 1969, Chicago authorities said, they were responding to reports of weapons in the Monroe Street apartment where investigators for State's Atty. Edward Hanrahan led an early-morning raid.
Hampton was gunned down. Afterward, Hanrahan's office issued a report detailing the numerous pistols, shotguns, rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition found by the 14 officers who carried out the raid.
Columbus Brooks, a neighbor who says he recalls the night vividly, was reading a newspaper account Thursday of the Hampton debate while having coffee at Edna's Restaurant, a longtime West Side rendezvous.
"I was woke up by gunshots," said Brooks, 89, who then lived a few blocks away. "By the time I got there, the crowds were so thick you couldn't see what was happening."
Authorities said the officers acted in self-defense. They produced photographs, published in the Tribune, purporting to show bullets exiting the door from weapons fired inside.
But the crudely fabricated cover story was soon exposed, provoking a storm of anger still felt decades later.
The holes that supposedly resulted from the Panthers' weapons were actually caused by nails. It remained clear that officers fired multiple volleys.
A special grand jury charged Hanrahan and some of his officers, and a special prosecutor demonstrated in court that the Panthers could have fired only one shot. Yet, a judge dismissed the case against police for lack of evidence.
In 1982, nine plaintiffs in a civil rights case against the city and Cook County won $1.85 million in damages.
By then, Hanrahan's political career was in a tailspin and the black community had realized its political muscle. Blacks crossed party lines to vote for a Republican replacement for state's attorney in 1972. That victory boosted the black community's confidence, leading to Harold Washington's successful 1983 mayoral campaign.
Hampton's death "marked the beginning of the political liberation of the black community," said longtime political guru Don Rose, who managed the campaign of Hanrahan's victorious opponent.
Hampton's family has done its part to keep his name on the radar screen both in and out of the neighborhood. Akua Njeri, mother of Fred Hampton Jr., organizes annual vigils on Monroe Streeton the anniversary of his death.
Fred Hampton Jr., who was born shortly after his father's death, served nine years in prison for firebombing a Korean-owned store and now is chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee, which lobbies for victims of injustice.
A fiery and provocative speaker who calls his father's death an "act of terrorism" and Monroe Street "Ground Zero," Hampton said he sees a connection between the Black Panthers and the daily struggles for African-Americans.
"In Chicago, they say history is the same, only the names have changed," Hampton said.
While some paint the debate along racial lines, a gentrifying neighborhood adds a new element. Condominiums on Hampton's old block now sell for $360,000.
Some say new homeowners, African-American or otherwise, will likely value the police as protectors of their safety and investments.
Grego Smith, 46, who works as a security guard at a nearby apartment complex, agrees that it is not a black-and-white issue.
Smith said he realizes the dangers of glorifying a man who challenged authority and law enforcement. But he says aldermen and others fail to understand that, as in Hampton's day, you don't have to be a perfect angel in the neighborhood to do some good.
"It would be hard to explain to them, to show them, unless they live in the community," Smith said. "They don't know the day-to-day struggles of our community. This is real life."
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0603050420mar05,1,2428087.storyThe last time we looked in on the strange City Council quest to name a street in honor of every one of Chicago's 2.86 million citizens, the aldermen were at 800 streets and counting. The quest had briefly stumbled on a bid to name the intersection of Walton Streetand Michigan Avenue as Hugh Hefner Way. Apparently some in the city didn't like bunnies.
Chicago Tribune Editorial
March 5, 2006
Fred Hampton Way? (Sect. 2, p. 6)
That was in 2000, and the aldermen have been busy in the interim. Six years later, there are nearly 1,300 streets named in honor of somebody or other. On Wednesday, the aldermen named seven more honorary streets. Or was it eight?
Yes, they've cheapened the currency.
There's not much distinction left in having a street named after you, not when just about everybody has a street.
But that hasn't prevented a tempest over an effort to name a section of Monroe Street as Chairman Fred Hampton Way, in honor of the Black Panther Party leader who was slain in a fury of bullets fired by police in a raid on a West Side apartment in 1969.
This has created a divide in the council and threatens to create a divide in the city.
To many black Chicagoans, evoking memories of Fred Hampton rips open old wounds. Even many of those who had serious misgivings about Panther radicalism were angered by his death at age 21, along with fellow Panther Mark Clark, in the raid. Many called it murder. The families of Hampton and Clark brought a civil lawsuit that led to a $1.85 million settlement.
Many remember Hampton as a bright Maywood kid who organized other teens to protest a segregated swimming pool. He turned from non-violence to black-power militancy in the late 1960s. A passionate speaker, he organized the Illinois chapter of the California-based Black Panthers, known for black berets, leather jackets, raised fists, Maoist rhetoric, free breakfast programs for children--and calls for black Americans to arm themselves for "self-defense."
That last part, that's what many whites, particularly many police officers, remember about Fred Hampton. He advocated violence against the police. "Kill the pigs," he said, often.
Just rhetoric? Three weeks before Hampton was killed, Chicago Police Officers Frank Rappaport, 32, and John Gilhooly, 21, were mortally wounded during a gun battle with several men--at least two of them Panthers--at 58th Street and Calumet Avenue. One Panther died and another was wounded, as were seven other officers. A coroner's jury of four whites and two African-Americans ruled that Rappaport and Gilhooly, who were responding to a radio call warning that "men with guns [were] preparing to kill someone," had been murdered.
Should the City Council honor Fred Hampton? In fact, it already has. In 1990, the council passed a resolution declaring "Fred Hampton Day." That prompted Ald. Ed Burke to quip, "I think some of the aldermen thought it was a resolution honoring Dan Hampton" of the Chicago Bears.
This time, there will be no case of mistaken identity. The council is in a furious debate about the bid by Ald. Madeline Haithcock to designate " Chairman Fred Hampton Way."
If Haithcock and others want to recognize Hampton, want to keep alive the memory of his very controversial death, they should do so in their own way. But the city should not bestow honors that are so difficult to defend. And this one would be difficult to defend. Hampton advocated violence against police.
Not that Hampton's supporters should feel much will be lost if this bid fails.
The council has, indeed, cheapened the currency by promiscuously awarding honorary signs. They're everywhere, and they have not been limited to people who deserve honor. The council named a street after a precinct captain who was convicted of ghost payrolling. The council named a street after an alderman who died while he was under indictment for bribery and corruption charges.
The council should get out of the sign business. Ald. Thomas Allen, chairman of the Transportation Committee, has proposed an ordinance that would ban the honorary street signs. He's tried this before, without success. But it's time the council recognize it has turned what might once have been an honor into a joke. There are so many of these signs, how can the aldermen turn away anyone who wants one? The evidence--nearly 1,300 signs--says they can't.
So, just stop. Once, the signs conveyed an honor. Now the clutter renders them meaningless--until they cause pain.
March 5, 2006
Chicago doles out street cred
Honorary streetsigns are so Chicago. Boastful. Prideful. A city always, as Carl Sandburg wrote, `with lifted head singing.' For good or ill ... (Sect. 2, p. 1)
By Alex Kotlowitz, a Chicago author
Not long ago, I stopped at the intersection of South Springfield Avenue and West Jackson Boulevard, a rough spot on the city's West Side. On the corner lamppost was a memorial to a Tony Perry, a.k.a. Tone Bone, who, I would later learn, had been affiliated with the Vice Lords street gang and who had been shot several times with a 9 mm semiautomatic.
Around the lamppost, friends of Perry's had tied red and white balloons. At its base, they had left four half-filled bottles of Hennessy cognac, two bottles of Paul Masson brandy, a pint of Remy Martin cognac, a bottle of Budweiser and a can of grape soda, all drinks Perry enjoyed, one presumes. There were plastic roses scattered about, and on the back of a stop sign, graffiti read, "Love always the Harrison girls" and "Never be4gotten."
As I stood there taking in this makeshift memorial, a young man walked by and commented, "Well, he was well known, whoever he was."
Such might be the signature for Chicago, a town that has a propensity like no other to acknowledge its own, sometimes because of their accomplishments, sometimes because of their notoriety and sometimes because--to be blunt about it--they have clout.
There are monuments for just about everyone in this town, from the likes of George Pullman, who treated working people as if they were misguided children and who had a towering Corinthian marble column erected at his gravesite, to the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who viewed people such as Pullman with a measure of disdain. In 1916, Carl Sandburg bemoaned the fact that there were no monuments to the little people in Chicago and wrote a poem he bluntly titled "Ready to Kill."
Ten minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard.
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials ...
Then maybe I will stand here
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag in the air ...
Sandburg's plea has been heard. Sort of. Since 1964 the city has erected nearly 1,300 honorary street signs. There are streets named for idealists such as attorney Clarence Darrow and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph or the practical, such as former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and the turn-of-the-century businessman S. Florsheim, or the famous whose connection to Chicago is somewhat tenuous, such as choreographer Bob Fosse, who was born here, and the late Diana, princess of Wales, who once visited.
Now, the police and supporters of Fred Hampton are debating whether to name a street after the former Black Panther.
But for the most part the names on honorary street signs are people--to paraphrase the gentleman on the West Side--who are well known, whoever they are. Not long ago, in talking with city cultural historian Tim Samuelson, a man who knows everything there is to know about this city, I chose at random 10 individuals who have been honored with street signs and ran the names by him, names such as Sophie Madej, Richard X.G. Irwin and Theresa Tiffany Debunk. He could identify only two, both owners of restaurants he happened to frequent.
Madej ran the bygone Busy Bee, a Polish restaurant in the Wicker Park neighborhood. As for Irwin and Debunk, both of whom are honored in the 42nd Ward, a spokeswoman for its alderman, Burton Natarus, told me, "I have no idea who they are." (Aldermen submit names for honorary street signs to the City Council, where almost all get approval.)
Some say this chest-beating has gotten out of hand. A portion of Pulaski Roadis now--redundantly--also Honorary Casimir Pulaski Wayfor the Polish general in the American Revolutionary War. When I went to the unveiling of Jerry Kleiner Way--Kleiner is a restaurateur--at the corner of West Randolph and North Green Streets just west of the Loop, the local alderman mistakenly kept referring to Jerry Kleiner as Jerry Mickelson, another local businessman.
Then there are the honorary street designations that are not so honorable, such as the one commemorating Hyman Tucker, a ghost payroller for the city (he collected city paychecks for four years after moving to Florida) or the one celebrating Orlando Catanese, the owner of four adult bookstores once deemed the heir apparent to Mike "Fireplug" Glitta, who oversaw the Chicago mob's interests in the sex trade.
Mayor Richard Daley once threatened to introduce an ordinance that would have limited honorary street signs to a fixed period of time--say, a couple of years--but backed off when he realized how dear they were to aldermen.
It's been suggested that the reason for the high number of honorary street signs named for ministers--I counted 249--has nothing to do with this being a city of God and everything to do with the preachers' ability to turn out the vote.
"You don't have a hell of a lot of powers, and everybody here is out to take [them] away from you," Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) once complained to a newspaper reporter when told the mayor might mess with the permanence of honorary street signs.
Stone has carved up his ethnically diverse Devon Avenueinto Gandhi Marg Avenue, Golda Meir Boulevard, King Sargon Boulevardand Sheikh Mujib Way, to name just a few.
There is a small-town quality about such nods to its own, as if we all know, or ought to know, who these people are. But it's so Chicago. Boastful. Prideful. A city always, as Sandburg wrote, "with lifted head singing."
Such bluster, I suspect, also stems from deep-rooted insecurities that somehow we won't be recognized as a world-class city. Who will honor us if we don't honor ourselves?
So we lift our own, raising their names on honorary street signs like flags beating in the winds, as if to proclaim, look who we count as our own. We lay claim to those we know and love, such as Curtis Mayfield and Studs Terkel, to local heroes, such as community organizer Nancy Jefferson and Milton Davis, the co-founder of the nation's first community development bank, along with folks such as Alphonse "Fonz" Davino and Daniel D. "Moose" Brindisi, people who, it has been said, are surely well known, whoever they are.
[Alex Kotlowitz is a Chicago author. This piece appears in the forthcoming book, "city," a collection of images from the City 2000 Project accompanied by essays from Chicago writers, by Three Book Publishing, distributed by University of Illinois Press.]
March 15, 2006
Perceptual apartheid, Chicago-style
Racial disparities after all these years
By Salim Muwakkil
Fifty-two years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed legal segregation, racial disparities in perception between black and white Americans remain so divergent we may as well be living in an apartheid state. Two current stories vividly remind us of this reality.
One story concerns the effort by Chicago Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) to name one block of Monroe Streetin honor of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader slain by Chicago police in 1969. Haitchcock's proposal has sparked an explosion of criticism from the Fraternal Order of Police and some white aldermen. "It's a dark day when we honor someone who would advocate killing policemen and who took great advantage of the communities he claimed to have been serving," said FOP President Mark P. Donahue.
Ald. Tom Allen (38th) called the proposal "an embarrassment," and Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) likened it to naming a street " David Duke Way," after a notorious white supremacist. Allen and Mell represent wards with predominantly white populations.
Hampton and Mark Clark, another Panther leader, were killed by police as they slept in their West Side apartment. Investigations of the raid concluded that police guns were responsible for all but one of the bullet holes riddling the residence. No one has been held legally accountable for what appear to have been the assassinations of Hampton and Clark. The political defeat of Cook County State's Atty. Edward V. Hanrahan, whose office coordinated the deadly 1969 raid, seems to have been the lone consequence. Donahue's rantings seem absurd framed in that historical context.
Equating the Panthers to white supremacists is a similar misreading of history. The group was relentlessly anti-racist and even incurred the wrath of other black nationalist groups for its multicultural perspective. Had Mell simply referred to historical accounts, he would easily have found that Hampton attracted multiracial support.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Claudette Marie Muhammad to the state's Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes is another issue best explained through historical context. Muhammad is chief of protocol for the Nation of Islam, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
As of the latest count, five Jewish members of the commission have quit because Muhammad refuses to repudiate Farrakhan's latest controversial comments. A chorus is growing urging either Muhammad to resign or the governor to rescind her appointment. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn so far is the only member of the Blagojevich administration to jump into the fray, urging her to resign.
"I think she should resign, and if she doesn't resign the panel ought to be disbanded," Quinn said. "I think Sister Muhammad has had ample time to repudiate the anti-Semitic remarks of Louis Farrakhan, and she's not doing that."
She will never do that as long as she's an official of the group. Obedience to Farrakhan is a requirement in the authoritarian organization. One reason for the Nation of Islam's continuing popularity within the black community is the group's resolute image. Other civil rights groups have come and gone, but Farrakhan has managed to keep the Nation of Islam relevant with public shifts between charm and bile. Just when you think he has mellowed, the crafty septuagenarian will drop a rhetorical bomb that lands him back in the headlines. Cynics have suggested that the true target of his occasional bombs is a larger NOI membership.
Farrakhan's willingness (eagerness?) to risk white disapproval is an attractive leadership trait for a people historically repressed by a rigid racial hierarchy.
That was the Black Panthers' appeal as well. Long victimized by police departments that tolerated racist brutality in their ranks, black youths embraced the Panthers' swaggering style and bellicose rhetoric like a long lost lover. This was the era of the "long, hot summer," when charges of police brutality sparked explosions of violence in hundreds of American cities.
The Panthers sought ways to channel that destructive energy into programs designed for community empowerment. Their sense of mission and disciplined audacity gave black youth a new sense of relevance and greatly lessened the appeal of predatory street gangs. This historical context should frame attempts to name a street after Hampton, one of the group's most revered leaders.
Most white Chicagoans don't know this history; a history that included 12 generations of chattel slavery and four more of Jim Crow apartheid. This repressive history has produced an eccentric legacy and odd heroes. Farrakhan is one of those heroes, and Jewish groups gain nothing by avoiding dialogue with him. Perhaps they could help him understand how the tragedies of Jewish history have made them particularly sensitive to anti-Semitic expressions and why they take such offense at some of the minister's rhetoric.
They could explain their reasoning that if Farrakhan isn't anti-Semitic, he at least is tone deaf to Jewish sensibilities.
I humbly suggest that Blagojevich's commission convene a dialogue somewhere on Chairman Fred Hampton Way.
[Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor at In These Times.]