Chairman Fred Hampton Way

The headline of Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times read:


Two articles, one apiece by veteran Sun-Times reporters Fran Spielman and Andrew Herrmann, developed this headline on page 6.  (For copies of everything, see below.) 

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):

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 StatesCh. 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.)   



Letters to the Chicago Sun-Times: [email protected]
Fran Spielman: [email protected]
Andrew Herrmann: [email protected] 
Mark Brown: [email protected]

Letters to the Chicago Tribune: [email protected]
Gary Washburn: [email protected]
Eric Zorn:  [email protected]
Ron Grossman: [email protected]
Oscar Avila: [email protected]



Chicago Sun-Times
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."

Popular perk

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.


Chicago Sun-Times
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.

Chicago Tribune
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
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."




Chicago Sun-Times
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]



Chicago Tribune
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.



Chicago Sun-Times
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.



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]


Chicago Sun-Times
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.


Chicago Sun-Times
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 po

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