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BHM: Fred Hampton

February 19, 2019

During assembly on Tuesday, February 19, junior Gabby Randall spoke about activist and Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. Here are her remarks:

Fred Hampton was a Black activist, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party. He was a natural leader and a talented communicator. He was known for his impressive speeches and was said to impress everyone he met. He was marked by the FBI — by J. Edger Hoover — as a threat. Hoover aimed to "prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement," and Fred Hampton seemed fit that description.

The Radical matters squad of the FBI’s Chicago field office developed connections with Mr. Hampton in order to keep an eye on him. William O’Neal became a counter intelligence operative in exchange for immunity and rose in rank within the Black Panther Party. William became the director of chapter security and Hampton’s personal bodyguard. Eventually, O’Neal, fulfilling his requirement, gave a layout of the home of Fred Hampton. The FBI, worried about the increase of attendance and the Black Panther Party’s leadership’s success, planned an armed raid of Mr. Hampton’s apartment. The raid was put together by the Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan who had recently suffered some criticism from Hampton.

At 4 am, 14 officer’s arrived at the apartment, split into two teams and at 4:45 they entered the apartment. Marc Clark, a Black Panther on security duties, was sitting in the front room and was shot in the chest and died immediately. The only shot fired by the Panther’s came from his gun, which was fired by post death muscle contraction. Hampton, asleep next to his pregnant fiancée, was hit with multiple rounds from an automatic weapon. Harold Bell, another Panther, heard a conversation between two officers. “That’s Fred Hampton” “Is he dead? … bring him out.” “He’s barely alive” “he’ll make it”. After hearing this conversation he heard two more gunshots followed by “He’s good and dead now.” Fred’s body was dragged out of the bed and into the doorway of his room. Hampton’s fiancée was forced out of the room. She and her son were not injured.

The orchestrated assassination of Fred Hampton is particularly upsetting to me because of the reason he was targeted. His skill and intelligence caused him to be marked and ultimately killed. His ability to bring people together and form connections caused him to be a threat to the FBI.A young man, 21 years old, who impressed all he met was killed to silence a group, to silence a movement. While his voice was lost, his values were not. While his life was tragically lost, his mentality was preserved in the people he shared himself with. Fred’s empowerment and fight against inequality is preserved in the people he influenced. His story taught me that killing a man can’t silence a movement, his story inspires me to continue fighting against inequality and standing against injustices. In Fred’s words, “If you walk through life and don’t help anybody you haven’t had much of a life.”