On 48th Anniversary of Fred Hampton’s Murder, Rampant Surveillance of Black Liberation Movements Continues

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American political and social activist and Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (1948 – 1969) raises his arms at the “Days of Rage” rally, Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 1969. (Photo: David Fenton / Getty Images)

In August 1967, notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent out an urgent directive to all of his field offices under the file name “COINTELPRO-Black Nationalist Hate Groups.” It instructed “Racial Matters”(RM) agents to take aggressive — and highly illegal — actions to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black-nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters.” On March 4, 1968, exactly one month before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, another urgent Bureau-wide COINTELPRO directive from Hoover’s desk instructed RM Agents to devise COINTELPRO actions designed to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.”

On December 4, 1969 — 48 years ago today — RM agents in the Bureau’s Chicago office secretly congratulated themselves and hailed their “success” to Hoover for masterminding the bloody pre-dawn police raid that left Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) — and most certainly a rising “messiah” — and Peoria Panther leader Mark Clark dead, and several other young Panthers seriously wounded.

From an early age, Hampton was a charismatic speaker and natural leader. At the age of 14, he had organized a student chapter of the NAACP in Maywood, Illinois, and the chapter soon grew to 700 members. He led a march on the Maywood Town Hall and organized to build an integrated swimming pool there. After he graduated from Proviso East High School, the administration asked him to come back to mediate a confrontation between Black and white students, then had him arrested when he did so. Influenced by Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating…

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