Union head blasts plan to name street after Black Panther
February 28, 2006 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The name of slain Black Panther Fred Hampton may soon be placed on an honorary Chicago street sign. The president of the Chicago police union says he outraged by this proposal by a Chicago alderman.
Hampton was gunned down more than 35 years ago in a police raid on a West Side apartment. This street fight was started by Alderman Madeline Haithcock, who first proposed the idea of a Chairman Fred Hampton Way.
Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, who was also a leader of the Black Panthers in Chicago in the late 60's, says he will stand side-by-side with Alderman Haithcock to ensure that Fred Hampton's name eventually appears on an honorary street sign on the West Side. According to Rush, Hampton lived and died fighting racism and police brutality on behalf of the poor, but Hampton's militant rhetoric, which seemed to condone the killing of police officers, has turned a routine street naming into a bitter political battle over the past.
"There should not be a sign honoring a person who was committed to violence and in his own words, kill the pigs," said Sidney Davis, Fraternal Order of Police.
The union that represents Chicago police officers vehemently opposes a plan to memorialize former Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, whose militant group coined the incendiary slogan "off the pigs" during the volatile struggles of the 1960's. The plan would designate a four-block stretch of West Monroe Street, where Hampton was killed by police officers in 1969, as Chairman Fred Hampton Way, which is something his family and West Side activists have been pushing for years.
The plan now has the support of Alderman Madeline Haithcock, whose ward includes the area.
"I know he was shot by the police. I knew all that. But I didn't think they felt threatened by him before," said Haithcock.
"It'd be OK to me. Cops was bad cops then," said Margaret Green, West Monroe Street resident.
"He espoused self-defense against police officers. I espoused self-defense against police officers," said Congressman Bobby Rush, 2nd Ward.
Congressman and former Alderman Bobby Rush, who was minister of defense for the Panthers when Hampton ran the Chicago chapter, says the group provided services for the poor and fought racism, much of it in the police department, which led to the state's attorney's raid that led to Hampton's death.
"Fred Hampton was assassinated for political reasons, and those same forces are responding to this initiative for political reasons," Rush said.
Alderman Bernie Stone says he Admires rush and some of the Panther's goals, but not Fred Hampton.
"How could anyone even think of commemorating an individual who preached the killing of police officers? Absolutely not," said Ald. Bernard Stone, 50th Ward.
Hampton was a thorn in the side of Daley's late father, Richard J., but Richard M. doesn't want to relive those days. He said he would leave it up to the aldermen.
For the record, Hampton and another Panther, Mark Clark, were killed in an early morning police raid in December of 1969. Rush and others called it murder, but no one was ever convicted, including the man who ordered the raid, former state's attorney Edward Hanrahan.
Hampton's son, who is now a community activist, was born two weeks after he was killed. He says this is a dedication that is a long time in the making.
"The proof is in the people. They have unconditional love for Chairman Fred, for his works and contributions to humanity," said Fred Hampton Jr.
As for the street naming, Alderman Haithcock says she won't push for a city council vote at Wednesday's meeting, but she aimed for the next one in late March.
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