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Opponents, supporters clash over street sign controversy

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The fight over a proposal to name a Chicago street in honor of former Black Panther leader Fred Hampton escalated Wednesday when protestors and officers clashed at City Hall. Hampton's son put up his own sign at the site proposed for 'Chairman Fred Hampton Way'.

Congressman Bobby Rush was critical of the protest, calling it "riotous, disruptive behavior".

Congressman Rush says the honorary name change stands a chance if supporters follow the proper channels and adhere to rules and regulations. But Wednesday, Hampton's son took matters into his own hands.

Fred Hampton, Junior, in an act of defiance over the proposal to name a one block stretch of West Monroe Avenue after his father, taped his own sign that read "Chairman Fred Hampton Way" on a street pole near the site where the Black Panther leader was killed. Afterward, Hampton discussed why his father, who he calls "Chairman Fred," should get the honor.

"He represented the organization that started programs like the free breakfast program that fed a minimum of 3,500 children a week," said Hampton, Jr.

Wednesday morning at City Hall, dozens of activists taunted Chicago police for nearly an hour in a tense confrontation in a hallway outside of the city council meeting where a vote on the honorary street naming never took place, because the sponsor of the resolution was home sick.

"That's what our democracy is all about and the proponent of the ordinance is not here. Out of divans to the proponent, the order wasn't heard," said Ald. Tom Allen, Traffic Committee Chairman.

Former Black Panther and Congressman Bobby Rush, a supporter of the honorary name change, was interrupted by counter-demonstrators who say Rush worked for the government against the Panthers in the 1960's.

"What part did you play in the murder of Fred Hampton? (Inaudible) Bobby Rush, are you going to say something about that," said one demonstrator to Rush through a bullhorn.

Rush later identified that group as Project Vote, calling them a "roaming band of operatives" that want to "rob Chairman Fred Hampton of his rightful place in Chicago and American history."

But the issue has both staunch supporters and opponents, those who say Hampton called for violence against police.

"We should be looking at leaders who are against violence or nonviolent," said Ald. Tom Murphy, 18th Ward.

"The idea of honoring people should be in a different way, not with a street sign," said Mayor Richard Daley.

Fred Hampton, Jr., says he plans to pursue the issue by returning to City Hall and getting out in the community to drum up support.

The street name issue may be addressed at the next city council meeting.

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