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The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police…

by Jeffrey Haas

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1124196,154 (4.15)None
It’s around 7:00 A.M. on December 4, 1969, and attorney Jeff Haas is in a police lockup in Chicago, interviewing Fred Hampton’s fianc#65533;e. She is describing how the police pulled her from the room as Fred lay unconscious on their bed. She heard one officer say, "He’s still alive.” She then heard two shots. A second officer said, "He’s good and dead now.” She looks at Jeff and asks, "What can you do?”   The Assassination of Fred Hampton is Haas’s personal account of how he and People’s Law Office partner Flint Taylor pursued Hampton’s assassins, ultimately prevailing over unlimited government resources and FBI conspiracy. Not only a story of justice delivered, the book puts Hampton in a new light as a dynamic community leader and an inspiration in the fight against injustice.… (more)
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Wow. Author/attorney Jeffrey Haas sets the stage for a December 1969 predawn raid by the Chicago police on a Black Panther apartment, where an eloquent and popular rising black leader named Fred Hampton was killed. Supposedly acting on a tip from an informant that illegal weapons were there, the police burst into the apartment, firing 90 shots in total to the Panthers one. The book reviews in tremendous detail how the courts and police tried to cover up the fact that Hampton has likely been drugged, set-up by an FBI informant, and then murdered in cold blood: shot twice point blank in the head. Haas and his small law firm of young idealists took on the legal and law enforcement systems, and despite many setbacks, persevered, eventually ending up with an appeals judge, who believed in fairness. Highly recommended for people interested in racial justice, the Black Panther Party, and learning more about the history of government-sanctioned racism in the United States.

My only complaint is that we did not really get a real sense for Fred Hampton himself, whose life ended at age 21, who might have become as important a leader for social change though non-violence and community organizing as Martin Luther King. Growing up in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Hampton joined the NAACP, building a youth council of 500 members (in a town of 27,000) and worked to build a recreational center/pool and better education for the local black community. Hampton was then drawn to the Black Panthers and its ten-point program, emphasizing education, health, welfare, and self-determination.
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  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
There just seems to be so much history that we are not taught and things that we really do not need to know we do learn. I had never heard of this person and that is a darn shame. Mr. Haas has opened my eyes, or shall I say continued to open about the racism, hypocrisy and what black and brown people go thru. It does center the victims of the police raid on the Panthers, the Black Panther program, Hampton's leadership and the major political events.

rcvd an ARC at no cost to author...(netgalley)voluntarily reviewed with my own thoughts and opinions ( )
  NelisPelusa | Jun 10, 2021 |
Fred Hampton’s story should be more widely told, not just because he is a compelling leader in his own right, but also because it is astounding how the US government straight up assassinated its own citizens on its own soil with near impunity. This history is important and truly, deeply infuriating (I wanted to yeet Judge Perry and the obstructionist cop legal team into moving traffic for the vast majority of this book). However, I didn’t love Haas’s writing style or the annoyingly irrelevant insertions of his own life’s details (his need to do yoga in between trials or love life added nothing to the narrative). It's also difficult to write about multi-year legal proceedings in an engaging way. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
I learned about Fred Hampton around 25 years ago when watching the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. The more I learn about Hampton, who by the age of 21 had made considerable ground in uniting people of various racial backgrounds around shared causes, the more I believe that the United States lost the potential of his leadership when he was murdered by the Chicago police on December 4, 1969.

This book is the only one I could find available about Fred Hampton. It's written by Jeffery Haas, an acquaintance of Hampton's who served as a lawyer for the People Law's Office, an organization that offered legal representation for the Chicago Black Panthers and other clients who had their civil rights violated by the government. At first I was put off at how much Haas centers himself in the narrative, but soon learned that this is less of a biography of Hampton and more of an accounting of Haas and his colleagues efforts to find justice for the survivors of the police raid that did not reach fruition until a civil rights trial in 1982.

Haas details the gruesome conspiracy of the FBI, through their COINTELPRO program, to have the Chicago police raid Hampton's apartment in the early morning hours and carry out a summary execution. Part of this plot involved a FBI informer who infiltrated the Chicago Black Panthers and drugged Hampton on the night of the raid. Despite ballistic evidence that the Panthers were only able to fire off one shot in exchange of dozens from the police, the police successfully characterized the raid as a "shoot-out" and the officers involved were exonerated.

Haas and his colleagues spent twelve years in litigation on civil rights suits to find some justice for the surviving Black Panthers and Hampton's family. Trials were presided over by a judge with an unhidden prejudice against the plaintiffs, and the FBI and Chicago police deliberately withholding evidence. That any measure of justice was achieved through $1.85 million settlement in 1982 is a testament to the determination of the survivors and the People's Law Office. Nevertheless, the clear imbalance of the government and the law towards racism and inequality makes it hard to believe in true justice in the United States.

Favorite Passages:
"Unlike the example of a centralized and hierarchical political party like the Panthers, BLM is a decentralized coalition of community groups with a common platform. They say they are "leader full," not "leader less." This has the advantage that the assassination, jailing, or silencing of one leader will not cause the devastation of an organization like the Chicago Panthers faced after the murder of Fred Hampton."

"The message of Black Power resonated with Fred Hampton. He saw Black Power not as a tool to attack whites but as a concept to bring blacks together and build their confidence. Fred said that "blackness was what was in your heart, not the color of your skin." But any symbol of black unity, including the modest Afro that Fred wore, threatened many whites."

"Fred talked with particular satisfaction about seeing the children eating and Panther members serving them. He explained this was how people could understand socialism "through participation and serving the people."

"What good did it do to have lawyers and courts and a constitution and legal precedent if the police under the direct control of the prosecutor could murder you in your bed? I wasn't sure I wanted to be a lawyer fighting for justice inside an unjust system or on the outside exposing the legal system as a fraud, taking direct action against Fred's killers."

"It always pisses off victims of the police to learn that taxpayers foot the bill. 'It isn't right,' I said. 'But the police contract requires they be indemnified. I wish we were getting money from them too. It might deter them next time.'" ( )
  Othemts | Oct 5, 2020 |
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It’s around 7:00 A.M. on December 4, 1969, and attorney Jeff Haas is in a police lockup in Chicago, interviewing Fred Hampton’s fianc#65533;e. She is describing how the police pulled her from the room as Fred lay unconscious on their bed. She heard one officer say, "He’s still alive.” She then heard two shots. A second officer said, "He’s good and dead now.” She looks at Jeff and asks, "What can you do?”   The Assassination of Fred Hampton is Haas’s personal account of how he and People’s Law Office partner Flint Taylor pursued Hampton’s assassins, ultimately prevailing over unlimited government resources and FBI conspiracy. Not only a story of justice delivered, the book puts Hampton in a new light as a dynamic community leader and an inspiration in the fight against injustice.

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