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 fiancée. 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.
Attorney Jeff Haas has spent his career working for justice. In 1969 he and three other lawyers set up the Peoples Law Office, whose clients included the Black Panthers, SDS, and other political activists. Haas went on to handle cases involving prisoners rights, police torture, and the wrongfully accused. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife and children and continues to represent victims of police brutality."
On December 4th, 1969, the Chicago police staged a predawn raid of a Black Panther apartment on the west side of Chicago. Ostensibly acting on a tip from an informant that the Panthers were stockpiling illegal weapons there, the police burst into the apartment, firing 90 shots in total to the Panthers 1 (forensics later established that this one shot was moving in an upward trajectory indicative of someone falling backwards as the weapon accidentally discharged. When it was all over two men, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, the latter being a rising star in the Panther movement were dead. Just 20 years old at the time, Hampton was killed by two bullet wounds to the head fired at close range and was later found to have the powerful sedative Seconal in his system at the time of his death. By eyewitness accounts, he never left his bed as bullets rained down on the apartment and never knew what hit him. This book briefly goes into the background of Hampton’s rise in Chicago and his talents as an orator and organizer for the burgeoning Panther movement. It is however mainly concerned with his death and the subsequent trial Haas and his fellow attorneys spent over ten years trying to get justice for. What he presents here is quite simply shocking. How does one even begin to process police denials of premeditated murder when confronted with, among other things, eyewitness accounts of an officer going into Hampton’s bedroom as he slept and firing two shots into his head while saying “he’s good as dead now”? The police having a detailed floor plan of the apartment with Hampton’s bed circled (this was later discovered to be courtesy of a FBI informant who had infiltrated the Panthers and passed information on to police and federal agents). The FBI, Chicago’s district attorney, and local police all having extensive contact leading up to the raid. And of course, the 90 police shots in the apartment to the Panthers one. This is all before the trials even began in which the FBI withheld evidence, judges acted with extreme prejudice, and attorneys lied, threatened, and cajoled witnesses. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of outrage while reading this book. The actions of law enforcement here are particularly egregious even for 1960’s era police brutality and political repression. If you have the stomach for it try googling “Fred Hampton, smiling, police officers”. If that picture doesn’t enrage you or enflame your sense of injustice than this probably isn’t the book for you. Rather than just be angry however, I took two things in particular away from this book. The first being that the author and the attorneys he worked with spent a good part of their lives and with very little financial gain to themselves trying to bring those responsible for this political murder to justice. This book is as much about the Hampton trial as it is about the author and his long fight to expose the dark corners of our society to the light. I have read some reviews stating they wished the author spoke less about how he experienced the trial personally but I didn’t feel that. I thought his perspective as someone who had done legal work for Hampton and the Panthers and considered him a friend made his cause that much more noble. I applaud him for his perseverance. The second being the life of Hampton himself. Much has been written about the Panthers. Some good such as their free meals for children programs, building hospitals, and restoring pride to Black communities. Some negative such as accusations of violence or sexism within the movement. The latter being corroborated by more than a few members. Hampton seemingly was different though. He didn’t drink or do drugs, he employed women in the highest levels of the Chicago Panthers, and by most accounts would not allow any of the female Panthers in his presence to be disrespected or abused by male members. Most of all he was a dynamic speaker who at age 20 was surely slated for bigger things. Having already galvanised the Chicago Panthers, the national Panthers were already looking at bringing him into a leadership position. What would have come from this is one of history’s great questions but sadly we will never know. When thinking about how to close this review, I thought about using Hampton’s own words to describe the ideals that attracted him to so many and that he lived and ultimately died for. I chose part of a speech he gave three months before his death and out on bail from trumped up charges over robbing an ice cream man(seriously). They are words that perfectly describe who Fred Hampton was and what kind of life we all should strive for:
If you ever think about me and you ain’t gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me. I don’t want myself on your mind if you’re not going to work for the people. If you’re asked to make a commitment at the age of twenty, and you say I don’t want to make a commitment at the age of twenty, only because of the reason that I’m too young to die, I want to live a little longer, then you’re dead already. You have to understand that people have to pay a price for peace. If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not struggle then damn it, you don’t deserve to win. Let me say peace to you if you’re willing to fight for it.
This was a tough read but it was also a powerful read. The only reason I didn't give this book a full 5 Stars is because I dont think it was enough about Fred Hampton the man. Obviously this book is about his assassination at the hands of the government but I just would have liked to hear more about Fred Hampton the person. Fred Hampton the movement leader is important and should be more widely known. Thankfully with the HBOMAX movie people are finally giving this man his respect. It's a sad shame that Fred Hampton isn't a household name like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X.
Whether it's by reading this book, seeing a film, whatever, learning about Fred Hampton is mandatory in our struggle for justice, especially those of us who are Chicago-based.
I had no idea how many ways the "legal" system has and continues to incubate and perpetuate racism and classism until I read this book.
The scariest part is that I have ZERO doubts that the legacy of COINTELPRO is being continued through the Patriot Act, etc. There are still informants, there are still death threats, there is still murder.
And of course, take or leave the author's personal narrative entwined :)
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.
This book should be required reading for American History. When I first heard of Fred Hampton, I was shocked that he isn't as widely circulated as Malcom X and Dr Martin Luther King Jr - reading this book I'm still angry about it, but now see (as usual) how deliberately the US government white washes and covers up Civil Rights icons.
Haas's story is a page turner for the entire book, even when you know the blood and deceit. He writes in a way that owns his narrative and his experience, while still giving great insight into other major players.
Leaving this book makes me really wonder about the rift between the PLO and Montgomery as well as why Akua backs out of the story. I want to do more research.
Over all VERY worth the 350 pages - split into easy to read chapters and filled with colorful language and a sentiment all liberals and anyone with a bone for justice can identify with.
JAW DROPPING!!!!! It is so sad and engrossing. The story of Fred Hampton makes you feel like someone (the man) has reached through your chest and clenched your heart. This is necessary reading because we need to never forget the efforts of those who have sacrificed their literal lives.
This story is POWERFUL. Fred Hampton was a strong, courageous leader when he was killed by Chicago Police at just 21 years old in 1969. He was killed in his bed because his role at forefront of the Black Panthers Party was seen as threatening to cops, the US government, and the very balance of (a racist, white supremacy-fueled) society.
This story is also powerful because it shows the lengths that police, politicians, and government agencies will go to carry out their wishes and to protect themselves from the people who they serve. And not only is this a story of government conspiracy and coverup, but a story of a justice system that helped them do it along the way. The names of Judge Perry, Ed Hanrahan, and officers Carmody and Groth should live in infamy for their complete disregard for the lives of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and also for the US Constitution.
Why did I only gave this book two stars? It’s written by one of the lawyers who worked for more than 10 years to expose the truth. His work there is valiant. But he is a lawyer and not a very good storyteller. The book gets bogged down in several ways. First, he (a white guy) centers himself in the story way too much, which just seemed like a lazy, not dynamic way to tell the story. I’m here to read about Fred Hampton, the Black Panthers, and the trial, not to hear about your love interests or the inner workings of the non-profit law office you founded. Next, he got bogged down in the trial details and legal proceedings. The trial lasted 18 months! That is endless, and it felt that way reading about it. The trial is complex, and the miscarriage of justice is a central theme here, but it was painful at times. And I say that as someone married to a criminal defense attorney!
In the hands of a more skilled writer, this book would have been much better. And could reach a much bigger audience. I do recommend anyone read more about Fred Hampton’s life and death. But I don’t think I’d recommend this book as the place to do that.
The Black Panthers were a threat, they were offering free breakfasts for black kids and free health care, and worst of all, they were offering the threat of a good example. Fred Hampton and MLK’s story have in common that fact that they were killed for publicly connecting the dots. You can fight racism, capitalism/consumerism and militarism but you can’t publicly connect them together in a linked national struggle. Other groups had asked for justice, but the Panthers were out there, demanding justice. On December 4th, 1969, Fred Hampton, Panther leader, was murdered along with Panther Mark Clark in the same place in Chicago. Fred took two bullets to the head at close range while in a reclining position at 4:30 a.m. that morning and it took decades for justice to happen for his family. After the shooting, one police officer said, “he’s barely alive, he’ll barely make it” Two shots ring out. Then overheard was, “He’s good and dead now.” Fred had said, “I’m going to die doing the things I was born for. I believe I’m going to die as a revolutionary.” And so, he did.
A few months before Fred was murdered, The Panther offices were raided under the pretext of the FBI looking for a George Sams. Imagine the validity of that search after it became known that Sams was a known FBI informant and that he only went to their offices to setup the pretext to the raid. In this illegally authorized raid, the FBI authorized police stole $3,000 in Panther cash and dumped the food for the breakfast program on the floor. You simply can’t have poor children eating free breakfast before going to school, or their parents thanking the BPP for it. The FBI’s motto is Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity. In that one raid, the FBI made complete mockery of all three aspects of its chosen motto. The FBI with a straight face on its own website today that its other core values are fairness, compassion, accountability, respect, diversity and “rigorous obedience to the Constitution”. Funny how those mentioned values are clearly also the OPPOSITE of the values shown by the FBI in the Fred Hampton case.
Watch the documentary, “the Murder of Fred Hampton” (1971). Fred Hampton “knew he was going to die …and so he had set aside the ultimate fear”. That fear of one’s death normally keeps one in line. Fred believed socialism would work once each person participated by helping the people, for example, Panther members serving the children.” On the negative side, “The rhetoric that energized the Panthers was often the same rhetoric that the police used to justify attacks on them.” Another big mistake of Fred’s was thinking you can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution. “Fred’s death played a tremendous role in destroying the party.” Tests show that Fred was dosed with Seconal that fateful morning. It was revealed that two shots had gone from Fred’s apartment towards the police while eighty shots had poured in from the police. Who doesn’t like to be woken unannounced by the police at 4:30am by live round gunfire all for the crime of having done nothing illegal?
After Fred was eliminated, the city of Chicago began a free breakfast program to further nullify the Panther’s free program. After a year, Chicago conveniently abandoned its free breakfast program, its real goals achieved and of course the children were the real losers. Note that during the years of BPP free breakfasts, the BPP only got harassed for them from the city.
Released FBI/COINTELPRO documents show the job of the FBI was to develop “hard-hitting programs designed to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” black nationalist organizations. And to “prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify the militant black nationalist movement.” In court, it came out that the FBI’s definition of the threatening sounding “black nationalist group” was “any black organization that has a national headquarters.” Ha ha. One of the potential black messiahs listed was MLK; MLK as a militant nationalist? Kind of a stretch. Fred was about to be given a leadership role in the BPP and that would have made him a Black Messiah just like the hit movie title says. Hoover ordered that COINTELPRO stay secret; you can’t have Americans clearly seeing the famed FBI actively working to curtail the freedom and liberty of its own citizens. Evidence now shows “the FBI was the source of the raid” that killed Fred. The FBI was monitoring Fred on a daily basis. Then it was proven that the FBI was withholding evidence. Maybe it’s time for them to really change their motto to something vaguely accurate. Three bits of withheld FBI evidence arrived that said, “destroy what the BPP stands for”, and “escalate actions against the BPP” and la piece de la resistance, “destroy the Breakfast for Children Program”. That would have made a great episode for the original TV Series “The F.B.I.” with Efrem Zimbalist Jr on camera saying, “We have to destroy the Breakfast for Children Program, it’s stands for everything we are against!” (like creating community, compassion, class solidarity, color blindness, social and economic justice) and then William Reynolds says, “Boss, you had me at ‘destroy’.”
“They murdered Fred because he reached people when he spoke.” Fred banned a comic book from the Chicago chapter that showed Panthers attacking police. When a member said he had a mortar, Fred publicly called him out as a police agent. The court’s findings showed the FBI was trying to violate the constitution with immunity. Mmm. The FBI ‘s listed “core values” on the present website stresses it’s “rigorous obedience to the Constitution”? Ha ha. And part of its self-declared mission is “to uphold and enforce criminal laws” – in other words, the opposite of what it intentionally did in the Fred Hampton case.
When police hurt someone and the victim gets paid, it’s usually the taxpayers who foot that bill. That’s the problem when police departments demand to be indemnified. It took thirteen years to prove Fred had been murdered through a conspiracy involving the FBI, and to get a payout to the families of Hampton and Clark. Related info: George Jackson (Soledad Brother author, shot to death by prison guards) was in prison for life for stealing $71 of gas from a gas station. Study the Attica Prison Riot it’s a deep story about wanting social justice and how Rockefeller should have been prosecuted. This was a really good book.
The fact that you know who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were but likely have little idea who Fred Hampton was is damn near a disgrace.
This is far and away the most thorough and powerful autobiographical account of life during the fight for African-American Civil Rights since The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The author, Jeffery Haas, was one of the lead prosecutors in the case against the government after Hampton's assassination in 1969, a moment that in many ways ended the black nationalist movement. Having lived through the events, he writes with a passion that is second-to-none, and makes the complexities of a series of trials that stretched on well past a decade simple to digest.
Haas weaves a gripping and moving narrative about the months leading up to the assassination and then the years of trial that would follow, he challenges John Grisham in terms of making you engaged, frustrated, and spellbound with courtroom events.
If you any interest at all about the struggle for Civil Rights, you absolutely must read this book.
This is the history I wish I was taught in school. Fred Hampton, like so many young freedom fighters today, believed deeply in organizing with others for the liberation of all people, especially Black people. While the author spends most of the book breaking down the ins and outs of their legal struggle to obtain justice and expose the truth about the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark at the hands of the FBI and the Chicago police, it was jarring (yet not surprising) to witness how far the FBI and police were willing to go to manipulate the public and deny their own injustice—another reminder that the historic and systemic oppression of Black people in the United States is a government project. All power to the people. Today and forever.
Among some circles, Fred Hampton is a luminary without peers. Though new generations may only catch his reference in a song, his legacy in Chicago and to the Black liberation movement is without question. The charismatic Black Panther Party chapter leader demonstrated a natural gift for reaching people, and marshaled young people into political action for the first time. His brutal murder — in which Chicago police, after wounding him as he slept, delivered two rounds to the head, killing him — horrified the world. He was just 21 years old.
The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered A Black Panther is the account of attorney Jeff Haas’ fight to ensure justice for the families of Hampton and Mark Clark, killed in the police raid spun by authorities at the time as repelling a Panther attack. It is also a chilling chronicle of the depths authorities will sink to silence dissent and to cover it up.
Haas and three other lawyers set up the People’s Law Office in 1969, and he defended many social justice activists since then. The Hampton case, however, drove Haas. It dragged on for years, facing defeats along the way, until a settlement. The book is as much about the commitment of scores of people, who poured in their time and energies to see that justice was done, as it is the quest to hold the police officers and establishment involved accountable.
Subsequent investigations of Fred Hampton’s murder would reveal involvement by a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant and collaboration with local police that resulted in the organizer’s assassination. Few knew it at the time, but what occurred would be shown to be part of a sophisticated federal effort, labeled COINTELPRO, aimed at disrupting, demoralizing, dividing and exterminating Black activism primarily among social justice tendencies. It wasn’t until activists burglarized a Pennsylvania FBI office and released documents in 1971 that COINTELPRO was exposed. Operative William O’Neal, working through the bureau’s Racial Matters unit, provided key information just hours before the murder. His work, and the war the FBI waged on Black revolutionaries, figures prominently in the book.
Those familiar with writings that trace legal trajectories will find The Assassination of Fred Hampton cuts a familiar path, yet one that takes on a particular heft given the case. The final days of Hampton’s life is imparted, but it is the excruciating detail with which the murder is told that is where Haas’ legal background brings the story out. Culled from volumes of testimony, research, released documents and other sources, Haas compares what happened with conflicting police testimony and justifications. His writing presents a penetrating image of law enforcement bent on protecting its own, even if some recognized the fault in their actions. Indirectly, the book shows the determination of the Hampton and Clark families as well as the legal team to counter the coverup in court and in the community.
Though contemporary political movements in the United States have few comparisons quite like the Fred Hampton case in terms of severity today, Haas’ book is a primer on how a movement can challenge official misconduct through a diversity of efforts. The Assassination of Fred Hampton stands out, just as Hampton himself did all those years ago.
WHAT A BOOK!! I was motivated to read it before watching the recent film. I am glad I did.
I was transported to Chicago, where I grew up and lived until 1968. I felt every second of the courtroom drama involved in taking the murderers to trial - under very adverse conditions. The author, one of the lawyers representing the Black Panthers and Fred Hampton's family, wrote a combination memoir, history, and courtroom drama. (It CAN get a bit repetitive and tedious, but not to me)
It is not about the informant AT ALL! Doesn't center the "Judas" or his "ambivalence", his character, or motives. It does center the victims of the police raid on the Panthers, the Black Panther program, Hampton's leadership and the major political events of the time.
It's about the grueling 13 year legal battle for justice after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark's murders and the subsequent cover up. I was moved to tears several times. I am thankful to Dr. Greg Carr and Karen Hunter for bringing this book to my attention during one of their Saturday "classes" on YT. I'm glad Dr. Carr recommended it be read before watching the movie. I can understand why.
The story of Fred Hampton's execution is infinitely compelling, mandatory reading. This book becomes very bogged down in the legal wrangling for the civil case and the lives of his lawyers (and their dispute over fees) to such an extent that the reality is sometimes obscured; that a civil case is secondary compared to the criminal charges that should have been laid and the convictions that should have followed for shooting a drugged defenceless man in his bed and shooting others in his apartment. A northern lynching indeed. This is not to downplay the book and the achievements of those who fought for some sort of justice. Sometimes I just felt that the law obscured the story and the amazing people who occupy it.
Amazing story with a mediocre storyteller. Haas seems like he's always been down for the cause, but I felt he put too much of himself in this story and bogged it down with personal details about his love life among other things. I also wish there had been more time spent on Fred Hampton's life before he was murdered. Despite all that, this book provides a deeper understanding of who Fred Hampton was as well as how deeply rooted the corruption is in this country. I also left with a better sense of the legal system in general and the whole thing was pretty engaging and enraging.
Damn - I thought I knew the facts about the assassination of Fred Hampton but this was so much more! Highly recommend even if you know the basic facts of what happened; the court case is a riveting story.
This is the second book I’ve read by one of the lawyers of Chicago’s Peoples Law Office (PLO). The first was Torture Machine, by Flint Taylor, which chronicled the slow uncovering of torture Chicago police officers inflicted upon black and other POC detainees.
I very much admire the work done by PLO like I do the work done by the Innocence Project. Jeffrey Haas is a hero as is Flint Taylor. The exceptional Fred Hampton was a force, and when I try to imagine what he could have accomplished, I remember that’s why they killed him.
This book details the lengths the American justice system will go to protect itself in its murdering of black people. The frustration and anger felt by Haas and his colleagues as they are up against judges, police, state officials, and the FBI is palpable; the story is infuriating, and it’s part of our history that is still very much relevant today.
It continues to blow my mind to see how institutionalized racism in our criminal justice system operated, and continues to operate to this day. And it's bewildering at times to become aware of all that I was taught regarding the Black Panthers, Attica, and other incidents has been mostly lies concocted to protect white supremacy in American society.
I checked the box for biography, but the focus of this book is on Fred Hampton's murder and the subsequent cover-up. It's biographical to a degree, but really operates as an expose of the racist criminal justice system, not just in Chicago, but at the federal level as well. I really cannot understand how these racist pigs - and I don't just mean police, but prosecutors, judges, lawyers, everyone it seems in the criminal justice system - can sleep at night.
Absolutely speechless!!! I have read many books on the Black Panthers, and have admired Fred Hampton from the very first time I learned about him as a little girl in the 1980s. While I enjoyed reading this soon-to-be classic on my kindle, this is a must-have hardcopy book for my collection. Mr. Haas, I just have no words - in a good way. I have experienced every range of emotions possible...anger, sadness, worry, joy...my eyes are still watery. I just want to say thank you...
George Floyd's murder was just the latest reminder of the disproportionate use of state violence against black communities. The author takes us back half a century to the assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton, who died at the hands of local Chicago police doing the bidding of Hoover's FBI. The book offers a chilling portrait of the coordination between local, state, and federal law enforcement to silence black leaders.
Finally finished this book! Sad and heart wrenching look at how how the US government white washes Civil Rights icons and obscure their own role in ending the life of a very talented man. He is only 21 years old when he died. Imagine that! The author being a white Jewish lawyer also dropped a lot of revelations about the mindsets of white people back then. And most important, without the author's own efforts, we might not know the real truth of that fateful day.
An incredible amount of details about the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. As an attorney who worked on these cases for 13 years, Jeffrey Haas clearly narrates the collaboration between CPD and the FBI to carry out this operation. In addition to being a lawyer on these cases, Haas recounts memories with the Hampton family which help bolster his credibility for writing this book.
Some of my favorite sections come from Part I that include Fred Hampton’s biographical information, quotes, and speeches. While reading Hampton’s words, they produce inspiration and also pain because his life was cut short by the state.
Lastly, I appreciate Haas’ inclusion of John and Michael Soto’s story. Killed for organizing and wanting traffic lights in their neighborhood. By reading this, I am reminded about the length the state will go to quell dissent, the conditions leading up to the murder of Fred and Mark, how the killing of the Soto brothers would have affected Fred’s drive for revolution, and the people that that aren’t household names but deserve to be remembered.
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
“The Assassination of Fred Hampton” is a chilling book, not just in the way that author Jeffrey Haas painstakingly describes the depraved murder of Chairman Fred and Mark Clark, but how in retelling his team’s efforts to hold the white power structure accountable, the futility of it all becomes overwhelmingly clear. There can be no doubt after reading this book that Fred Hampton (and Mark Clark) were murdered in a wide-ranging government conspiracy. The FBI organized it using a Black snitch to furnish them with vital inside information, the State’s attorneys’ office facilitated it using the information provided to them by the FBI, and the Chicago Police Department carried it out. It was pure murder. The book excels at making this clear and plain. Haas also does a good job throughout the book weaving-in Hampton’s political works and ideology, along with the movement work of the People’s Law Office (PLO)—the law firm that Haas helped found that defended the radical movement and prosecuted Hampton’s case against the power structure. In this way, the book serves as both a mini biography of Hampton and the PLO, as well as a first-hand account of the struggle for justice and accountability for Hampton's assassination.
Throughout the book, Haas repeatedly restates Hampton’s famous line: “You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.” Haas makes clear that while Hampton and all those in his orbit firmly believed this when Hampton said it, time hasn’t proven Hampton correct. In fact, Haas notes that the ultra-repressive federal and state forces deliberately sought to kill the revolution by assassinating Hampton, and they were largely successful, as the Black Panther Party in Illinois became systematically undone following Hampton’s murder. Accordingly, there is a sadness in this book that is unmistakable, and it doesn’t just appear when discussing the personal impact that Hampton’s assassination had on his loved ones. Haas does a great job showing how losing Hampton was a devastating blow for the organized movement against fascism, white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism.
The majority of the book deals with the intense legal war that Haas and the PLO waged on behalf of Hampton’s family, the survivors of the raid, and Clark’s family. If nothing else is said after reading this book, it is apparent that the “justice” system is devoid of justice and completely incapable of holding the white power structure accountable for its depravity. In fact, as the Judge’s actions throughout the case made clear, the “justice” system is an integral part of that white supremacist power structure. Nevertheless, Haas’ account of his work on behalf of Fred Hampton is inspiring in that it captures feelings of revolutionary perseverance and solidarity, two things that are just as needed today as they were all those decades ago. Long live Chairman Fred Hampton, and All Power to the People!
"Fighting injustice and inequality is the struggle of our lives and perseverance in the struggle is what makes our lives valuable."
First of all, if court proceedings bore you, don't read this book. It's not about the murder, the conspiracy, or COINTEL PRO. It's about the civil suit against the Chicago police and the district attorney after they were cleared of criminal charges relating to the illegal raid and obviously intentional murder of Fred Hampton.
I gave this a 5 because I actually like court proceedings and was interested in learning the facts of the case, as opposed to the well known conspiracy surrounding the chairman's death-which was found to be true.
Now with that, I will say this book, or rather the information it presented, pissed me the fuck off! Finding out that the police were working on behalf of the FBI (as fucking puppets mind you), and that Fred Hampton's murder was lined up with the goals of COINTEL PRO, as all black people already fucking know and accepted as truth just based on the physical evidence at the Panther apartment after the raid, and the leaking of COINTEL PRO documents after that, did NOT give me any satisfaction. It made me very sad. It almost made me wish I didn't read this. It's so hurtful to think that not only was this young, charismatic, honorable leader and father to be murdered in cold blood by the police before he made it to see 22, but also his murder literally killed a movement! He was exactly what would have turned things on their heads for the status quo of white supremacy as well as capitalism in the perverted manor in which it is practiced, and THEY knew that when they killed him. That's why they fucking did it. His death caused a ripple that reversed a forward momentum of positive change, and we still haven't recovered. I doubt we will. What happened to him scared people. It made them back off from the fight for liberation and against police brutality. It's depressing.
But then, you read how the government had their hand in every step of preventing the people responsible for seeing justice. Even justice wasn't really fucking justice. The plaintiff's attorneys, representing the survivors and families of victims of the raid, won a bullshit Civil suit 12 years after the fact and the perpetrators didn't have to pay a dime of their own money, and got to continue with their shitty lives and careers.
The judge in the case against the Chicago Police and the DA crossed the line of impartiality NUMEROUS times, from allowing defendants to speak at a grand jury trial, to telling the jury that failure of the defendant's attorney to provide all discovery documents to the plaintiffs after being ordered to do so by the judge was an oversight and should not be held against the defendants. Then, when they produce thousands of pages of new documents to the plaintiffs, 5 months into the trial, the judge would not declare a mistrial and gave them a week to read through all the new material. And he did so many other blatant disgusting things.
The judge blocked the plaintiff's attorneys from asking certain questions he felt were irrelevant, then acknowledged that it was not up to him to determine what was relevant to their case while still blocking questions. He interpreted intent of the defendants to the jury, saying someone misspoke (lied) or something was an oversight (withholding evidence) and not to hold that against them. He let the defendants use certain arguments in their defense, and sustained all objections by the defense when the plaintiff used their own arguments against them. He held the plaintiff's attorneys in contempt and sent them to lock up on more than 1 occasion for demanding answers to relevant questions, but 1 witness for the defense refused to answer a question, and when the judge asked if he would continue to refuse even if he were to be held in contempt, he answered that he would continue to refuse, and the judge told the plaintiff to stop asking the question since he's refusing to answer. He did not hold the witness in contempt. The defense was allowed to blatantly lie on the stand. The judge sustained objections by the defense when the plaintiff's tried to bring the transcript of their deposition in as evidence of their lie. The judge gave instructions to the jury on how to come to their conclusion. If followed, the jury would find in favor of the defense. Then after all that, while the jury was deliberating, the judge dismissed the case due to lack of evidence and awarded damages to the defense. IN A FUCKING JURY TRIAL!
This is why when people say "just follow the law", I want to slap them. I'm so fucking disgusted!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I read a lot about civil rights and I grew up in the Chicago area with some liberal teachers, but until I read this book, I had no knowledge about Fred Hampton, a “black Messiah” young activist and leader of the Black Panthers who was murdered by Chicago police in collusion with the state and FBI. This book teaches about numerous under-taught historical events like the rise of the Black Panthers and the FBI’s COINTELPRO efforts to “neutralize” aka murder black civil rights leaders. It is jarring to be transported back to a time when to be a civil rights leader meant assassination was expected and reminds me of how much violence against black bodies goes unreported or covered up even today.
This book is written by one of the lawyers who represented Fred and the survivors of the police raid, and it exposes much of the egregious corruption in law enforcement and our courts. In this way, it is similar to Just Mercy but with an eye on northern big city, state, and federal institutions, reminding us that racial injustice is not isolated to the Deep South.
I googled a lot of legal terms and processes throughout this book. It’s not always an easy or fast paced read but one that is extremely important. Haas urges us to walk away with skepticism and accountability for institutions upholding corruption and oppression, but he offers optimism through the inspiration he draws from Fred and the movement. The sacrifices of the Panthers, the People’s Law Office and the many people they give credit to for supporting this fight over more than 13 years in court are an inspiration for a time with many long justice battles in front of us.
To my shame, I was only vaguely aware of The Black Panthers and their charismatic leader in Chicago, Fred Hampton, who was outrageously gunned down by Chicago police whilst he slept (possibly) drugged in a back room. This book is authored by one of the lead attorneys arguing that there was a plot by the FBI, in conjunction with local law enforcement to eliminate those they believed to be a threat to law and order. The Panthers obviously qualified under this sordid plot especially when you layer racism on top of it, Hoover's FBI obviously not above these sort of shenanigans.
This is essentially an account of the assassination (for which I think the case is proven), along with some details of Hampton's life and influence, followed by a lengthy and detailed account of the civil rights case held before outrageously biased and racist judge Perry. Since this is largely a first person account, it is light on detail of Fred's personality itself and I would have liked a little more depth on that even though the book is already 350 pages long.
There are a ton of enraging details here. It is clear that Fred Hampton's death was an extra-judicial killing at the hands of the police, in furtherance of a joint endeavor with the FBI. After which there was a disgraceful coverup, or attempted coverup, orchestrated by Edward Hanrahan, Illinois State Attorney. Hanrahan was ostensibly a Democrat but was clearly racist and a protector of the police who he believed could do no wrong. It is galling on the one hand he never paid a criminal penalty for his pernicious activities, but it is somewhat gratifying that the assassination torpedoed his political career and reputation. Stop me if this sounds familiar but this is a sorry tale of outrageous police brutality and murder, explained away by the police defending themselves from aggression, acting reasonably and in fear of their lives from a dangerous bunch of lawless thugs who just happen to be black. This is a story we hear to this day.
Fortunately, there were lawyers on had to fight for thirteen years for accountability. There is obviously no justice here because a civil suit can never bring back the lives that were lost or seriously damaged by that horrific raid where the police weapons account for over 99% of the shots fired in a pre-dawn assault. The first trial, subsequently and rightly overturned on appeal resulted in a hung jury despite the outrageous bias and summing up of the trial judge, who then decided the case himself by issuing his verdict for all the defendants and dismissing the suit.
This trial is the bulk of the narrative and is immensely frustrating to read. Of course, this is naturally a one sided account, coming as it does from one of the lawyers involved. However, I think the subsequent events prove the horrendous judgeship of that first trial as does his subsequent fate when his powers were reduced.
An excellent account, one that needs to be widely read (but probably won't be) as it has a great deal to teach us not only about the events of the late 60s to the 80s but the vile legacy of racism and civil rights abuse that persists to this day, especially with regards to police brutality and the institutional attempts to simply kill black people who are somehow deemed to be a threat to white society or otherwise "uppity". We have a long way to go.
To be honest I almost stopped reading the book a few chapters in. There was way too much about the author, about the author's life, about the author's experiences watching racism as a child, about the author's guilt in not doing anything about said racism, about the author's love life, about how attractive certain women in the law office were, and not enough in between all that about Fred Hampton, and way too quickly we were in December of 1969 and I had to look at the table of contents to see that 90% of the book was going to be about the aftermath of Hampton's assassination and the struggle to hold the government accountable, which, what I wanted was a book about Fred Hampton's life, but I didn't take the title literally and I should have.
However. The rest of this book is an insane rollercoaster and for anyone who thought the justice system worked even a little bit, even in this current year of 2022, you should read this book to see just how much it can be manipulated by the powers in this country, how much lying can happen with zero accountability, how utterly frustrating and demoralizing and harmful to one's health it can be try to work for justice. This is like a deranged John Grisham book of a trial except it's real. And I've seen some reviews be like why all the over-detailed explanations of every single minute of the trial but it's necessary to see how much power the justice system has to protect itself and government agents/police, and the insane lengths it will go to protect itself and its own. I thought I was mad when I read about Bobby Seale being bound and gagged in the courtroom but this book had me shaking and yelling out loud almost every other page.
With all the scrutiny on the Supreme Court right now, this is a good reminder that local elections, local district attorneys, low level federal judges, all of the cogs in the machine are super important and wield enormous amounts of power.
I just re-read the chapter in Black Against Empire about Hampton and Clark, which basically summarizes this book, and it has made me grateful for the conversational and personal tone of the author in this book, despite how annoying it was sometimes, because as he is going through all of the blatant bias, manipulation and straight-up attacking by the judge you can feel just how insane all of this was, how much everyone was happily lying and the incredibly egregious careless way they treated the very real human beings that were Fred and the rest of the Panthers (and the rest of Black Chicago in general). For this I think I needed an emotional first person account instead of a distanced historical account.
Haas outlines not only the execution of Fred Hampton, but also the work of the People’s Law Office to support movement clients. The coverup by the CPD and FBI was greater than I imagined, most notably the massive amount of documents withheld from discovery. I just read an article on Truthout discussing more records obtained via FOIA documenting an even more clear conspiracy all the way to Hoover. It is disgusting that our country engages in counterintelligence programs against our own citizens. And that our government has killed those trying to abolish oppression, Hampton had the makings of an electric national leader of the movement. I wonder what counterintelligence will be discovered from our current age and struggle for freedom... All People to the People! ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻 4.5/5