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The Murder of Fred Hampton

Hate crime race murder is such an embedded social pathology in US culture, not to mention the historical precedent of violence as entertainment, that it requires no introduction. The many Amadou Diallos in the procession of anonymous victims of racial profiling assassinations committed by police and vigilantes, speaks for itself.

But what was different about the murder of charismatic Chicago Panther Chairman Fred Hampton, was the determined killing of an idea as well. Namely, to extinguish the call to the oppressed everywhere in the US – workingclass and people of color – to rise up not simply against injustice, but in positive struggle for revolution and socialism.

In The Murder Of Fred Hampton, currently in re-release on DVD, director Mike Gray and the Chicago Film Group Collective chronicle the brief but extraordinary life of 21 year old Hampton, executed as he slept on December 4th, 1969, along with other Panthers during a brutal home invasion by a special unit of Chicago police tied to the State Attorney’s office. Despite an elaborate coverup by police insisting that that they fired 99 bullets and left Hampton’s brains splattered across his mattress in ‘self-defense,’ movement lawyers, as documented in this devastating film, proved otherwise. This people’s investigation challenging at the same time Nixon Administration repression and Cointelpro, resulted in the indictment of several Chicago police, the State Attorney for Northern Illinois, and his assistants.

The Murder Of Fred Hampton illuminates the magnetic fervor, militant eloquence, and sheer infectious ideological energy of ‘living high on the people,’ that Chairman Fred embodied, much like Malcolm. And it was that threat to the state and the status quo, a combination of political rage transcending fear and the passionate pursuit of broad popular unity against social and economic injustice, that invoked Hampton’s valiant iconic immortality and also abrupt victimhood. Rendering The Murder Of Fred Hampton a visual and oral blueprint of cautionary wisdom and mass inspiration.

PRAIRIE MILLER is a WBAI film critic, and host and executive producer of The WBAI Arts Magazine. She can be reached at: pmiller@wbai.org.