How the FBI Conspired to Destroy the Black Panther Party

By | December 4, 2013

On Dec. 4, it will have been 44 years since a select unit of 14 Chicago police officers, under the direction of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, executed a predawn raid on a West Side apartment that left Illinois Black Panther Party (BPP) leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead, several other young Panthers wounded and seven raid survivors arrested on bogus attempted murder charges. Though Hanrahan and his men claimed there had been a shootout that morning, physical evidence eventually proved that in reality, the Panthers had only fired a single shot in response to approximately 90 from the police.

In the wake of the raid, Illinois BPP Minister of Defense Bobby Rush stood on the steps of the bullet-riddled BPP apartment and declared that J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were responsible for the raid. At the time, Rush had no hard proof to back up his claims. Over the course of the next eight years, however, activists and lawyers, myself included, would eventually discover the truth: The FBI had, in fact, played a central role in the assassinations, and Hanrahan’s initial lies were only the top layer of what proved to be a massive cover-up.

The first evidence to support Rush’s allegation surfaced in March 1971, when a group of anonymous activists who called themselves the “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pa. to expropriate more than 1,000 documents. In doing so, the Commission exposed the FBI’s “COINTELPRO” program, a secret counterintelligence program created to, as the L.A. Times put it in 2006, “investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States.“ According to the Commission’s purloined documents, Hoover had directed all of the Bureau’s offices to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” African-American organizations and leaders, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Nation of Islam, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. (In These Times)

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