A Democratic lawmaker introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the government to release records from its Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) on the Black Panthers and Fred Hampton.
The bill, introduced by Bobby Rush (Ill.) would require the government to release COINTELPRO’s files within six months of enactment. Additionally, the bill would remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In a statement, Rush said it’s time we find out what happened, how the government viewed Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black celebrities and politicians and close this chapter of history.
“I want to shine a bright light on this dark chapter of our nation’s history,” Rep. Rush said in a statement introducing his proposal. “And I think it is very timely and very important that we do it at this moment.”
According to CNN, Rush and Fred Hampton, who was the chairman for the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers were close friends. Hampton created the first Rainbow Coalition before being killed by Chicago police in a morning raid on Dec. 4, 1969.
“As a victim of COINTELPRO, I want to know, with honesty, with clarity, and with no redactions, the full extent of the FBI’s nefarious operations,” Rush added in his statement. “I want to know the breadth and depth of the conspiracy to assassinate Fred Hampton and how taxpayer dollars were spent on his assassination. I want to know why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a focus of the FBI, why Billie Holiday was a focus of the FBI – I want to know why so many young activists were harassed by the FBI. What was the justification for the impact that it had on their lives?”
Hampton was just 21 at the time of this death and no one has been arrested or charged for his death or the death of Hampton’s friend and associate Mark Clark. Members of the Black Panthers have maintained that members of the Chicago Police killed the men after serving a warrant for illegal weapons.
Seven Panthers were charged with attempted murder but the charges were dropped. The situation wasn’t resolved until 1982 when the City of Chicago, Cook County and the federal government reached a settlement with Hampton and Clark’s families.
G. Flint Taylor, an attorney for the plaintiffs, who spent years working on the case, told The New York Times after the settlement, the incident will forever be a reminder of how far the government will go to suppress someone.
”The settlement is an admission of the conspiracy that existed between the F.B.I. and Hanrahan’s men to murder Fred Hampton,” Taylor said. ”The case may be almost over in the legal sense but it will live on as a reminder to people of how far the Government can and will go to suppress those whose philosophies it does not like.”