Wednesday, December 4, 2013


On this day, Dec. 4th, in 1969, Fred Hampton, the young Black Panther leader in Chicago, who I loved and admired, was shot to death by the police while he was sleeping in his bed with so many bullets it made the ending of Bonnie and Clyde look like a picnic.

Originally claiming they were only returning fire, it was immediately clear by the evidence that the only shots fired had been from the police, though of course they tried to cover it up.

I wanted to type up a poem I wrote on the day it happened, but it was only published in one of my smaller books (Stupid Rabbits I think), the only copy of which is in my archives at the NYU library and I don't have easy access to it at the moment.

So let me just say, it was one of the most egregious displays of the misuse of the police and the FBI ever in this country. But also a perfect example of what happens when the police—local, state and national—are used for political ends rather than for what they are meant for, to protect and serve.

This wasn't like more recent murders of young black men by police, where the police were simply too frightened and ill-trained and dumb to recognize the mistake they were making. This was a planned assassination.

Hampton did nothing but help people. He was a really sweet cat, and young. Only 21. I met him when he was 19, and he was just an intelligent, caring and gentle soul in my experience. He remains one of the unforgettable martyrs for peace and justice, an icon of my 1960s, and a reminder that no matter what, we have to stay alert to injustice and fight it as much as we are able.


JenW said...

A wicked act. It's so true as you say to continue to fight injustice. You sure have crossed paths with those of noble character.

Lally said...

For which I'm extremely grateful Jen.

tpw said...

I can't believe you didn't hold on to a copy of Stupid Rabbits. I'll scan the poem & send it to you.

Lally said...

I gave one copy to the archives and kept the only other one I had but loaned it to someone!