Defending Rights & Dissent Joins Members of Congress, Civil Society Groups, and Distinguished Historians, in Demanding Release of Fred Hampton Files

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Members of Congress, civil society groups, and historians and other scholars all called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to release the remaining files on the FBI’s role in the assassination of Fred Hampton. Hampton, the charismatic young leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party, was killed in his sleep when Chicago police raided the apartment he was in firing ninety times.  The raid was part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO. In spite of Congressional investigations and one of the longest civil suits in our nation’s history, we still don’t have the full story. But we did recently learn that J. Edgar Hoover may have played a previously undisclosed role.

It was during a Defending Rights & Dissent event that Fred Hampton attorneys Flint Taylor and Jeff Hass announced that Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) would ask the Attorney General to release the remaining information.

Rep. Bobby Rush was joined by a number of members of Congress, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), in sending a letter to Garland requesting he release all remaining information. To support and strengthen the Congressional request, Defending Rights Dissent initiated two other letters, one from civil society groups working on civil liberties, racial justice, and government transparency, and another from historians, scholars, journalists, and other researchers whose work has touched on FBI abuse of power and/or US social movements.

“From the very moment he was killed, authorities ranging the gambit of the Illinois State’s Attorney to the FBI, all worked to conceal what truly happened. The FBI has a pernicious history of targeting those working for social justice as an internal enemy. The killing of Black Panther Fred Hampton remains one of the darkest chapters in an already very grim history of the FBI’s war on dissent. It’s unacceptable that we do not yet know the full truth,” said Chip Gibbons, Policy Director at Defending Rights & Dissent.

Groups joining the civil society letter include the Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, Media Justice, and the Project On Government Oversight. Over 200 historians, scholars, journalists, and researchers signed the other letter, including Aaron Leonard, Betty Medsger, Daniel S. Chard, Douglas M. Charles, Ellen Schrecker, and Johanna Hamilton.  

Read the civil society letter here. Read the historians letter here