Chicago cops fight Black Panther street naming

Fran Spielman, The Chicago Sun-Times

Copyright 2006 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
All Rights Reserved 

Fred Hampton -- slain state chairman of the Black Panthers party that urged followers to "off the pigs" -- would join the parade of Chicagoans afforded honorary street designations, under an ordinance advanced Monday that outraged the police union.

Hampton and fellow Panther leader Mark Clark were gunned down by Chicago Police officers working under Cook County State's Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan in an infamous December 1969 raid at Hampton's apartment that ultimately cost Hanrahan his job.

But it was the violence that Hampton and the Panthers advocated against police officers that stuck in the craw of Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue.

Donahue was incredulous when informed that the City Council's Transportation Committee had voted without debate to rename Monroe Street -- from Western to Oakley -- as "Chairman Fred Hampton Way." The ordinance was sponsored by Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd).


"You've got to be kidding me. I can't believe they would do that," Donahue said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

"It's a dark day when we honor someone who would advocate killing policemen and who took great advantage of the communities he claimed to have been serving. We have real, everyday heroes within the department who would be better honored than someone of the stature of Fred Hampton."

Haithcock said she proposed the honorary designation for the street that runs in front of Hampton's former South Side home at the request of Fred Hampton Jr., son of the Panther leader.

"I'm not going on the negative. I'm only going on the good things they did for the community. The Black Panthers were the first ones to start breakfast programs in the schools," she said.

"I don't think their purpose was to go out and destroy police officers. Their purpose was housing, education, clothing and justice. They fought racism and discrimination. That's the part I was going on. Only the good things."

Told that the police group was furious about the designation, Haithcock initially defended it. "There's a lot of negative things that a lot of people have done. We're doing negative things right now in Iraq."


Pressed further, Haithcock said she would gauge reaction to the designation before putting up the sign proclaiming "Chairman Fred Hampton Way."

"It's only one block -- and it's not even a long block. But I don't want to cause dissension among our police officers. If that's going to cause dissension with all of the negative things the Black Panthers did, then I won't put up the sign," she said.

Honorary street designations are a Chicago tradition and a way for aldermen to curry favor with clout-heavy constituents. But it's a perk that's been mired in controversy over the years.

In April, 2000, female aldermen and women's groups managed to defeat in committee an honorary street sign for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, whom they called the "world's biggest pornographer," only to have Ald. Burton F. Natarus (42nd) use a parliamentary maneuver to ram it through the next day. 

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