Exactly 49 years ago, Black Panthers Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22, were shot to death by Chicago police.
At around 5 a.m. on December 4, 1969, 14 police officers raided Hampton’s apartment, which was a known Illinois Black Panther Party stronghold in Chicago’s West Side, according to theChicago Tribune. The gunfire lasted seven minutes, and Hampton and Clark were shot dead while sleeping.
“Never forget that 49 years ago today the FBI & Chicago Police Dept conspired to murder Fred Hampton in his apartment because they were afraid he was creating a multiracial political coalition to challenge those in power,” Clint Smith wrote on Twitter today. “He was just 21 years old.”
At the time, authorities claimed that the Black Panthers opened fire on the police while they were serving a search warrant for weapons and have maintained that they were justified in the return fire, the Tribune reported. But evidence from the night, activists argue, showed that the FBI, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department worked together to assassinate Hampton.
In the months that followed, a federal investigation showed that only one shot was fired by the Panthers. Police, on the other hand, fired 82 to 99 shots. Cook County State Attorney Edward Hanrahan was indicted for the raid but was cleared along with 13 other law enforcement agents, according to the Tribune.
The incident worsened an already contentious relationship between the Panthers and police, resulting in eight gun battles nationally within the following two years, which left three cops and five more Panthers dead.