CHICAGO Chicago police officers were on hand as a huge street fight spilled into City Hall Wednesday afternoon. Protesters filled the halls outside council chambers to demand a street be named after a former leader of the Black Panthers.
The Fraternal Order of Police opposes the proposal to name a section of West Monroe Street after Fred Hampton, citing Hampton’s threats to officers back in the 1960s. But those in support of the sign say Hampton fought for the rights of African Americans.
Members of the Illinois Black Panther party Wednesday posted their own street sign with Hampton’s name.
“No street? No peace!” protesters chanted.
The sign is only symbolic, but the fight to rename this street on the city’s West Side is very real.
The son of slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton on Wednesday accused Mayor Daley of being the heavy hand behind a rarely used parliamentary maneuver aimed at circumventing a Chicago City Council vote to rename a stretch of West Monroe Street “Chairman Fred Hampton Way.”
Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen decided last week not to call the designation for a vote in the full council, even though it has already passed his committee.
Fred Hampton Jr. accused Daley of pulling strings. “We are here to further expose whether we are dealing with a democracy or a Daley dictatorship,” Hampton said at City Hall. “It’s bigger than a street sign. They do not want to talk about Chairman Fred and the assassination that Daley Sr., under his tenure, this went down.
“It was an act of terrorism -- the most brutal act of terrorism ever to occur on U.S. soil. On Dec. 4, 1969, this government, under the tenure of this mayor’s daddy, blew my daddy’s brains out when he was 21 years old -- assassinated him. We have not forgotten. We don’t want our children to forget.”
Earlier this week, Allen defended his decision, citing the political furor that the proposal has caused amid vehement opposition from police officers.
“The mood and sentiment of 50 aldermen is very important in my eyes,” the alderman said then. “There are times when the legislation we decide to consider and pass is very routine and very unanimous, and there are other times when colleagues — and the word is plural, not singular — together have questions and disagreements. There is no double-standard. This is not Tom Allen holding up anything. There are 50 aldermen.”
Daley commented on the issue at a Wednesday press conference.
“These signs are a waste of time and money. I have said that. And people should give money to a park, give money to a school. That's what it should be for,” Daley said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), a former Panther and friend of the late Hampton, held a City Hall news conference to launch a petition drive aimed at pressuring aldermen to approve the designation. Rush was shouted down by a megaphone-carrying activist who refused to give his name. The man accused Rush of pirating an issue that wasn’t his to begin with.
“I think a petition drive will alert the City Council,” Rush said.
Hampton Jr. then stepped to the microphone to say he would not stop at a street designation. He’s demanding a federal investigation into his father’s death. “Just like they had Sept. 11 Commission hearings, we need Dec. 4  commission hearings,” Hampton said. “That street sign is a symbol. They know it. That’s why they’re fighting this tooth and nail.”