Long live Carl Hampton!

 

HOUSTON – On Saturday July 24 2010, about 200 people gathered at Emancipation Park in Houston’s 3rd Ward to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of People’s Party II Chairman, 21-year-old Carl B. Hampton.

Chairman Carl was gunned down by a Houston Police Department sniper from the tower of St John’s Baptist Church on July 26 1970. Carl’s murder was the culmination of a confrontation, ostensibly for selling the Black Panther newspaper in front of Party Headquarters.

In 1970, Houston’s Police Department was under the leadership of staunch anti-African police chief, Herman Short. Short had gone so far, at one point, as to attempt to ban all demonstrations and marches in the city. Shorts’ banning attempt came as an effort to block demonstrations and marches that were being led by People’s Party II around the murder of a young African man, Bobby Joe Conner, whom Houston cops had beaten to death, and left his friend, Larry Taylor, to spend months in a hospital in critical condition due to the beatings.
 
The Party’s handling of the case of Bobby Joe Conner was the first time since the 1917 rebellion when armed black soldiers attacked the Houston Police Department in defense of an African woman that the Houston Police and the power structure had met organized black resistance. In that rebellion, on the night of August 23, 1917, 16 white people, cops and civilians, who were defending the police station, were killed. The black soldiers only suffered four dead. But after subsequent trials, 19 Africans were hanged and 42 others received life sentences.

People’s Party II served as Honor Guard and Pall Bearers at Bobby Joe’s funeral, and began holding mass rallies demanding justice and that the people “arm yourself or harm yourself.” This was an untenable situation as far as the FBI and the Houston Police Department were concerned.

The police campaign to harass young militants on the streets selling The Black Panther had already begin, but intensified during the Bobby Joe Conner protest.

It was Carl’s intervention between white cops in front of Party Headquarters on Dowling Street and Panthers selling the paper that set up the assassination. Chairman Carl had pulled up to the Headquarters and saw that the police were confronting two brothers who were on the streets selling the Black Panther. Carl approached the situation with a shoulder holstered .45 caliber pistol in plain view and proceeded to question the police on why they had stopped the brothers.

At that point, the police asked Carl what was he doing with that gun. Carl explained the legality of his weapon, but the cop was not to hear it and attempted to draw his gun. As the cop pulled his gun, Carl pulled his too, resulting in a stand-off until other armed comrades came out of the building and backed Carl inside. By this time, the cops were coming from everywhere. But they were late. Hundreds of people in the community had surrounded the office, many of them armed, and defied the police entry. This tense situation went on for the next ten days.

Then, immediately following a rally at Emancipation Park directly across the street from the Party Headquarters, Carl was lured across the street when told that armed white men were atop St John’s Baptist Church, a three story structure about a block away. As he stood on the corner of Dowling and Tuam rifle shots rang out and Carl slumped to the ground.

The black preacher had allowed access to his church and a reporter, who had interviewed Carl the day before, was also at the top the building to identify him as he stepped into the street. As the rifle fire continued to rain down, a sister by the name of Sophia Powell braved the gun fire, drug Carl to her vehicle, drove him to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He had fought a good fight. Gave all he had.

The Houston Panther Movement took on the name of People’s Party II at a time that to use the name Black Panther Party was guaranteed an immediate armed police assault by local and federal police. Attacks were made to the extent that the leadership of the Party had put a freeze on accreditation of new chapters.

But the major factor in the freeze on new chapters was the anarchistic way in which organizations, calling themselves the Black Panther Party, were popping up all over the country that were not ideologically consistent with Party philosophy. In addition, these organizations were not bound to Party discipline or authority. Adventurous actions against the police, and other actions detrimental to the Party’s character, were all attributed to the Party. In fact, it wasn’t until 1972 that the Black Panther Party called its first ideological consolidation conference.

And it wasn’t until a year following Carl’s assassination that People’s Party II was officially brought into the Party, under the Oakland leadership. Comrade James Aaron, second in command of People’s Party II at Carl’s assassination, and who later became Houston Party Chairman, in declaring People’s Party II an official chapter of the Black Panther Party, said in talking about Carl, “The brother gave his life so that all could have a place to stay and clothes on their backs and good food to eat. The very issues that Carl struggled around and gave his life for still need addressing. Carl is a legacy of that struggle.” In 1974, the Houston Chapter of the Black Panther was called to Oakland, California to work there, which effectively ended its Houston’s presence.

Carl’s assassination, just like the assassination of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton in Chicago on December 4 1969, some seven months earlier, were the work of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO or Counter-intelligence programs designed to murder the leader of black nationalist organizations, especially the Black Panther Party, which had been designated the greatest internal threat to the security of the United States since the U.S. Civil War.
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The Emancipation Park event was among six events scheduled for commemoration activities, and had Kathleen Cleaver as its keynote speaker. In addition, cultural workers performed on the drums, did dance and song, which made for a good day out in the park.

New Uhuru Movement forces got their first chance and selling The Burning Spear and handling a table with African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) literature, tapes and posters. The new comrades did quite well on getting their feet wet selling the Spear. As Chairman Omali explained at the 5th Congress of the APSP, “selling the Spear is contagious” as the comrades asked if we were going out tomorrow and sell some more.
   
As Carl and Fred Hampton would pronounce, “You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the Revolution!” Long Live Chairman’s Carl and Fred! Long Live the Spirit of the Panther!

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