Michael Ratner: Sartre, Existentialism and Marxism on the Question of Terror: Talking with Sartre
We are pleased to have with us author and National Lawyers Guild attorney Jeff Haas. His new book The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, is a page-turning true crime story chronicling the tragic murder of Fred Hampton, the young leader of the Chicago Black Panthers. On a dark December day, Chicago police unloaded 80 rounds into Fred Hampton’s bedroom, leaving his pregnant fiancee Deborah Johnson in shock having barely survived. The killing horrified the black community in Chicago. As Haas describes, it took 13 years of grueling litigation from the attorneys at the People’s Law Office collective to finally convict the FBI, the Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, and the Chicago police for their summary execution Fred Hampton. He was only 21. Today, 40 years later, the People’s Law Office still active in suing and challenging the Chicago police for torturing and extracting false confessions from over 100 black men in a South Side police station.
- Fred Hampton started in high school, he led a walkout because black girls weren’t considered for Homecoming Queen. He took on the issue of not having enough black teachers and black administrators. Wherever he saw injustice, he felt compelled to deal with it. At ten years old, he started his own breakfast for children program.
- He came from a warm family, in Louisiana, on farms where his grandparents had been slaves.
- I came from Atlanta, GA, a middle class Jewish family. I grew up as many were somewhat raised by blacks, there was a black man who worked at our farm who I idolized. He taught me how to plow with a mule, drive a tractor, things most kids don’t know how to do.
- At school in Chicago, my classmates consisted of John Ashcroft and Bernadine Dorhn. Ashcroft didn’t have much to say in those days. I was with Dr. King, when he marched in Chicago, the anti-war movement was at a peak, the Black Power movement was strong. There had been riots in the cities.
- Kennedy and King had been assassinated in 1968. It seem like things were headed for the falls, or the rapids.
- I met Fred Hampton because I was in Chicago. He was then head of the NAACP youth branch. A dynamic speaker. Fred could talk to welfare mothers, he could talk to law students, he could talk to gang kids.
- He said basically, if you’re not going to do any revolutionary act by the time you’re 20, you’re dead already.
- The Chicago Panthers grew quickly from Nov. 1968, when they started, until his death in 1969.
- Forty years ago, my partner knocked on my door. I opened it and he said “the chairman is dead, the pigs vamped on his crib this morning.”
- It took me, how the police had killed him. I went and interviewed his fiancee. She told me they entered a room where Fred was semi-conscious.
- First we and with a lot of support from the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a civil suit to find out what happened.
- Quickly we found out that the police raid was a shoot in, not a shoot-out. Ninety police shots to 1 shot from the Panthers. We also found out 3 years into the investigation that the FBI had provided a floor plan to the raiders, that showed the bed where Fred would be sleeping.
- And that bed was where the shots converged, so we pursued discovery.
- We found out that the FBI sent a letter to head of the Blackstone Rangers, a year before Fred was killed saying, dear brother, Fred has put a hit out on you. The FBI wanted someone else to do their dirty work.
- The FBI worked on creating conflict between the 2 groups. One of the objectives of the COINTELPRO program was to prevent the rise of a “messiah” who could unify and electrify the masses.
- Fred Hampton had a slogan, you can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.
- You can still kill a freedom fighter, but you can’t kill freedom fighting. I think losing a black leader like Fred Hampton does set back the people’s struggle. His spirit, the non-compromising pursuit of justice lives on also.
Guest – Jeffrey Haas is an attorney and cofounder of the People’s Law Office, whose clients included the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, community activists, and a large number of those opposed to the Vietnam War. He has handled cases involving prisoners’ rights, Puerto Rican nationalists, protesters opposed to human rights violations in Central America, police torture, and the wrongfully accused.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the community group ACORN. ACORN was recently barred funding by a Congressional Resolution. The lawsuit charges that Congress unfairly targeting the organization and is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the government from reallocation funds meant for ACORN. The Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Bill Quigley says it’s an outrage to see Congress violating the Constitution and politically grandstanding. Bill continues: “With all the crimes and infractions committed by banks, pharmaceutical companies, and private government contractors, they have been rewarded with bailouts, tax credits, and billions of dollars in new contracts. Congress bowed to FOX News and joined in the scapegoating of an organization that helps average Americans going through hard times to get homes, pay their taxes, and vote. Shame on them.”
- ACORN is an association of community organizations that has about 500,000 members across the United States. They’ve been in existence for some 35 years. They do voter registration, housing foreclosure work, issue organizing.
- In the last five years or so, they’ve registered nearly 2 million to vote. So, they’ve been the target of the right wing for some time. They do very aggressive outreach to get folks who haven’t been registered.
- Regarding sex scandal: The people in those offices, they’re low paid workers, but their goal is to help first time home buyers. So, these tricksters, they were into prostitution, the truth is the people at ACORN would try to help you whether you were a prostitute or not.
- ACORN tried to give advice and some of the people went too far concealing the nature of their work.
- Apart from the politics of punishing people for registering folks to vote, there is a specific part in the US Constitution that’s been in there since the beginning that prohibits what’s called a Bill of Attainder
- Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3 provides that: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed.”
- We’re familiar with what happened in England, in Parliament, people in parliament would get all fired up about something and they would just have a specific bill naming a person or organization, and they were outlawed, they could receive the benefits of being a citizen. So the Congress outlawed that.
- So, what they did here, is without any hearings before Congress, without any investigation whatsoever, just based on the rumors and the FOX News sort of stuff. They said that ACORN and any of subsidiaries, or even allies, couldn’t receive any federal funds.
- A one sentence prohibition. It impacts millions of dollars of funds, not going to big salaries.
- It effects ACORN Housing organizations around the country. A lot of the housing works stopped.
- ACORN people have come to us and say we’ve been to law firms around this country but no one can help us now, because we are so stigmatized.
- The framers of the constitution didn’t want Congress to be the prosecutor, judge jury and executioner. We have a way to do this.
- If there’s more to this than just the rumor mongering that’s been done, then there are ways to do it. HUD, Department of Justice, IRS, can say, we suspect you’re misusing the funds and set up a hearing.
- The right-wingers didn’t want to go this way, they did an end run and we’re hoping that the courts are going to set that aside.
Guest – CCR Legal Directory Bill Quigley. Bill has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977 and worked with a wide range of public interest organizations on an equally wide range of issues. He has litigated numerous cases with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the Advancement Project, and with the ACLU of Louisiana, for which he served as General Counsel for over 15 years.
Film Professor Sues University for Violating Right to Academic Free Speech
In the fall of 2007, Dr. Terri Ginsberg was hired to teach a film class at the North Carolina State University focusing on the media treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2008. She was also hired to help program a Middle Eastern film series. As Terri details in a grievance, the director of the film studies program and the director of the Middle East studies program made a series of decisions that violated her academic freedom. Among the decisions was the limiting of Terri’s involvement in the series that she had initially been hired to curate. Another was the criticism of an introduction she gave at the screening of the Palestinian film “Ticket to Jerusalem” as biased and overly political.
The grievance filed alleged violations of her First Amendment and equal opportunity rights under the University Code. Her grievance was dismissed on the grounds that it was filed too late and that she was no longer a university employee. Terri has now filed a lawsuit, one mention in the complaint states that in the views of several faculty, Jews who question and challenge the Zionist colonial project are non-conforming Jews and therefore are outsiders and dangerous.
Terri Ginsburg / Attorney Rima Kapitan
- I was given strong indication the teaching professorship would convert into a permanent tenure track position.
- That I should apply for it and that I was a shoe in for that position. So I moved down from New York City, where I lived for many years, to Raleigh, NC. Not long after I got there, a number of incidents occurred that led me to believe the conversion was not going to take place.
- Key people in the faculty were very unhappy with my perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on Zionism. I am a Jewish anti-Zionist, and I wanted to supply a genuinely balanced perspective on the issue of Zionism and the history as it has been depicted in cinema
- I showed Israeli films, I showed Palestinian films, I showed the array of cinema on this topic.
- This is a large campus upwards to 40,000 students.
- I was asked to resign from a Middle Eastern series after I gave an introduction to a film that was pro-Palestinian.
- Attorney Rima Kapitan: Right now we’re alleging they violated her North Carolina Constitutional Rights. They breached her right to academic freedom and equal protection under the law.
- Terri covered every path in North Carolina, the only thing left is a constitutional claim in North Carolina.
- Under the equal protection claim, we’re saying Terri was treated differently because of her religion.
- Terri: The atmosphere is increasingly worse not only for Jews but anyone who speaks out on this issue, especially for non-tenured and temporary labor.
- I had minimal support from the AAUP, they failed until we put out a petition that received over 500 signatures.
- Most faculty on campus were afraid to communicate with me, over email, over telephone.
- I think the Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the core issues facing the United States.
- Film is a small field and gossip travels fast. I’m unemployed. When I did my research on the Holocaust, I couldn’t ignore the structural relationship between the holocaust and the Nakba.
Guest- Dr. Terri Ginsberg has a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from New York University and previously taught in the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College and the Cinema Studies Program at Rutgers University.
Guest – Attorney Rima Kapitan, staff attorney at CAIR-Chicago. She is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and Indiana University and a partner with Amal Law Group, LLC, a general practice law firm. Her main areas of interest and specialization are plaintiff-side employment discrimination, civil rights law, workers compensation and estate planning. She is active in the National Lawyers Guild Middle East Committee.