Examiner.com Nov. 24, 2010 by Michael Richardson
Northeastern Law School in Boston was the scene last week of a standing
room-only seminar, “The FBI and the Murder of a Black Panther: From
COINTELPRO to post 9/11 Repression” featuring People’s Law Office founder
Hass, a veteran civil rights attorney, discussed his book The
Assassination of Fred Hampton at the seminar sponsored by the
Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the state chapter of
the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Police Accountability
Project and Northeastern’s Black Law Student Association.
A panel moderated by Michael Avery, law professor at Suffolk Law School
and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, included Superior Court
Judge Geraldine Hines. Other panelists were Harvard Law School professor
Soffiyah Elijah, deputy chair of Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute and
King Downing of the National Police Accountability Project and the Human
Rights Racial Justice Center in New York.
Avery introduced Jeff Hass calling him one of the best lawyers in the
Haas discussed his youthful desire to represent “the movement” and said
the Chicago police in the 60’s and 70’s provided plenty of work. Haas
explained that his client Fred Hampton was head of the Chicago Black
Panthers and was targeted by a special police unit under the county
prosecutor. The elite team became a killing machine in December 1969 when
Hampton and Mark Clark, another Panther leader, were shot in a firestorm
The death squad was encouraged and supported by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation who had targeted Hampton under the illegal and clandestine
Operation COINTELPRO. The secret war on American political activists was
directed by J. Edgar Hoover who commanded the federal police agency.
Although no one was ever charged for the homicide of Hampton and Clark,
Haas was able to obtain a federal civil rights decision against the
raiders and some measure of justice was achieved.
Superior Court Judge Geraldine Hines said that for her, lawyering was a
passion for justice that cannot be taught and must come from the heart.
Judge Hines warned law students crowded into the lecture hall to avoid
“sleazy” tactics like the type Haas encountered in his long legal battle
for the Black Panthers.
Judge Hines expressed concern about the Patriot Act and that events in the
wake of terrorism might cause a resurgence of COINTELPRO tactics against
the American public.
Professor Soffiyah Elijah from Harvard Law School described the FBI under
COINTELPRO as “government out of control” and said the FBI had become a
threat to the country under the COINTELPRO mandate. Professor Elijah
ridiculed the prosecution of the San Francisco 8 and quipped the
government might have to start raiding senior citizen centers to keep
making cases against Panthers.
King Downing of the National Police Accountability Project explained he
was an activist before he became a lawyer and that his law degree allowed
him to advance his activism. Downing launched into a whirlwind of
information, names, and connections drawing comparisons with the 60’s to
the present time. Downing’s view is that the COINTELPRO culture within
the FBI continued on past the official end of the secret program in 1971
and can be seen in current repression against activists.
Following the formal program, Hass briefed Professor Avery on the Omaha
Two, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) who are
imprisoned in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for the 1970 murder of an
Omaha policeman. The pair were convicted after a COINTELPRO-influenced
trial where Hoover had ordered the withholding of exculpatory evidence to
obtain convictions against the two leaders of Omaha’s Black Panther
chapter. Haas said the Omaha Two appeared to be innocent men wrongfully