Ward Churchill and Fred Hampton, Jr. decry spying on activists

06/25/10 Kelly Benjamin & Seán Kinane
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The US Social Forum has attracted thousands of activists from all over the country to Detroit this week to discuss myriad ways of building a broad progressive movement for social change in the face of economic and ecological crisis.

One well-attended workshop focused on US Government infiltration and sabotage of progressive and radical movements throughout history.

WMNF’s Kelly Benjamin is in Detroit and spoke with Ward Churchill, a controversial author, activist and former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado.

"This government's infiltrating progressive movements both to monitor what they're doing, find out what their agendas are, and consequent devices of means of keeping them within boundaries that are acceptable to U.S. government, in terms of activities or even objectives. In cases where that's not possible; where there's independently minded, motivated people to disrupt their activity or to divert them in the activities that are essentially counter-productive, that are set up sorts of activities. Basically the sorts of operations the U.S. has gone into with regard to progressive movements since day one. It's not new information."

"Why do you think this issue hasn't gained more recognition nationally?"

"Well I mean Andy Warhol once put it that everyone would be famous for about fifteen minutes and there was another piece to that that doesn't get repeated too much. That's because the attention span of the American public is about fifteen minutes long and that includes progressives. They're always reinventing the wheel like, it's all new and different. Consequently, not learning from history, you doom yourself to a repetition of it to paraphrase."

The major focus of discussion on infiltration was COINTELPRO, a covert, often illegal campaign by the FBI to disrupt dissident political organizations throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. One such group was the Black Panther Party, a black revolutionary organization that was described by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in 1968 as the greatest threat to the internal security of the country. COINTELPRO succeeded in neutralizing several key Black Panther organizers in the 1960s, including Chairman Fred Hampton, who was killed in a raid in Chicago in 1969.

Kelly Benjamin spoke with Hampton’s son, Fred Hampton Jr. on whether COINTELPRO is still active in the United States.

"COINTELPRO is still happening, in fact it's more intense, it's more Machiavellian. First of all, be very clear that all police don't wear uniform. The FBI comes, they're not just in suits and ties and mirrored sunglasses. They've got agent provocateurs, informants, so I want to be very clear and acknowledge that, agents are all around. So what chairman Fred also said was, 'Man you know they watching us, You know they got license plates because they want us in jail or the graveyard?' But we spend less time worrying about that and less time working for the people. Let's be very clear, our best security is the people. That's our security blanket. We put out word to the world, if anything's happened to us, the counterinsurgency one way or another is involved. Our people say, 'Well the thing with Biggie Smalls or Tupac...' Well I say, listen, first of all whenever you say the FBI acknowledges that you're under FBI surveillance, anything that happens to you, they either sanction or they know about it, one or the other. By they own documents that say these people are under FBI surveillance. When you read reports where they say they've taken a certain amount of FBI agents out of Russia at the end of a cold war, and they say they've dropped them inside the United States, you're gonna start questioning, 'Where they at?'"

Benjamin also spoke to Naji Mujahid, a reporter with Free Speech Radio News and the DC Radio Co-op, who explains that neutralizing perceived threats to the status quo in the United States is part of how power is maintained.

"Objectively, any government has an interest; any establishment has an interest in keeping itself the way it is. So, if something that is countering that arises, they go squash it out. Like a body, if something that doesn't belong in the body is in the body, the immune system kicks into gear and it takes out the threat. No questions asked. This society that we live in will offer all it's flowery talk of being a democratic society An equal this and fair that. That clearly isn't the case because whenever movements arise, they're attacked. It's happening now, as was mentioned in the workshop, it happened in the sixties; it happened during the Progressive era in the twenties; the labor movements; before that it was the abolition of slavery; they were attacked. So, objectively, that's the nature of the struggle. That's the nature of those contradictions. But you know as we have seen, as been documented they would frequently go outside of their own laws to do such."

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