Fred Hampton — ABC News interview (unedited) 1969

Six months before his death, activist Fred Hampton had an interview with ABC News. Hampton called out the fascist rhetoric of political leaders and police, explained the objectives of the Black Panther Party, discussed why the Black Panthers distanced itself from the controversial Weathermen and dispelled preconceived ideas about Black Panthers stance on violence.


Interviewer: Fred, where does the Black Panther Party stand concerning The Weathermen, the SDS?

Hampton: We stand way back from the SDS and Weatherman because we believe that the weatherman action has two actions. There’s realm two and Weathermen. We think they could call them both national action we think that rim two is national action weatherman is national reaction you know we think it is an artistic opportunistic individualistic is chauvinistic it’s a customistic and that’s the bad part about it it’s customistic in that is leaders take people into situations where the people can be massacred and they call that revolution as nothing but child’s play is folly and it’s criminal because people can be hurt we say that they’re doing exactly what the pigs want them to do when they take people down and and just do nothing play around and the pigs are prepared for this and they’ll wipe all of those young people out we think these people may be sincere but they’re misguided their muddleheads and their scatter brains the only way we can show them is to criticize them like we’re doing right now and then leave from here and go to the federal bill and have a demonstration that’s to educate a demonstration that is disciplined and organized you know that’s what we’re gonna have to do and let them see the examples

Interviewer: Tell me why you feel the approach of the SDS, Weathermen is wrong.

Hampton: I feel it is wrong uh …

Interviewer: Just as I said before don’t tell me just you say before. That’s why I asked you again just answer it straight just in case we use this part. see you later let me ask you again … Why do you feel that the approach of the SDS Weathermen is the wrong approach?

Hampton: I feel that it’s wrong because it’s pig action. They’re doing exactly what the pigs want them to do. They’re leading people into a situation where it’s astronomical situation too great for the people to deal with. It’s a situation where you got a bunch of mechanical pigs with 357 magnums and shotguns and mechanical mason all that type of thing and then they’re talking about they’re going to carry on the revolutionary struggle. That’s not revolution, it’s insanity. It’s… it’s a madness, it’s nostalgia and it’s the massacre that’s potential massacre that’s what it is and we don’t support that because we’ve said all power to the people all the powers manifested in the people we don’t have any people whom lives we believe that should be thrown away has the weather managed to us tried to get you to go on their side have you met with them and what happened we met with the the weatherman faction of SDS several times we’ve had ideological struggles and we have ideological differences so what we did was we had an um… we the other faction of SDS that agreed with the Black Panther Party called for an alternate action a way of discipline action not to provoke pigs and actually not to talk about setting up confrontations with the pigs because the people are not ready for confrontation… these confrontations that they have are premature. They’re politically premature and they’re wrong because they commit people in the situation which they’re not anywhere prepared for well why do you think the Weathermen SDS tried to link the Black Panther Party to its movement. I don’t know if it was actually the Weathermen of SDS, I’d have to say that it was the establishment press that is nothing but a tool of warden Nixon’s machine. We call him warden Nixon because the whole world is a penitentiary, he’s just one of the whole world and you see these people are just an arm that he uses for fascist oppression, you know and i think today these fascist news media might have did that.

Interviewer: Now, briefly how would you sum up what the Weatherman SDS is trying to do and what you think of what they’re trying to do?

Hampton: I said it basically they believe that they believe that white people need to learn how to struggle. That they believe that these white workers need to learn how to struggle through confrontations I’d have to say that basically I believe that this is incorrect. I believe the white workers have been struggling. They’re some of the most violent people in the world. I believe that what they need is they need a redirection in their ideology and in their politics. They need to know who to struggle against. The workers need to start to begin to learn that their job is to struggle against the bosses and until they do this their struggle is incorrect. It’s like no struggle at all we say that if you don’t struggle correctly you shouldn’t struggle but you should struggle. We said dad are struggling your dad will win dare not to struggle and you don’t deserve the win but we have to struggle properly what about the special approach of Weatherman which seems to be violence well you see it’s I don’t think it’s really violence. You know i mean i think it’s just a lot of folly, it’s a lot of childs play. I think that to have violence you’ve got to be able to cope with violence you know what i mean and that’s what the Black Panther Party. A lot of people say we’re violent we’re a self-defense organization that believes that the people should be educated what’s going on yes we do defend our offices and we do defend our homes this is a constitutional right everybody has. There’s nothing funny about that. The only reason they get mad at the Black Panther Party when they do it is for the simple reason that we’re political and they don’t want to admit this there are a lot of young organizations around but we’re a political organization we’re an organization that understands that politics is nothing with war without bloodshed and wars nothing but politics with bloodshed did it just like you stretch something and it goes you can stress things they’re going to be in another thing if you stretch politics so long it’ll be war and that’s where we at.

Interviewer: Well then why do you feel it’s so important for the Black Panther Party to disavow any real link with the Weatherman. I think it’s important because there are a lot of people that watch the Black Panther Party for example they observe us and participate with us and if we can be connected up with this then it would be very unadvantageous to the people and every very unadvantageous to the struggle in that people that claim to be revolutionary would be going down roads that they think might be revolution but in fact they’re not a rules of revolution they’ll be going east when their intentions are going west and also it’s important because the chairman Bobby Seal is in town and he’s being tried by his fascist judge Adolf Hitler. Hoffman you know he’s being tried without a lawyer. We’ve got to bring all of the attention and focus on this trial we possibly can so that people can understand that these people are more capable of building gas chambers than Hitler ever was capable of building gas chambers and we’re going to have to get together. We’re going to have to have some anti-gas chamber marches and some anti-fascism marches and some anti-Hitler Hoffman marches and some anti-Mussolini Attorney General Mitchell marches and some anti uh Dalian Samantha Hammerhead Henry Head marches. These are the things we’re gonna have to do. The people need to be educated if they’re educated we can resist, and we can stop this fascism, okay all right thanks for giving okay okay okay okay thanks…

Interviewer: Fred the Weatherman branch of the SDS seems to be giving the impression that the Black Panther Party is with them.

Hampton: No the Black Panther Party is not with Weatherman. Let me explain very clearly that we believe that action like that is action of insanity. It’s not a revolution even you see going out in the streets and getting people shot and killed in maine that’s insanity. It’s chauvinistic and it’s customistic and when we say customistic we mean it’s it’s a type of action on the part of a leadership that would lead people into the same thing because they let them in we believe that all actions around that Weathermen faction is going to turn out to be a little bighorn and we’re not getting involved in any little big horns in the city of Chicago the Black Panther Party intends to support anything that is disciplined anything that does not provoke violence on the part of the pig power structure because this is what they want to do they want to kill some people and these leaders are nothing but leaders who have customistic tendencies they will lead people into slaughters and we think that that’s uh it’s criminal to the people it’s crime against the people.

Interviewer: Cut it for a minute. That’s real good. Now I want to put it just one other way. I’m going to ask you why don’t you Fred, why doesn’t the Black Panther Party support the tactics of the Weathermen SDS.

Hampton: We don’t support those tactics because the acts of provocation and their acts that the pigs the policemen in the city enjoy they’re doing just what the police want them to do. Our actions are just the opposite from that we are educating the people to the wrongs that the pigs commit to the fascists around the country and I think that’s the proper way to do the thing has the weathermen tried to carry favor with the Black Panthers right. We’ve had several discussions with the weathermen. We’ve tried to talk them out of a lot of the anarchistic demonstrations that they have playing here. We tell them that we don’t believe in demonstration for the sake of demonstration. We believe in demonstration for the sake of education and we still growing that basic theory we believe that people need to be educated if we’re ever going to defend ourselves against the fascism that’s raping in the United States of America and all over the world today.

Interviewer: How violent do you think The Weathermen are looking to become?

Hampton: I don’t… I don’t think it’s really a question of violence. I think it’s a… it’s a… we call it muddleheadness, you know. I mean I think how muddlehead will they become is a question. How masochistic and anarchistic will they become, you know. What I mean how much will they enjoy seeing people sliding in the streets before they get, come around and get them a plan of well-disciplined, well-organized type of education demonstration whether people can be saved. We say all power to the people and all powers manifested in the people we don’t have any people to just throw away and throw their lives away. We think the people that throw the people’s lives away in these types of kind of revolutionary folly those people are criminals and they should be judged as such and these people that commit crimes against the people the people should try them and indict them and sentence them.

Interviewer: Tell me, Fred, because the Black Panther Party feels this way and because the Panthers have been linked with weathermen through the weathermen, have you tried in any way to dissuade the weathermen to stop them from this kind of tactic?

Hampton: We’ve talked to Weathermen time and time again, you know, and told them that we thought this was wrong, and let me say this I don’t believe these people… I think there’s some sincere people but I think they’re a little mixed up. That’s why I be very careful about the word I use. I try to use words like muddleheaded, you know what I mean and scatter brains. That’s what they are. There’s some young people who really have some revolutionary fervor but they don’t know how to direct that further, so what we’re going to have to do is try to return that into some type of revolutionary discipline I don’t I think if anybody looks at us we’re an example we try to set examples for the people. The Black Panther Party is the most disciplined organization in the country, and the pigs still attack the Black Panther Party office so that shows that we’re still doing something to the power structure but we don’t have to do it in a way where we put people’s lives on the line. That’s not necessary and we try to tell them that.

Interviewer: Ok, tell me what else you want to get off your chest. I’d like to you know.

Hampton: There’s one thing that’s very important to the people that they see. That so-called trial of the federal building is nothing but what I call a hecaton — it’s a public sacrifice where they’re slaughtering the leaders of the people and the only way we’re going to stop that if it’s the people resist that, you know what i mean, because it’s not a question of non-violence and violence, it’s the questions of resistance to fascism, a non-existent non-existence. This is what we’re gonna have to deal with to go down to the to the federal building and deal with that judge and we call him Judge Adolf Hitler Hoffman and deal with the attorney general, Attorney General Mussolini Mitchell. All these people that have these fascist tendencies they have this society is more technical than German society ever was. They are going to be a better and more adequate gas chambers and we’ve got to be prepared to deal with that. Education is the only way. You got to educate the people.

Interviewer: You got anything else you want to say?

Hampton: No, I don’t have particularly.