#NODAPL!: Fred Hampton and the Power of the People

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Power to the people! I have to think that Fred Hampton would be pleased to know that on December 4, 2016, 47 years after his murder by the U.S. government, that same government bent ever slightly toward justice, and the will of an oppressed people, and stopped construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. It did it in response to a grassroots movement begun by a people, the Sioux Nation, whose rightful land, long stolen, the pipeline was slated to invade. And Fred Hampton would have been glad, for there is so much about this story that speaks to his ideals.
Fred Hampton would be glad, for the people stopped the onslaught of corporate oil interests, if only for a moment. But the moment should be celebrated for what it is. Fred Hampton knew that capitalism made the interests of corporate profit maximization reign supreme, and fought it. He would have been glad for this victory of people over capitalist profit.

Fred Hampton would be glad for a people who have struggled for well more than a century against brutal oppression and vile deceit by the US government, but were tenacious and gained a victory. In fact, the Sioux turned down $106 million awarded to them by the Supreme Court in 1980, which ruled that the government had violated its agreements with the Sioux over their lands. Their lands, their sacred sites, their heritage were more important to them. And now, 37 years later, the people have won a victory for that heritage. Fred Hampton would be glad.

Fred Hampton would be glad for the unprecedented unity that the struggle against the DAPL has brought to Native peoples. Native Americans from more tribes have joined together at Standing Rock than for any other movement. I’ve heard, personally and through social media, of many Native Americans who say that this movement has brought hope that Native peoples will be able to fight for justice in a more united way than ever before. That this could be true after centuries of genocide and cultural devastation is a sure sign of hope and inspiration for Native Americans and for all those who struggle against oppression. Surely, Fred Hampton would be glad.

Fred Hampton would be glad for the unity of all races and creeds who came together to support the Sioux. As he said in many of his inspired discourses, what united the people was far stronger than what divided them, and the divisions were a distraction from fighting oppression. He built bonds of peace across racial and ethnic lines in his Chicago community. Fred Hampton would be glad for the common unity found at Standing Rock, a source of the people’s power.

Fred Hampton would be glad for the power of the people’s peaceful protest. Yes, there may have been a few yahoos who threw beer cans (or some such) at police. But that shouldn’t distract in the slightest from the thousands who peacefully stood against millitarized law enforcement brought in from all around the country who met them with violence and used despicable tactics that risked the peoples’ lives in freezing temperatures. Fred Hampton would be glad that veterans who had been sent to fight unjust wars came to join and defend the people, some saying that they felt like this would be the first time they had truly served their country.

Fred Hampton would be glad for this people’s victory to strengthen them in a gathering storm. Surely he would not have been surprised that the people now face an incoming presidency that built its movement by exploiting racist sentiment and by seeking to delegitimize the first Black President through the most craven and vile means. He was too smart to think that the US could be past something like that, even half a century later.

Then let us put our own naivety away. Let us awaken to our common interests, and to the threats that loom against us from the incoming presidency and the forces that put it in power. Let us carry the banner of liberty, freedom, justice, and equality against the forces of “(“economic”, “white”) nationalism” and “populism” which are only covers for fear, resentment, and the powerful who exploit them to their own ends. Let us have the courage to fight on. Let us make Fred Hampton, may he Rest In Power, glad.

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