Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Hampton Contingent Provides Backbone

20,000 March for Freedom

First Published: The Call, Vol. 3, No. 4, January 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Boston – Despite the bitter cold and rain of the Boston winter, more than 20,000 people marched here December 14 demanding an end to the racist attacks against the Black community which have been focused around the school busing issue.

From as far away as Georgia and South Dakota, buses streamed in, answering the call for the “March Against Racism.” The strength and militancy of this march signified an important victory in the fight for democratic rights of all oppressed minorities as well as for all working people. The backbone of the march was the 3,500 people who made up the anti-imperialist “Fred Hampton Contingent” initiated by the October League, and named in honor of the fallen Black liberation fighter who was murdered five years ago by Chicago police.

The demonstration came on the heels of a week of increased violent attacks on the Black community whipped up by the reactionary anti-busing leaders. Earlier in the week in South Boston, a racist lynch mob gathered outside of the local high school trapping 140 Black students inside. Spurred on by neo-fascists such as the John Birch Society and Powder Keg, a white, para-military organization, the mob of nearly 2,000 stormed the building three times, stoning Boston police in order to get to the students, one of whom was accused of stabbing a white student. While their attempts were turned back, the character and developing leadership of this “anti-busing” movement clearly was exposed once again as the openly racist movement it is, and not the “movement for decent education” that its leaders like Louise Day Hicks are making it out to be. This emerging fascist leadership has driven many whites away from the anti-busing movement, who had earlier been misled by the demagogic promises of politicians like Hicks. The mob attacks on South Boston High set the stage for the Dec. 14 March for Freedom.

The March For Freedom was seen by many as the most significant demonstration for civil rights of Black and other minority people since the early 60s. A broad united front of forces was mobilized behind the call of Black senator-elect Bill Owens, a liberal who is being pushed by powerful forces within the Democratic Party and civil rights forces as the “next Black leader.” Supporting Owens’ call were significant sections of the labor movement who have opposed the racist position of many of the most reactionary unions (such as the Construction Trades Council). Those marching included contingents from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, who mobilized 50 buses from New York: the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners: Teamsters Local 10; Hotel, Restaurant and Cafeteria Workers; the Southern Tenant Union; Communication Workers of America; Retail Store Employees; United Electrical Workers as well as contingent from the Coalition of Labor Union Women and others. The American Indian Movement (AIM) and many other minority organizations also marched.

The Fred Hampton Contingent included the October League, the Congress of Afrikan People (CAP), African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), Haitian Action Committee, Boston Area Youth Organization of Black Unity (YOBU), Organization for the Solidarity of Third World Students, Science for the People, Hard Times, Eritreans for Liberation in North America, the Guardian newspaper, Boston Socialist-Feminist Organization, Struggle! newspaper, Atlanta Anti-Repression Coalition, and other independent people.

The Fred Hampton Contingent, while supporting the march, exercised independence from the liberals by its slogans, militancy, and in the speeches at the contingent’s own rally held before the march. Sen. Owens, when faced with a massive blockade of mounted police, backed up by paddy wagons, and 300 visible police on Boyleston Ave., a main business area, tried to have himself arrested in order to become a new “martyr” rather than relying on the masses. The plan backfired when the crowd surged forward, charging the police. The police pushed back the crowd, arresting 6 marchers, and sending one to the hospital. The crowd began to move around the corner, and the march continued down the alternate route.

The Contingent also put forth its slogans in opposition to the pacifist liberal approach of the march leadership, which put the problem of racism on the shoulders of the working class and claimed that what is needed is “more love and less hate.” The Fred Hampton Contingent united around demanding democratic rights for oppressed minorities, and pointed to imperialism as the source of oppression of the people of the Third World and oppressed people here at home. It called on people to unite to defeat the boycott, and dump Hicks and Kerrigan, the racist politicians who are leaders of the anti-busing, racist school boycott. The Contingent demanded an end to police terror in the oppressed communities, and supported the right of armed self-defense against the fascist attacks. An end to segregation, and support for the democratic rights of all oppressed minorities were also raised as demands of the Contigent.

The “liberal” imperialists such as Kennedy further exposed their racist nature by not openly endorsing the march, a factor which couldn’t hinder the large turnout. Kennedy, like Hicks and the other reactionaries, has maintained that “racism isn’t the issue” but rather it was a question of “quality education.” But the deteriorating conditions of all the Boston area schools, which have long served as a bulwark of segregation, expose the lie that the segregationists are at all interested in “quality education.” TMs movement is nothing but a racist assault on the right of minorities aimed at smashing a united struggle against capitalism.


On Sunday, the day after the March, a counter-demonstration was called by the racists which drew over 5,000, far less than their predicted 20,000. This was a major setback for the anti-busing movement and exposed a developing split in their ranks between Hicks, who leads ROAR, the largest anti-busing group, and the more open right-wing reactionaries. Hicks refused to support the Sunday march. Many parents, growing weary of the White boycott, are beginning to send their kids back to school and the boycott is weakening in South Boston. The effects of the developing split in the ranks of the racists remains to be seen. In January the busing plan calls for more busing of students in Charlestown and East Boston and the reactionaries are trying to build up their forces there.

The March for Freedom was a big blow to the plans of the racists. But the question now is which direction will this movement take and who will lead it. Amiri Baraka, representing the Congress of Afrikan People spoke at the rally and voiced the sentiments of the anti-imperialist forces in the march. He pointed to the fact that the “liberals”, like Owens, while marching on Saturday, were preparing to support Rockefeller the following week in his bid for the vice-presidency. Baraka pointed out that imperialism was the cause of the fascist attacks. He warned the marchers against relying on any “new” politicians.

The march in Boston showed clearly that the masses of people oppose racism and the attacks being whipped-up by the capitalists against the minorities in this period of deep crisis. The size and influence of the Fred Hampton Contingent showed the growing influence of the anti-imperialist and communist forces within the people’s movement. The racist anti-busing movement will be defeated!