Date: Tue, 14 May 1996 18:23:24 GMT
From: Bob Witanek <email@example.com>
Posted firstname.lastname@example.org Mon May 13 11:54:05 1996
53 Black Churches Firebombed
By By R. Perez, 13 May 1996
On May 8, 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted a briefing on the Black church firebombings. I attended, representing the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights.
These attacks, which have received virtually no national media coverage, are increasing in frequency, with 26 occurring since 1995 alone. In some of the same areas where the attacks have occurred, t here have also been beatings of young Black men. The federal government and local police forces continue to discount the possibility that these attacks could be racially-motivated or related.
Ron Daniels, Executive Director of the CCR, put the bombings into the context of the current climate in the U.S., a climate "that allows for this type of thing to happen." Daniels reminded participan ts that national politics is riding on racial code words and a simultaneous denial that racism still exists in America.
Rev. Mac Charles Jones, Associate for Racial Justice, National Council of Churches, laid out the multi-pronged strategy his group has initiated. First, he pointed out that the attacks must be calle d what they are: "domestic terrorism, racism operative at its ugliest level." Every arrest related to the bombings has involved white males, 16 to 45 years old, including members of the KKK and Ary an Nations. Nevertheless, local and national authorities refuse to acknowledge the racial nature of the attacks. In only one case (Alabama) was racial motivation acknowledged. In that city, there was a Black judge and Black prosecutor dealing with the case. The day of the sentencing, the judge's home was shotgunned.
Ten of the bombings occurred in Tennessee. In one investigation, according to Rev. Jones, two of the investigating officers had been part of the Good O'Boys Roundup, an annual gathering of state and local law officers that featured heavy drinking and racist activities (i.e., the sale of licenses to "hunt" black people and masks in the likeness of Martin Luther King Jr. with a bullet hole in the face.) USA Today (April 3, 1996) reported that The Good O' Boys Roundup was "organized by Raymond Rightmyer, who was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent in charge of the Knoxville, T enn. office...In 1995, a Black ATF agent and a Black police officer attended the event, leading to a confrontation with white officers who told them to leave."
Second, the National Council of Churches is working to ensure that the communities under attack do not remain isolated. "Each community must feel the power and strength of national support," he said.
Third, "we want to provide legal advice and support."
Fourth, "we are concerned that the government itself helps to create the moral tone and the climate...we want clear statements that this will not be permitted in this country." On June 9 and 10, Rev. Jones reported that representatives from 20 of the churches will be meeting with representatives from the Justice Dept.
Fifth, is the issue of money. This kind of organizing effort costs -- IN ADDITION to the costs of rebuilding the churches. A special fund has been created for advocacy and the rebuilding of the chu rches themselves.
Randy Scott-MacLaughlin, Vice President and volunteer attorney at the CCR, spoke about the legal strategies being explored. In at least 4 cases, he noted, there are clear connections between individ uals involved in the bombings and organized hate groups. The CCR is committed to recruiting and training lawyers in litigation strategies that include conspiracy lawsuits against hate groups.
Concerned people can help by donating money, volunteering for the rebuilding brigades that are being organized, and getting the message out so that people understand the seriousness of what is going on.
For more information, to volunteer, or to commit your organization, contact the Center for Constitutional Rights at 666 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY 10012, 212 614-6468.