Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

“Accused Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of manslaughter on Tuesday in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers, a case that outraged much of the country and energised the Civil Rights’ movement. Killen, 80, had been portrayed by prosecutors as a Ku Klux Klan leader who recruited a mob to kill the three young men exactly 41 years ago, on June 21, 1964. The killings in Neshoba Burning." The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations, rejecting murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen. Killen showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He was comforted by his wife as he sat in his wheelchair. He was wearing an oxygen tube.” -

Forty one years after three idealistic civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were brutally murdered in Philadelphia Mississippi on June 21, 1964 a jury of nine whites and three blacks convicted Edgar Ray Killen of manslaughter in their murders. State prosecutors had asked for murder but added manslaughter shortly before the trial began. The state was supposedly motivated by a desire for justice, justice that did not exist in Mississippi nor most of the nation in 1964. The gruesome murders of Emmett Till in 1955, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Diane Wesley and Carol Denise McNair the four girls killed in the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 and Shwerner, Goodman and Chaney in 1964 became high profile cases that reflected the tenor and tone of the times as the FBI and local officials failed to bring the culprits to justice. Arrests were reluctantly executed, sham judicial proceedings were conducted and the killers walked free returning to their communities as heroes, the defenders of a vicious system of racial caste and oppression backed by legislation and state sanctioned terrorism. Now forty one years later investigations and trials are being conducted to make the world believe Mississippi and AmeriKKKa have changed. The global media covered the recent trial and conviction of Edgar Ray Killen the 80 year old man who allegedly masterminded the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Shwerner. An article in the June 22, 2005 online edition of Euskal Irrati Telebista a Basque version of CNN that publishes in Basque, Spanish and English states, “The trial in the small Mississippi town of Philadelphia, the latest in a string of prosecutions in recent years from civil rights era killings in the South, evoked memories of the violent racial conflicts of four decades ago. Killen, a sawmill operator and Baptist preacher, did not testify. He was accused of murdering Schwerner and Goodman, white New Yorkers, and Chaney, a black Mississippian, who were helping black Americans in Mississippi register to vote during the 1964 Freedom Summer civil rights campaign. If convicted of murder he would have faced life in prison. In closing arguments, prosecutor Mark Duncan urged jurors to ‘remove the stain’ on Neshoba County. After the verdict, he said it had shown the true character of Neshoba County residents and shown that Mississippi had changed. ‘We won't be painted or described or known throughout the world by a Hollywood movie any more,’ Duncan said.” Duncan was referring to events portrayed in the Hollywood movie Mississippi Burning which were based on the events in Mississippi during those turbulent times when virulent racism, legal apartheid and terrorism were being challenged.
The conviction on manslaughter charges is supposed to be a sign AmeriKKKa has changed. However the widow of one of the victims didn’t see it that way. The article quotes Rita Bender as saying, “ ‘I hope that this conviction helps to shed some light on what has happened in this state. I see it as a very important first step,’ Rita Bender, widow of Michael Schwerner, told reporters. But she added, ‘The fact that some members of this jury could have sat through that testimony, indeed could have lived here all these years and could not bring themselves to acknowledge that these were murders .... there are still people among you who choose to look aside, who choose to not see the truth. That means there's a lot more yet to be done.’”. I agree with her. In many ways the Killen trial, the reopening of the Emmett Till case and the other instances where there were egregious miscarriages of justice is nothing but a sham. The FBI knew back in 1963 and ‘64 who was in the Klan and who the ringleaders were. The local police, prosecutors and politicians colluded to insure no real energy or attempts to try the cases would be expanded. The dominant community certainly did not have the consciousness or courage to do the right thing then and based upon the recent Killen verdict of manslaughter as opposed to murder, they still don’t! Of course the white media is doing its’ part by focusing on how feeble and infirm Killen is, a subliminal ploy to gain sympathy for when sentencing comes around.
The same consciousness that existed in the ‘50's and ‘60's exists today, the only difference is their bloodlust is vicariously satisfied by the violence that permeates their entertainment and media. That same consciousness manifests itself in a consciousness that promotes and tolerates illegal wars for oil and empire, wide spread torture and abuses of detainees and genocidal domestic and foreign policies. While the AmeriKKKan cable news networks spin the Killen verdict as progress on one hand; on the other hand they vigorously promote fascist imperialism, militarism and war by serving as cheerleaders for the NeoCon cabal that is just as ruthless and homicidal as the KKK. If we really want progress we will have to alter our consciousness, our values and behavior and what we expect and tolerate from our “leadership”.



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