Category Archives: Black history

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Alton B Stirling
June 14, 1979 – July 5, 2016

Black and shot

July 5, 2016: in Baton Rouge  officers (both white), Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II responded to a report that a black man in a red shirt selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had threatened the caller with a gun.

A cellphone video showed an officer pushing Alton B. Sterling (black) onto the hood of the car and tackling him to the ground. Sterling was pinned to the ground by both officers, one kneeling on his chest and the other on his thigh, both attempting to control his arms.

Saying that Sterling had a gun and was going for it, they shot him.

That same night, more than 100 demonstrators shouted “no justice, no peace”, set off fireworks, and blocked an intersection in protest.

An autopsy would indicate that Sterling had died from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and back.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Family reaction

July 6, 2016: community leaders and the family of Alton Sterling held a news conference at Baton Rouge City Hall

Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s eldest son, became very emotional when talking about her Stirling. The 15-year-old boy cried openly while standing by his mother’s side as she addressed the public.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced  that the Department of Justice would launch an investigation.

Mike McClanahan, the leader of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP called for East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden to fire Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie and for Holden to resign.

Black Lives Matter held a candlelight vigil in Baton Rouge, with chants of “We love Baton Rouge” and, called for justice.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Philando Castile

Also July 6, 2016: Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black American, was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul.

Castile was in a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Police reaction

The Baton Rouge Police Department, Mayor Kip Holden and other officials held a news conference to release new details in the officer-involved shooting death. 

Police identified the officers involved in the shooting and added that Salamoni has been with the force four years, while Lake had been with the department for three.

BRPD said both officers worked in the Uniform Patrol Division. Officials also stated both officers were placed on paid leave immediately after the shooting.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Dallas shootings

July 7, a protest was held in Dallas, Texas, relating to the shootings of Sterling and Castile.

At the end of the peaceful protest, Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire  killing five police officers and wounding eleven others including two civilians.  A robot- bomb killed Johnson.

The United States Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation of the Stirling death.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

United Nations

July 8,  2016: the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent issued a statement strongly condemning Sterling and Castile’s killings.

Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, the Chair of the United Nations panel, stated that the killings demonstrate “a high level of structural and institutional racism”. Adding that “The United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings.” [RT article]

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Continued protests

July 9, a protest in Baton Rouge turned violent, with one police officer having several teeth knocked out and eight firearms (including three rifles, three shotguns, and two pistols) being confiscated from New Black Panther Party members.

Police arrested 102 people. [NOLA article]

On July 10, between 30 and 40 people were also arrested including African-American Muslim activist Blair Imani.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Obama calls

July 11, 2016: President Obama placed a telephone call to the Sterling family to offer his and the First Lady’s condolences on behalf of the American people for the death of their loved one. 

People gathered across Baton Rouge to participate in rallies, vigils and protests since Sterling’s death. A memorial has been growing in honor of Sterling outside the convenience store where the shooting happened.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Call for calm

On July 13, local organizing groups and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Louisiana branch, filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of demonstrators. They claim they were protesting peacefully against Sterling’s death.

July 13, 2016: Cameron Sterling, Alton’s oldest son,  held a press conference at the Triple S Food Mart. He pleaded for protesters to remain peaceful. 

Later that same day, President Obama held a meeting in Washington, D.C. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson attended. The event was aimed at bridging the divide between police and the community. They also discussed police training and tactics. 

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

July 15 funeral

The funeral held the F.G. Clark Center on Southern University’s campus. 

Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson were among the many speakers at the service. 

“We must stop all the killing all the time. No one has the right to kill anyone,” said Rev. Jackson. “For those of you who are listening here and around the world, our strongest violence is not guns and violence. It’s the rightness of our cause.”

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Law officers killed

July 17, 2016: Gavin Eugene Long shot six police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three died and three were hospitalized, one critically; of the officers who died, two were members of the Baton Rouge Police Department, while the third worked for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

A SWAT officer killed Long during a shootout.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

No Charges

April 28, 2017, Mayor-President Sharron Weston Broome released a statement that a decision regarding possible federal charges was expected. She noted that no timeline had been released.

May 2, 2017:  the federal government announced that, officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, the two white police officers in the fatal shooting on the July 5, 2016 of Alton B. Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge, La would not be charged. The incident caused widespread unrest. State charges were still pending.

June 27, 2017: Sterling’s children sued Baton Rouge. 

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the fatal shooting was indicative of racist conduct and excessive force by Baton Rouge police.

March 27, 2018:  Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that police officers would not be prosecuted by the state authorities.

 Landry’s statements were similar to the Justice Department’s May 2, 2017 findings and defended the conduct of the officers, saying, for example, that their efforts to gain control of Sterling’s hands were “well-founded and reasonable under the circumstances and under Louisiana law.” Landry also said the officers were justified in their concern about whether Mr. Sterling was armed.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Eventual “consequences”

March 30, 2018: Chief Murphy Paul of the Baton Rouge Police Department announced that Blane Salamoni, who fatally shot Alton B. Sterling was fired. Paul also announced a three-day suspension of Officer Howie Lake II, also involved in the episode. The disciplinary actions were the first serious consequences for the officers after both state and federal officials declined to bring criminal charges against them.

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling

Unrest in Baton Rouge

Inspired by a photo by Jonathan Bachman, Tracy K Smith, the US Poet Laureate,  wrote Unrest in Baton Rouge after, September 2017

“Unrest in Baton Rouge”

Our bodies run with ink dark blood. Or else

It pools in the pavement’s seams.

Is it strange to say love is a language

Few practice, but all, or near all speak?

Even the men in black armor, the ones

Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else

Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade

Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat?

We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.

Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.

Love: naked almost in the everlasting street,

Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze

Baton Rouge Alton CD Man Stirling
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KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

Charles Eddie Moore & Henry Hezekiah Dee 
KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore
Charles Eddie Moore & Henry Hezekiah Dee

May 2, 1964:  Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore (both 19) were hitchhiking on a highway near Meadville, Mississippi. James Ford Seale, believing that they were black activists, kidnapped them  and took them to the Homochitto National Forest where he, with the assistance of other KKK friends he’d contacted, tied them to a tree and beat them.

After the beating, the group put Dee and MooreHe two into a car trunk drove to them to the Ole River in Tallulah, LA. The men put  Dee and Moore into a row boat, wrapped them in plastic, tied an engine block and RR track to them, and dumped them, still alive, into the river where they died.

July 12, 1964: while looking for the bodies of  the three missing civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, searchers discover the disarticulated lower torso of Charles Moore in the river south of Tallulah, Louisiana. Moore’s body was identified by the draft card he had in his possession at the time of his death.

July 13, 1964: the disarticulated lower torso of Henry Dee was found in the river in the same area as Moore the day before.

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore
Seale & Edwards

November 6, 1964: after an extensive FBI investigation, state authorities arrested James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards for the kidnapping and murder of Dee and Moore.

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

State charges dismissed

January 11, 1965: State officials dismissed the criminal charges against James Seale and Charles Edwards on the recommendation of the State District Attorney.  The motion had stated “… that in the interest of justice and in order to fully develop the facts in this case, the affidavits against James Seale and Charles Edwards should be dismissed by this Court without prejudice to the Defendants or to the State of Mississippi at this time in order that the investigation may be continued and completed for presentation to a Grand Jury at some later date.”

After the dismissal , the FBI actively continued to investigate the murders to no avail.

January 14, 1966,  the subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was investigating Klan activities, called Seale and nine other alleged Klansmen from the violent White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Those called included Seale’s father, Clyde Seale, and Charles Marcus Edwards, his alleged accomplice in the Dee-Moore murders.

The Klansmen repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment, while the chief investigator Donald T. Appell and House members placed into the record what they believed the men had done, including kidnapping and murdering Dee and Moore. (NYT abstract)

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

A brother’s persistance

In 1998 Thomas Moore, the older brother of Charles, began to work on the case. Then living in Colorado, he wrote to District Attorney Ronnie Harper  asking him to look into his brother’s murder. Harper agreed.

investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell 
Jerry Mitchell at his desk at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Various media journalists began to look at the story again, including Newsday20-20 and investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi). On January 14, 2000.

Mitchell reported that the murders occurred on federal land. This spurred the FBI to take another look, as the location gave them jurisdiction.

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore
David Ridgen & Thomas Moore

Filmmaker David Ridgen of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation contacted Moore. Together they went to Mississippi and on July 7, 2005, Ridgen began shooting the documentary Mississippi Cold Case, about the events of Moore’s brother’s murder. 

Part of the challenge was that they were operating under the impression that Seale had died, but locals revealed that he was still alive.

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

The federal trial

July 25, 2006: a federal court granted Charles Edwards immunity from prosecution. In his testimony,  In his testimony, Edwards will say that he aimed a shotgun at the victims while Klan members beat them, that he saw the victims stuffed alive into a trunk and driven away, and that Seale later reported he and others drowned the two men in a bayou of the Mississippi river. (Northeastern article)

January 24, 2007: a federal grand jury indicted James Ford Seale. 

June 14, 2007: James Seale convicted by a federal jury on one count of conspiracy to kidnap two persons, and two counts of kidnapping where the victims were not released unharmed.

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore
James Ford Seale

August 24, 2007: James Ford Seale was sentenced to three life terms. (NYT article)

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

Conviction overturned/upheld

September 9, 2008: a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the kidnapping conviction of James Seale.

June 5, 2009: an en banc panel of the Court of Appeals upheld James Seales’s original conviction. The defense counsel appealed to the US Supreme Court.

November 2, 2009, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, letting the lower rulings stand. (Fox News article)

August 4, 2011: Seale died in prison. Thomas Moore, Charles’s brother, who had helped renew the case, said in a statement regarding Seale’s death, ““Rejoicing? That’s not in my nature…. All of that is behind me. I lived through the process. I hope he found peace with his God.” (NYT article)

  • 2007 Jackson Free Press article entitled,   “James Ford Seale: A Trail of Documents Tells the Story.”
  • NPR timeline.
  • coldcases.org article

Aftermath

KKK kills Henry Hezekiah Dee Charles Eddie Moore

 

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KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Viola Fauver Gregg

Viola Fauver Gregg was born on  April 11, 1925 in California, PA. Her family was poor and often moved to find work.

 

 While living in Detroit, she witnessed the cruelty that its black citizens were subjected to and became sympathetic.  In 1964 she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Color People.
 By then she had married Anthony Liuzzo and they had three children.
 Watching the horrors of the March to Montgomery’s first attempt, Liuzzo decided to go to Selma and participate.
KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Activist murdered

She joined parts of the march to Montgomery and on March 25, 1965 listened to Dr Martin Luther King,  Jr’s famous “How Long Will It Take” speech.
 
 

It would be the last speech she heard.

Using her car, Viola Liuzzo and  Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old black man who had  also marched and assisted with the March to Montgomery,  were helping to  shuttle people from Montgomery back to Selma.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

After dropping passengers in Selma, she and Moton headed back to Montgomery. On the way another car  pulled alongside and a passenger in that car shot directly at Liuzzo, hitting her twice in the head, and killing her instantly. Moton was uninjured.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Arrests immediate

Within 24 hours President Lyndon Johnson appeared on national TV  to announce the arrest of Collie Wilkins (21), William Eaton (41) and Eugene Thomas (41) and  Gary Rowe (34). (text of announcement)

 

Johnson stated, “Mrs. Liuzzo went to Alabama to serve the struggle for justice. She was murdered by the enemies of justice, who for decades have used the rope and the gun and the tar and feathers to terrorize their neighbors.” 

March 27, 1965 : a group of about 200 protesters, black and white, led by the Rev. James Orange of the SCLC marched to the Dallas County courthouse in Selma. The Rev. James Bevel told them, “[Viola Liuzzo] gave her life that freedom might be saved throughout this land.” 

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Funeral services

March 29, 1965 : the NAACP sponsored a memorial service for Viola Liuzzo at the People’s Community Church in Detroit. Fifteen hundred people attended, among them, Rosa Parks.

March 30, 1965: funeral services were held for Viola Liuzzo. Her funeral was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic church in Detroit, with many prominent members of both the civil rights movement and government there to pay their respects. Included in this group were Martin Luther King, Jr.; NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins; Congress on Racial Equality national leader James Farmer; Michigan lieutenant governor William G. Milliken; Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa; and United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther. At San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral, Martin Luther King said of Liuzzo, “If physical death is the price some must pay to save us and our white brothers from eternal death of the spirit, then no sacrifice could be more redemptive.

On April 1, a cross was burned in front of four Detroit homes, including the Liuzzo residence. (History Engine article)

April 3, 1965 : the mother of Collie Leory Wilkins told President Johnson that he has made it impossible for her son to have a fair trial.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Indictments and trials

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
From Left to Right; Collie Leroy Wilkins Jr., Eugene Thomas, and William Orville Eaton.

April 6, 1965 : a grand jury indicted Collie Wilkins, William Eaton, Eugene Thomas, and Gary Rowe.

April 15, 1965 : all charges against Gary Rowe were dropped, and he was identified as a paid undercover FBI informant who would testify for the prosecution. [It will later be revealed that Rowe had participated in the beatings of Freedom Riders in Birmingham in 1961 and was suspected of involvement in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.]

May 3, 1965 : the Wilkins trial began. 

May 6, 1965 : during his final defense argumentsWilkens’s lawyer, Matt Murphy, made blatantly racist comments, including calling Liuzzo a “white nigger,” in order to sway the jury. The tactic was successful enough to result in a mistrial the following day (10-2 in favor of conviction)

May 10, 1965 : Collie Wilkins, William Eaton, and Eugene Thomas participated in a Ku Klux Klan parade. Collie Wikkins, free on bond after the mistrial, carried a Confederate flag.  After the parade, the Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, Robert Shelton, asked the three men to stand. They received a standing ovation.

August 20, 1965 :  Matt Murphy, the defendants’ lawyer in the Viola Liuzzo murder, died in an automobile accident after he fell asleep while driving and crashed into a gas tank truck. Segregationist and former mayor of Birmingham, Art Hanes, agree\ds to represent three accused killers.

October 19, 1965 : State Attorney General, Richmond M Flowers, interrupted the second Liuzzo trial and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to purge some jurists, a number of whom stated during jury selection that they believed white civil rights workers to be inferior to other whites. The request was denied. 

October 20, 1965 : Roy Reed in the NY Times reported that, ”an all-white jury dominated by self-proclaimed white supremacists was chosen…for the retrial of Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr, a Ku Klux Klansman charged with the murder of Viola Liuzzo.” 

October 22, 1965 : the jury took less than two hours to acquit Collie Wilkins in Liuzzo’s slaying.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Federal trial

November 30, 1965 : Collie Wilkins (already acquitted in State Court), Eugene Thomas, and William Eaton faced trial on Federal charges that grew out of the killing of a Viola Liuzzo. They were charged with conspiracy under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction civil rights statute. The charges did not specifically refer to Liuzzo’s murder.

December 3, 1965 : an all-white jury found Collie Wilkins, Eugene Thomas, and William Eaton guilty. The three were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

January 15, 1966 : the Birmingham News newspaper published an ad offering Viola Liuzzo’s bullet-ridden car for sale. Asking $3,500, the ad read, “Do you need a crowd-getter? I have a 1963 Oldsmobile two-door in which Mrs. Viola Liuzzo was killed. Bullet holes and everything intact. Ideal to bring in crowds.”

April 27, 1967 : the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the conspiracy convictions of  Thomas and Wilkins, Jr. William O Eaton, the third person, had died.

May 17, 1982 : the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Alabama could prosecute Gary Rowe, the FBI informer, in the 1965 slaying of Viola Luizzo. The ruling affirmed an order by a lower court.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
Gary Rowe

October 30, 1982 : a newly released report said the FBI  covered up the violent activities of their informant, Gary Thomas Rowe Jr., but his lawyer said the Government knew it was not getting ”a Sunday school teacher” when it asked Mr. Rowe to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. (NYT article)

Rowe, who was a Klan informant from 1959 to 1965, was charged with murder in the 1965 killing of Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights worker, but a federal appeals court barred him from being brought to trial because of an earlier agreement giving him immunity.

The 1979 report was released publicly for the first time because the Justice Department lost a Freedom of Information suit filed by Playboy magazine. In the report department investigators said agents protected Mr. Rowe because the informant ”was simply too valuable to abandon.’

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo


KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Family must pay

April 2, 1983 : final arguments in the $2 million negligence suit against the FBI were made in Federal court by lawyers for the children of Viola Liuzzo, whose murder they attributed to a paid F.B.I. informer, Gary Rowe.

Viola Liuzzo’s children  not only lost their suit against the Federal Government  but were ordered to pay court costs of $79,800, in addition to legal fees that amounted to more than $60,000. They appealed the ruling which was reduced to a smaller amount.

The Liuzzo family’s court costs alone were estimated at $60,000, according to Jeffrey Long, one of their lawyers. Last week, Judge Joiner dismissed the family’s $2 million lawsuit against the Federal Government. The family maintained Gary Rowe, an informer for the FBI, either shot at Mrs. Liuzzo or could have prevented the shooting.

February 7, 1997 : from the NYT, “Last week, a Confederate battle flag was spray-painted on a monument in Hayneville, Ala., to Viola Liuzzo.”

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Legacy

April 10, 2015: Wayne State University posthumously awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree to Viola Liuzzo.  Liuzzo’s family traveled from around the country to attend the ceremony and accept the award on her behalf. 

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
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