The anniversary of three murders in Mississippi and today’s struggle

      My childhood friend Andy Goodman was murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21 52 years ago, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.  He sought to do the right thing.  One Klan monster, preacher Edgar Ray Killen, has been convicted 43 years later of murder and is currently in jail.  See the film “Neshoba” by Micki Dickhoff about this, which includes long interviews with Killen.  But today the Attorney General in Mississippi has closed off further investigation.

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    Now there is a simple question of justice here.  The civil rights workers were shot and, in Chaney’s case, mutilated – the South has no limit on depravity, very much like the rest of America murdering and stealing the body parts of indigenous people.  The three young men were buried in a dam on the property of a Klansman, probably one of the mob.  In even the years since 2000 (before Mississippi officials were just racists), could they not have investigated this person?  There is a story concerning each of the monsters…

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    Today Trump runs for President spewing Klan/National Alliance’Britian First racism and David Duke celebrates “this great leader” – see here.  Today, 2.3 million people are in prison in the United States, 25% of the world’s prison population (and 5.1 million more on probation…).  Mississippi (or Arizona) has always been a particularly frightening and loathsome place.  But it is the racism of the country which provides a veil for the Injustice system – the laughable mis-execution of decent laws – in Mississippi and America

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     I almost went to Mississippi Freedom Summer.  But I had been on a dangerous freedom ride to Chestertown, Maryland in 1961 – knew that Mississippi was even more dangerous – and no one invited me.  I was convinced that the civil rights movement was a great hope in America, and that what people did in going was both courageous – I learned just how courageous –  and noble.  What they did stands for the equality in America which is the hope of the country (that we each count equally  as part of the common good, “all of us” as Bernie Sanders likes to say).  Andy believed in equality and gave his life for this.  He and James and Mickey should be remembered  today, and the many, many others, who against long odds and ferocious brutality, have worked to change this country for the better.

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    In the second article below on Reagan, Trump and the Supreme Court’s racist decision to abolish supervision of Southern discrimination by voiding a key section of the Voting Rights Act, David Goodman continues:

    “’Today, rather than using murder, unscrupulous people have found new disenfranchisement tactics to prevent whole communities from voting in order to retain political advantage,’ writes David Goodman, Andrew Goodman’s younger brother.”

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NPR

AMERICA

Officials Close Investigation Into 1964 ‘Mississippi Burning’ Killings

In this picture released by the FBI and the State of Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the burned-out station wagon that slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were driving in is seen in June 1964 in the Bogue Chitto swamp, some 13 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Miss.

FBI/State of Mississippi Attorney General’s Office/Getty Images

Mississippi officials are closing the investigation into the murder of three young civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan — more than 50 years after the men disappeared. The case had been closed for decades, then reopened after renewed public outcry. Now it’s going cold again.
“It’s just gotten to the point that it’s 52 years later and we’ve done all we can do,” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Monday.
The murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, Miss., inspired the movie Mississippi Burning. Exactly 52 years ago, on June 21, 1964, the men disappeared after working to register black voters. They’d been at a church that had been a target of Klan violence the week before.
After they left the church, “they had a run-in with local authorities, they were arrested, they were put in jail — and shortly after they were released they went missing,” NPR’s Debbie Elliott reports.
Their bodies were discovered after a 44-day search that garnered widespread national attention. But while the men were missing, Mississippi officials downplayed the significance of the case.
“At the time Mississippi officials were calling it a hoax devised to garner sympathy for the civil rights movement,” Debbie says.
“The bodies were then found buried in an earthen dam off a remote country road,” she says. “They had been shot to death.”
In the years that followed, the state did not prosecute anyone for murder. A few men served a handful of years in prison on federal civil rights charges, but otherwise, the KKK mob that killed Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner escaped legal consequences.
Decades later, the state reopened the case and prosecuted one man for murder — Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen, aka Preacher Killen. Now 91, Killen is serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter.
In the 11 years since Killen was convicted, no other suspect has been brought to court. On Monday, Hood announced that the case was going to be closed — again.
Hood says more prosecutions are unlikely at this point. There are a number of reasons for that, according to Debbie, who has covered the case for years. She reports that:
“The passage of time means that memories have faded. Both participants in this crime and many of the witnesses have since died. Evidence hasn’t been preserved.
“There are at least two known suspects who are still alive, but the state hasn’t been able to build a strong enough case against them to prosecute.
“I’m not sure anyone really expected more prosecutions, although there’s always the hope that someone might have a deathbed confession and be willing to offer more details of what happened. While the investigation is closed, if someone were to come forward with new information it could be reopened.
Schwerner’s widow, Rita Schwerner Bender, tells Debbie that the reality of the situation is that it’s too late to achieve justice — and has been for a long time. She also sharply criticizes the state of Mississippi.
“The state was complicit in so much of the violence. It encouraged racism and participated in it,” Bender tells Debbie.
“The state refuses to acknowledge and make amends for its racist past and role in the terror,’ Bender says, pointing, among other things, to today’s leaders in Mississippi who refuse to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state flag.
For his part, Attorney General Hood says he believes the state has done everything “that could possibly be done” in this case. He released an FBI report on the murders which addresses the two remaining suspects and explains that they had unsuccessful charges brought against them before.
“For these participants, the good Lord will have to deal with that,” Hood said, according to The Associated Press.
Closing the investigation, Hood said, “sort of closes the chapter on an era that we didn’t want to have in public view. We were ashamed of that.”

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The Nation

The Gutting of the Voting Rights Act Could Decide the 2016 Election
States with new voting restrictions have 70 percent of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

NC Voter ID rules are posted at the door of the voting station at the Alamance Fire Station on March 15, 2016, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Andrew Krech / News & Record via mmimisAP) 
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NC Voter ID rules are posted at the door of the voting station at the Alamance Fire Station on March 15, 2016, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Andrew Krech / News & Record via AP)
On June 21, 1964, the civil-rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were abducted in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and brutally murderedby the Ku Klux Klan. The killings in Mississippi, where only 6.7 percent of African Americans were registered to vote in 1964, shocked the nation and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Yet opponents of the VRA never stopped fighting the law. Ronald Reagan, who called the VRA “humiliating to the South,” kicked off his general-election campaign for president in 1980 at the nearly all-white Neshoba County Fair, which had long been a hotbed of white supremacy. Reagan spoke nearly 16 years to the day after the bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were discovered, and told the crowd, “I believe in states’ rights”—a phrase that had long been the rallying cry of Southern segregationists. (I tell this story in more detail in my book Give Us the Ballot.)
“For a presidential candidate to kick off his campaign there, that was heartbreaking,” said civil-rights leader John Lewis. “It was a direct slap in the face of the movement and all of the progress that we were trying to make.”
The legacy of Reagan’s opposition to the VRA still defines our politics today.
Paul Manafort, who directed Reagan’s Southern strategy in 1980, is now Donald Trump’s chief strategist. Trump lifted Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again,” for his campaign.
John Roberts, a young lawyer in the Reagan administration who wrote dozens of memos at the time criticizing the VRA, three decades later authored the majority opinion gutting the law, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination, like Mississippi, no longer have to approve their voting changes with the federal government.
The 52nd anniversary of the murders of Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner coincide with the third anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision. The full impact of that ruling will be felt in this year’s election, the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA. Seventeen states have new voting restrictions in place for the 2016 presidential race, including more than half of those previously covered by Section 5 of the VRA, and representing 189 electoral votes, 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency.
Voting_2016_map
“Today, rather than using murder, unscrupulous people have found new disenfranchisement tactics to prevent whole communities from voting in order to retain political advantage,” writes David Goodman, Andrew Goodman’s younger brother.
North Carolinais the most striking example of the devastating impact of the Shelby Countydecision. A month after the ruling, the state passed a sweeping rewrite of its election laws, including requiring strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cutting early voting, and eliminating same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
   These restrictions were upheld in April by federal district court Judge Thomas Schroeder, a conservative George W. Bush-appointee. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear a new challengeto the case today.
Schroeder’s 485-page opinion ignored the many storiesof voters who were turned away from the polls because of the new restrictions, like the elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting in 2014, and the new voter-ID law in the 2016 primary.
Dale Hicks, a 40-year-old former marine sergeant, was one of those voters. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights recently profiled him:
Dale Hicks, an African-American man who served in the Marine Corps for five years, including one year in Afghanistan, has been an active voter for close to 20 years. After being honorably discharged and transitioning to the IT field, he moved to Raleigh in June 2014. He had started hearing about the negative impacts of House Bill 589 around his community and decided to check his registration to ensure his address was up to date before voting in November. At his local precinct, he was informed that his registration information contained his old Jacksonville, N.C., address. Hicks assumed that, worst-case scenario, he’d just have to drive two hours to Jacksonville to vote. But he was told that because of the discrepancy in his address, he would not be able to vote at all because of the suspension of same-day registration. Stories like Hicks’ are likely all too common among veterans, who change addresses often because of the nature of their service. “You know, you finish serving your country and you come back and to be told no, you can’t, your voice will not be heard because your address says 9th street and you live on 7th street,” Hicks said. “It’s not right.”
In 2014, Democracy North Carolina documented 2,300 caseslike Hicks’s of voters disenfranchised by the new restrictions. By comparison, there were only two casesof voter impersonation in the state from 2000 to 2012, out of 35 million votes cast.
Voting-rights advocates hope that the Fourth Circuit court, which temporarily reinstated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting in September 2014 before being overruled by the Supreme Court, will be sympathetic to their case. During a hearing in September 2014, Judge James Wynn askedthe state’s lawyers, “Why does the state of North Carolina not want people to vote?”
That’s a very good question.

UPDATE: The panel of judges on the Fourth Circuit appeared skepticalof North Carolina’s voting restrictions, according to initial press reports. “It looks pretty bad to me, in terms of purposeful discrimination,” Judge Henry Floyd told a lawyer for the state. A reversal of the district court’s opinion, at least on some counts, seems possible now

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