bureaucracybusters

WHEN A PRESIDENT FOUGHT RACISM INSTEAD OF SUPPORTING IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2020 at 12:12 am

On September 28, the first of three scheduled Presidential debates occurred between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

Trump hurled insults and constantly interrupted Biden, causing many political commentators to label it the single worst Presidential debate in modern history.

For many, the lowest point came when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacy: “You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left-wing extremist groups.

“But are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland? Are you prepared to specifically do that?”

“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump asked Wallace.

Biden twice said, “Proud Boys,” a violent Right-wing hate group. 

“Proud Boys—stand back and stand by,” said Trump. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem.”

This was not the first time Trump had refused to condemn white supremacists.

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South;

Like Nazis in 1930s Germany, they marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry.

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

President Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

White supremacists were elated.

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. 

“No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

Another Trump admirer: Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. 

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted after the news conference. 

Fascistic groups make up a pivotal constituency for Trump. Without their support, he might not have become President. He can’t afford to alienate them.

But there was a time when a President and his Justice Department waged an all-out attack on the Klan during the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The reason: The murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi—Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney—-on June 21, 1964.

Related image

Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists. After their bodies were found buried near a dam, Johnson gave FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a direct order: “I want you to have the same kind of intelligence [on the KKK] that you have on the communists.”

So the FBI launched a counterintelligence program—in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO—against the Ku Klux Klan.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” KKK groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods.

“My father fought the Klan in Massachusetts,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “I always used to be frightened when I was a kid and I saw the fiery crosses burning in the hillside near our farm.

William C. Sullivan

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.

“They were dirty, rough fellows. And we went after them with rough, tough methods.” 

Among those methods:

  • Planting electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places;
  • Carrying out “black bag jobs”—burglaries—to steal Klan membership lists;
  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders;
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them;
  • Developing informants within Klans and sewing a climate of distrust and fear among Klansmen;
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives; and
  • Beating and harassing Klansmen who threatened and harassed FBI agents.

The FBI’s counterintelligence war against the Klan ended in 1971.

Today, there are active Klan chapters in 41 states, with between 5,000 and 8,000 active members.

Only when America has a President who’s not beholden to the Fascistic Right can there be another COINTELPRO aimed at white hate groups.

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