« AnteriorContinuar »
THE BOYCOTT “Our weapons are the boycott and the ballot," Imperial Wizard James Venable declared at a National Knights rally at Stone Mountain, Ga., in September 1964. That the boycott was also one of the avowed weapons of the rival United Klans of America was evident from Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton's speech at a rally near Birmingham, Ala., in May 1963. The theme of his lengthy oration was the need for a klan-sponsored boycott of Birmingham merchants who had contributed money to civil rights organizations or made any concessions to Negro trade.
The Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Louisiana had a special Boycott Committee, composed of one representative from each klavern, to carry out proclaimed klan policy of boycotting merchants using Negro employes to serve or wait upon white persons, and other itemized "violations" of "the Southern traditions." In neighboring Mississippi, the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed mimeographed throw-aways announcing a klan boycott of national chain stores which had agreed to hire Negro cashiers. The White Knights literature added the warning that "the eyes of the klan will be watching” white persons who insisted on trading with any of the proscribed business establishments. The United Klans in Mississippi boycotted a carry-out hamburger chain merely because it sold to Negroes.
Klan boycotts—however serious and malevolent the intent-are sometimes rather ludicrous. During 1962, for example, veteran Georgia klansman James Venable financed the printing and circulation of a mammoth list of more than a thousand food and cleaning products which carry kosher markings to indicate nothing in the processing of the products violated Jewish dietary laws. An accompanying letter 12 signed by Venable and addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Christian American” called for a boycott of the listed products and charged that the kosher markings meant Jewish inspectors must be employed by a manufacturer, who passes the cost on to the consumer. If any consumer had taken Venable's boycott proposal seriously, he would have found himself sharply limited in his choice of foods.
A similar boycott was called for in "educational" leaflets distributed in Louisiana in 1965 by the Original Ku Klux Klan of America, Inc. Several manufacturing companies, responding to inquiries arising from this irrational propaganda, reported that the use of K (for kosher) on food and other products is common practice in the industry today and that rabbinical inspectors of processing procedures are sometimes paid a nominal fee which has no effect on the ultimate selling price. When questioned by this committee at public hearings February 15, 1966, James Venable was unable to produce any evidence to substantiate his contention that a kind of "tax" on food products supports a religion. Although the imperial wizard initially attempted to justify the kosher blacklist, persistent interrogation by members of the committee led him to concede that the charges against a minority group were actually "pretty harsh.” Venable expressed himself
12 In conducting this attempted boycott, Venable represented himself to the public as president of a Christian Voters and Buyers League. For further information on the league, see p. 54 of this report.
as being willing "at this time” to retract the charges and apologize for them.
Handbills distributed in the Bogalusa, La., area by the Original Knights identified a chain of gas stations, a radio station, daily newspaper, and various stores and restaurants which were subject to the klan's boycott. The gas stations, incidentally, were business competitors of one of the klan's top officers.
The coercive tactics with which the Original Knights pursued its boycott campaigns are discussed in the following section of this report dealing with klan violence. While boycotts are legal economic weapons to obtain legitimate goals, boycotts carried out by klans in most cases take the form of illegal intimidation.
SCURRILOUS LITERATURE DISTRIBUTIONS
Klan organizations have demonstrated a certain amount of expertise in scurrility. It is the trademark of all klan publicity, and it is nowhere more obvious than in the printed or mimeographed propaganda disseminated by klan organizations.
In the summer of 1965, the North Carolina Realm of the United Klans of America paid for the printing of 200,000 handbills, which were circulated by local klan units to residents of the State. The handbills—which were handed out on street corners or placed in rural mail boxes—carried the picture of a vice president of the Pepsi-Cola Company and his wife. Two brief sentences carried the klan's message: "Below Picture of Negro Vice President Of Pepsi-Cola, At Left, And His White Wife,
In Center.” “Let The Pepsi People Know What You Think Of Their Vice President And His White Wife.”
The United Klans was actually circulating a falsehood in a campaign which Grand Dragon Jones described as "putting the truth out about Pepsi Cola.” The wife of the vice president referred to in klan handbills is a Negro. Her father, who retired from the Army as a Brigadier General following World War I, was the first Negro to command a regiment in wartime.
Another falsehood circulated in United Klans leaflets as well as in the speeches of Imperial Wizard Shelton involves "sickle cell anemia." According to the Imperial Wizard, Negro blood contains sickleshaped cells which can be fatal to white persons. "Tell anyone you know that is hiring a nigger, it is very dangerous to hire them, especially as a baby sitter,” Shelton has declared. “All they have to do is to cut their finger, drop a drop of blood in the baby's food and it will be dead within a year from sickle cell anemia.” Medical authorities report to the contrary that sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease found in a very small fraction of the Negro population and it cannot be transmitted either through blood transfusions or any infectious process.
Literature circulated by the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan tended to concentrate on scurrilous charges against individuals in the community whose approach to the question of desegregation was not in accord with the klans.
A three-judge Federal court in New Orleans, La., in an opinion justifying å preliminary injunction against a faction of the Original Knights, commented on handbills published in the name of the “Original Ku Klux Klan of Louisiana.” The court noted that the handbills constituted "crude” attacks on certain Bogalusa citizens advocating a moderate approach to desegregation and cited the following as an example:
** * in one handbill an Episcopal minister is accused of lying for having said that he had received calls threatening to bomb his church; the minister's son is said to be an alcoholic, to have faced a morals charge in court, and to have been committed to a mental institution. The handbill adds:
"The Ku Klux Klan is now in the process of checking on Reverend 's [naming him] moral standards. If he is cleared you will be so informed. If he is not cleared, you will be informed of any and all misdeeds or moral violation of his in the past.” 13
Within the White Knights organization, such attempts at character assassination were an essential part of its so-called "propaganda work." A secret White Knights directive to its members issued on March 1, 1964, explained that: “PROPAGANDA is the weapon of modern war which our organization uses to convince the public that we are all good, and that those who oppose us, or criticize us, or attempt to interfere with our activities in any way are all BAD, and are dangerous enemies of the Community.” The document stated enemies could be destroyed in any of three ways: "Socially, Economically, Physically.” Klan propaganda can accomplish the first two in nearly all cases, the directive observed, adding “Whèn propaganda is properly used, it actually disturbs the enemy more than the killing of his agitators."
USE OF THE BALLOT
The klans public position on politics has always been an ambiguous one. Grand Wizard Forrest's testimony in 1871 that the klan "has no political purpose” was not accepted by the majority of the congressional investigators who looked into the post-Civil War klan. Imperial Wizard Simmons' testimony to Congress in 1921 that the klan "is not a political organization, nor does it seek political power” was contradicted by the energetic effort of his klansmen to influence the course of local and national politics in the years immediately following his testimony. Present-day klan wizards such as Robert Shelton also proclaim that the klan is not a political organization,” yet in the same breath declare that the klan has "basically a political structure” and its goal is to create a political revolution by seizing political power in a number of States.14
Disclaimers that klans are “political organizations” may be intended to sustain the allegation in many klan charters that they are non-profit fraternal organizations with purely educational and charitable purposes. Klan leaders may also be wary of running afoul of various state laws. A North Carolina statute adopted in 1953, for example, bans secret political societies. "Political” is defined' in this statute as hindering or aiding the success of any candidate for public office, or any political party or organization.
13 Opinion issued December 1, 1965, by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, New Orleans Div., justifying order of December 22, 1965, for a preliminary injunction against the faction of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan using the cover name, Anti-Communist Christian Association. The klan was enjoined from interfering with the civil rights of Negro citizens in Washington Parish, La.
14 Shelton press interview August 13, 1965, and speech at klan rally near Hattiesburg, Miss., October 28, 1965.
Imperial Wizards Shelton and Venable have publicly declared their “political goal” to be the organization of a white bloc vote which will overshadow an alleged black vote. The result-election of officials who believe in white supremacy.
Information received incidentally in the course of the committee's klan investigations shows that, while United Klans speakers and literature berated both major political parties, local klan units adopted a variety of methods to promote selected political candidates from both parties. Prior to primary elections in one State in 1964, the United Klans circulated printed sample ballots with x's after klan-supported candidates for State office and for the State's delegation to a national party convention. During a klan rally in another State in 1965, United Klansmen distributed bumper stickers boosting a candidate for Congress. In Louisiana, the Original Knights in 1963, 1964, and 1966 openly supported candidates for State or congressional office.
Relatively few instances of public klan endorsement of candidates have come to the committee's attention, however, and the endorsement has not always been with the knowledge or consent of the candidate. Also noteworthy is the fact that available election results indicate that most candidates publicly sponsored by a klan were defeated. Similarly disastrous were recent attempts by a well-known klan official to attain State office. Calvin Craig, grand dragon of the United Klans Georgia Realm, unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the State Senate in 1964 and the State House of Representatives in 1965.
When an officer of a county political organization made the mistake of announcing his election to office in a United Klans klavern in the summer of 1965, his resignation from his political post was immediately demanded by other party leaders.
The more common practice of the klans, not surprisingly, has been to support political candidates without the "kiss of death” of a public klan endorsement. That covert political activity can be effective in certain localities is evident from the fact that a number of individuals who themselves held concealed klan membership occupied elected municipal and State offices at the time of the committee's investigations.
The organizational structure of the United Klans provides for a Governmental Committee within each klavern whose job is to "coordinate and apply the political influence of the Klan”. The committee members are also directed to investigate and report on the "performance” of all public officers. The constitution of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan requires Political Action Committees of the klaverns to “recommend what political candidates or issues to support or oppose.” Such committees are further instructed to prepare to contact elected State officials to obtain support for the klan's policies and to “learn and report the person or persons most able to influence them on such matters."
CHAPTER VI. KLANS AS PURVEYORS OF VIOLENCE
Intimidation is a klan's way of life. Without it, the klans would cease to exist.
An act of intimidation by a member of a ku klux klan may take many forms. It may involve the burning of a cross. It may mean murder. Whatever the form, such acts of intimidation are intended to force citizens--through fear—to conform with a pattern of behaviour approved by the klan.
Whether or not intimidation takes on violent forms often appears to depend on the degree to which the klan's objectives are threatened. For example, a cross has been burned as a warning against the proposed integration of a school, while in Jacksonville, Fla., the home of a student who in fact integrated a school was bombed. Whereas crosses were burned to warn against further activities promoting civil rights, persons and property were the objects of bomb or arson attacks when civil rights actions showed practical results in North Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi.
While murder has followed civil rights demonstrations, the klan has nevertheless also killed merely because the person's skin was black, as in the case of Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn.
KLAN DOCUMENTS ACKNOWLEDGE RELIANCE ON TERRORISM In the literature which the various klans issue for public consumption, little is stated which reflects the basically conspiratorial and terroristic nature of a klan. In this respect, klans are no different from many other organizations, which put forth a false front to conceal the conspiracy by which they seek to carry out their purposes. Klans, by whatever name they are known, are conspiracies to deny to some of our citizens rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of the United States.
In this respect, klans have remained unchanged for 100 years. Intimidation and violence aimed at depriving others of constitutional rights have been a product of every generation of klansmen since Nathan Bedford Forrest assumed command of the fledgling organization in 1867.
The techniques employed in covert, terroristic klan activity have varied considerably over the years. Committee investigation of modern klan organizations showed that strategy and tactics are usually discussed verbally in meetings closed to non-klansmen. Although the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is one of the most securityconscious of present-day klan organizations, it made the mistake of committing its tactics to writing. The committee obtained a number of mimeographed directives which, while not identified as to source, were established to have originated in the headquarters of the Mississippi klan. Three of the documents were nothing less than manuals for klan terrorists.