Chattanooga to be site of first national march against racist church burnings Nov. 2
October 1996

The first national demonstration against the church burnings and other associated racist terrorism has been called Saturday, November 2 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Participants will assemble at 11:00 am in Miller Park in downtown Chattanooga, and march at noon. The following is material from the Ad-Hoc Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, hosts of the march:

Since January 1995, over 75 churches have been fire bombed in the south in an orgy of racist and sick violence, and the homes and offices of a number of activists in Chattanooga and other parts of the South have been attacked this year as well.

Ralph Williams, an activist challenging racism on his job as a bus driver at CARTA, the city transit agency, had his house burned down in January 1996, shortly after filing a complaint to the Federal Transit Administration and the EEOC, demanding an investigation. Then, he was fired a few weeks later when he said that he felt the fire was related to his job, while appearing as a guest on a local Black radio show. He is being harassed by local officials and his insurance company, Allstate, which refuses to process his claim.

In late July 1996, the home of the Rev. Amos Baker, President of a local Black Community organization called "People Wanting a Change", was fire bombed while he was a central public figure in a hotly contested electoral race against local school consolidation. This was severe blow to Reverend Baker and his family, but also an attack upon the Black community itself. Yet, like the Church bombings, where Black Pastors and parishioners were accused of destroying their own churches, Rev. Baker was ridiculed by a public statement from federal and police agencies saying he was "the main suspect" in destroying his own house, even though "KKK" was found scrawled on the outside of the structure.

Is the government now simply refusing to implement the civil rights laws, which would punish such terror? That is a huge part of the problem, especially in a period when Blacks, the poor, and others are being scapegoated for America's economic problems. The present round of church burnings are an attempt to beat back the civil rights gains of Blacks in the South as the result of the mass movements of the 1960s. This terrorism is being done to silence Blacks and poor people from demanding their human rights and to protect acts of a growing police state, official racism, mass unemployment, criminalization of Black youth and other crimes of the government as its economy deteriorates.

These modern night riders are "not necessarily" in a racist conspiracy, according to both the government and media, and so they have "investigated" the pastors and parishioners of the churches. Yet, even the FBI and ATF cannot cover up the fact that a significant part of the torchings are by racist paramilitary groups. In Knoxville, Tennessee, before the burning of the Inner-City Community Church in January this year, the church had been receiving threats for several weeks from a group calling itself "Skinheads for White Justice". They had even written to the local cops threatening to "burn the place down", and denouncing "race mixing". Yet, neither Bill Clinton's FBI nor the local cops could prevent the attack.

The pace of the fire bombings is increasing at an alarming rate, almost approaching one a week, and now including the private homes of outspoken Southern activists. Yet, there have been no major demonstrations or public protests in the South to mobilize masses of people to engage in self-defense and fight it. Instead, there have only been further calls for a police and/or FBI "investigation", something which clearly is not going to stop it. So now activists in the South, having had enough, are organizing a mass march on Chattanooga (and later all over the south) to beat back the violent White supremacy. On November 2, 1996, we will march and rally in one of the most violent cities in the South and show the world that we are not only not afraid, but indeed will fight back. We call upon progressives of all sorts and Black communities nationwide to join with us to make a loud voice to beat back this terrorism and the federal harassment of the victims. Unless we stand up now, we will likely not be able to stop this atrocity, and we will likely see many persons killed in their churches and homes like in the 1950s and 1960s when even small children were not spared.

Info: 423-622-7614. Ad-Hoc Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, 2014 Citico Avenue, Chattanooga TN 37404. Donations are urgently needed.

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