Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chicago After King's Murder

As SDS by Kirkpatrick Sale observed:

“The assassination of Martin Luther King…was a propelling moment for radicals both black and white: it seemed a signal…that the old ways were finished, that whatever romance lingered from the civil rights days was dispelled, that the time had come for more than nonviolence, more than working with the system, more than moral witness…”

In his 1980 book Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, Abbie Hoffman recalled what happened in Chicago after King’s murder:

“During the uprisings following the killing of Martin Luther King…the south side of Chicago exploded with a fury…Mayor Daley issued the following proclamation: Shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand and shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting a store in our city…In the Spring, when Rennie Davis and other organizers staged a peaceful antiwar march, Daley’s police along with thugs waded into the marchers with a fury…”

In his foreword to Government By Gunplay: Assassination Conspiracy Theories From Dallas To Today, Sid Blumenthal asserted that “The assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King…significantly altered the shape of American politics and society” and “Martin Luther King, at the time of his death, was speaking of uniting blacks and whites around common economic concerns.”

Government By Gunplay contains a 1976 article by Jeff Cohen, entitled “The Assassination of Martin Luther King,” which observed that the 1974 hearing of the [now-deceased] man imprisoned for King’s murder “revealed that the state’s case against Ray as the sole assassin lacked more than the people’s belief; it lacked evidence.” The same article also noted:

“Not a single eyewitness could place Ray at the murder scene…Ballistics expert Herbert MacDonnell testified at Ray’s 1974 hearing that there was `no way the rifle said to have killed King could have been fired from the rooming house bathroom window’…Harold Weisberg…waged a…legal battle for the public record of Ray’s 1968 extradition hearing…The file contained FBI testimony that none of Ray’s fingerprints were found in the rooming house or bathroom, and that Ray’s motel registration slip, dated the day before the murder, contained someone else’s handwriting…”

(Downtown/Aquarian 4/3/96)

The FBI surveillance file on Martin Luther King that was maintained by the Democratic Kennedy and Johnson Administrations in the 1960s contained “thousands of pages of paperwork” and “more than a hundred sections,” according to Martin Luther King, Jr: The FBI File by Michael Friendly and David Gallen. In a de-classified memo to W.C. Sullivan from King’s FBI file, an FBI official named F.J. Baumgardner stated on Jan. 8, 1964:

“We completely analyzed avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing Martin Luther King, Jr. as an effective…leader. One of the avenues explored was that concerning any facets of the financial operations of King and the organizations through which he operated which investigation might reveal either violations of the law or other potentials for discrediting King or otherwise neutralizing his effectiveness.”

(Downtown/Aquarian 7/10/96)

As Kenneth O’Reilly observed in his 1994 book Black Americans: The FBI Files, “when my previous book, Racial Matters, was released I received invitations to speak in African-American communities” and “during the question-and-answer sections of those engagements, members of the audience inevitably asked, `Why did the FBI kill Martin Luther King?’…” In his 1989 autobiography, And The Walls Came Tumbling Down, King’s successor as Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] leader, Ralph Abernathy, also recalled that “when I got over the shock of the incident and began to speculate about the person who might have committed such a crime…I immediately narrowed my suspects down to two types;” and “the second [type] was someone trained or hired by the FBI and acting under orders from J. Edgar Hoover himself.”

Next: New York Times Coverage of MLK Assassination Case