The Colors of Justice: A Tale of Three Dissidents

The Uppity Negro

On April 4th, 1968, a single bullet forever silenced the man J. Edgar Hoover called “the most dangerous Negro in America”.  A patsy named James Earl Ray would die in prison for the dirty deed, only to be exonerated after his death.  Martin Luther King’s family, disbelieving the official U.S. Government song and dance, hired a friend and attorney named Bill Pepper to investigate and confirm their doubts.  More than two decades of research and questioning, begun in 1977, culminated in a 1999 verdict from a Memphis jury.  After listening to 70 witnesses testify under oath, the jury deliberated less than an one hour, finding that a man named Loyd Jowers conspired with elements of the FBI, CIA, US Military, Memphis Police, and organized crime in the execution and elimination of Reverend King.

Mainstream U.S. media, as per official instructions, would downplay, denigrate, or ignore the verdict.  The general public would have no idea that the trial had even taken place.  Six months later, the U.S. Justice Department would conclude that “the trial’s evidence fails to establish the existence of any conspiracy to kill Dr. King.”  If there was a shred of justice in the USA, the verdict of that Memphis jury on December 8, 1999 would have opened an investigation into the murderous antics of the FBI, CIA, US Military, Memphis Police and elements connected to the Mafia, for their part in the slaying of Dr. King.  However, any hope of such an investigation was effectively squelched by the U.S. Justice Department’s conclusion that the jury’s verdict was false, inaccurate, and misguided.

Dr. Martin Luther King was what average middle-class White folks in 1968 liked to call an “uppity Negro” …or some variation upon that theme.  He was a rogue from the former Slave Class who’d ventured far beyond common decency or proper decorum.  MLK had become a serious threat to Middle Amerika’s status quo.  It wasn’t enough that he’d loudly and effectively questioned White Supremacy, he was now in the process of dismantiling the Amerikan War Machine by criticizing the motives behind The Vietnam War.  He even encouraged young Black men to claim Conscientious Objector Status, thereby undermining the Selective Service System, which greased the wheels of The Vietnam War.

King’s shift from Civil Rights organizer to becoming highly vocal and effective in the anti-war movement sealed his fate.  On April 4th, 1967, in an inspiring speech delivered to a packed house at New York’s Riverside Church, Dr. King laid it on the line.  “Beyond Vietnam” would become the best speech Amerika never heard, for in it he lovingly beat the Military-Industrial Complex to a bloody pulp.  He spoke of “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism”.  He spoke of “the greatest purveyor of violence in history:  my own government”.  The FBI had been conspiring for five years to neutralize his powerful influence, and exactly a year later King lay dead in Memphis.

Martin Luther King knew that Amerika had a steep mountain to climb, and that he’d never see the summit.  He’d seen what his country had done to Medgar Evers and Malcom X, and understood well that, in the eyes of White Amerika, he was nothing but an uppity Negro.  A runaway slave.  A commodity that had long ago lost its utility.  Since whips and chains were no longer acceptable, execution was the only viable option available to those who thrive upon the violence inherent in American-style capitalism.  In the wake of his death, the US Military would be allowed to continue its policy of bombing for dollars, US Intelligence agencies and municipal police departments would continue protecting the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex, and organized crime would continue its feeding frenzy at the decaying perimeter edges of Empire.  King might as well have pulled the trigger himself.

The Renegade Indian

Word of the New World spread like wildfire.  From Spain, Portugal, England, and France they came in their wooden ships.  They found an advanced culture of nation states, connected by well-established trade routes.  They found a people in tune with Mother Earth, concerned with health, nutrition, and sustainability.  They found a society in which wars were rare and disease nearly unknown.  They found pyramids dwarfing those of Egypt and mathematicians with knowledge exceeding anything yet discovered in Europe or Asia.  They found rich farmland, orchards, irrigated fields, and vast herds of buffalo.  They found silver and gold.  What they found, they coveted.  They were given rightful title to the New World by the pope, the monarchies of Europe, and by God Himself.  The original inhabitants were to be considered as vermin.  And so began the extermination.

Nearly 500 years later, the original hundred million Native Americans had been reduced by roughly 90%.  They’d been outgunned from the beginning, and when the European invaders had swept across the Americas from Atlantic to Pacific, killing the vast majority and shuffling the rest into open-air prisons called reservations, they still wanted more.  The military, police forces, and intelligence agencies of the United States had grown to gargantuan proportions, largely thanks to the never-ending war against Native Americans.  And when the land-grab, murder, and mayhem spread across the Pacific into Asia, down into Central and South America, and into four corners of the planet, the US Military would refer to any and all hostile territory as “Indian Country”.

Native Americans were never intended to survive the European invasion.  They had no economic value, had been nearly useless as slaves, had an irritating gene for survival, and were only an impediment to the capitalist agenda.  So several years after the execution of Martin Luther King, when the American Indian Movement (AIM) marched on Washington, D.C. with a list of 20 grievances to present to the U.S. President, the FBI and other intelligence agencies took notice.  The Trail of Broken Treaties would not be tolerated.  The US Military had not completed its extermination.  The strongest had survived.  A predictable plan was hatched.  The FBI would target the leaders.  They would show no mercy.  The name Leonard Peltier was near the top of the list.

On June 26th, 1975, two FBI agents entered the Jumping Bull Ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where members of AIM were camped.  They offered no identification, and claimed to be on a mission to arrest one Jimmy Eagle for the theft of a pair of boots.  Shots rang out, a shootout ensued, and when the dust settled a young Native American man and the two FBI agents lay dead.  Immediately and like magic, 150 FBI agents, BIA officials, and local vigilantes appeared on the scene.  The incident quickly turned into a court case, and a race to indict Leonard Peltier and two other high level AIM members.  After considerable media manipulation, evidence-tampering, and gathering of forced-confessions, a massive manhunt was launched for Peltier.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that Leonard Peltier was set up to be a warning to young Native Americans who might follow his example.  At his trial, ballistics tests were withheld, coerced statements entered as evidence, and Amerikan blind justice imprisoned an innocent man for two life sentences.  Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner.  Clemency for Mr. Peltier is supported uniformly across the globe, with the obvious exception of the FBI, which has thus far blocked that possibility.

Leonard Peltier has been honored and recognized for his humanitarian work, performed, for the last forty years, from his prison cell, more times than I’d care to recount here.  He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times, most recently in 2016.  The list of organizations and supporters, both live and deceased, who’ve petitioned on his behalf include:  Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Ramsey Clark, The National Lawyers’ Guild, The European Parliament, Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Danny Glover, Robert Redford…and many hundreds more.  But as long as soulless entities like the FBI enforce the existing national agenda, brave and honest men like Leonard Peltier of the Anishinabe, Dakota, and Lakota Nations, will continue to pay the price.  Renegade Indians must be dealt with in a time-tested manner.  And so the extermination continues.

The Unruly White Boy

The boy grew up in the burgeoning Sonoran Desert city of Phoenix, Arizona.  He was a child of privilege, whose ancestry could be traced back to the European conquerors of the New World.  His neighborhood of ticky-tacky tract houses was populated by an unwavering sea of White faces.  No person of African or Native American genealogy was welcome there.  Communities of Negroes lived several miles to the South, and the Native Americans were tucked safely out of sight on a number of nearby reservations.  The boy would shop at White stores, attend a White school, have White friends, become a Cub Scout in a White Pack, eventually grow up and marry a White woman, and father a White daughter.  He would reach young manhood without ever having a friend whose skin didn’t match his.

About the time US Intelligence agencies were locking, loading, and placing Martin Luther King in their crosshairs, the boy was becoming a man.  A steady diet of marijuana and LSD had begun to alter his thought processes.  He began paying attention to the growing anti-war movement, he discontinued haircuts, began wearing bellbottom jeans and love beads, and dropped out of classes at Arizona State University because of mandatory ROTC.  Since he was no longer a student, the young man lost his 2-S deferment, exempting him from the US Military Draft, and made application to his local board for Conscientious Objector (1-O) status.  Lacking any formal religious training, the young man was told that he couldn’t possibly have a conscience nor any qualms about killing strangers.  The application was denied, and he was declared fit for service to his country.  The dreaded 1-A classification.

The young man was determined not to join the US Military, and had now officially become a member of Amerika’s Counterculture.  He began participating in every anti-war march in the general area.  When National Guard Troops murdered 4 students at Kent State University, he joined thousands of protesters in Tempe, Arizona.  A.S.U. campus windows were broken and Old Glory was ripped down from the flagpole on the lawn of the Tempe Police Station.  The flag was torched and the young man (although he claimed no responsibility) was in possession of matches.  A few months later he participated in the Yippie Powwow at Disneyland in Anaheim.  The event commemorated the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.  Along with a few hundred of his cadres, he captured, occupied, and raised the Viet Cong Flag over Tom Sawyer’s Island.  A smoke-in ensued.  L.A. Riot Squad Police busted a few heads and made some arrests on Main Street of Amerika’s Happiest Place, before management made the decision to close the place down.  The young man was unceremoniously evicted, along with everyone else on the premises.

The young man drew a low number in the Draft Lottery, and soon his notice arrived, ordering him to report for induction.  He neglected all personal hygiene for a solid week before the physical.  He did his best to flunk the vision and hearing tests, but in the end he was found fit for service.  When the time came for the ceremonial step forward, and swearing in of the new cannon-fodder, the young man stood his ground, middle finger held high.  The deed would potentially put him in prison for five years and cost him a fine of $10,000.  He waited for the arrest.  Several months later, a mousy FBI Agent showed up at his door, offering him a second chance to become part of Amerika’s fighting force.  The young man told him to fuck off, and he did.

A second Draft Notice arrived six months later, and the process was repeated.  Afterward the young man was ordered to report to the Phoenix Federal Building for fingerprints and mug shots.  The case went to trial, and he was sentenced to 9 months at Lompoc Federal Prison.  His lawyer told him not to worry.  He said that the U.S. Government had no real interest in imprisoning young White men.  The sentence was appealed, and the young man was ordered to work in a community service job for two years.  With pay.  A further perk made the sentence completely palatable:  The case would be covered under a Youth Corrections Act, which would erase the Federal Felony from his record completely.  Like it never happened.

Disclosure

I am the unruly White boy, turned unruly old White man.  In no way do I consider myself to be of the stature of either Martin or Leonard.  What we have in common is the fact that all three of us spent our lives as dissidents.  Amerikan justice is a tiered system.  I’ve had several advantages over King and Peltier.  I’m White, and I was never an effective leader of men.  I was never enough of a threat to qualify for execution or a lifetime in prison.  While Martin has been nearly a half century in his grave, I’ve been able to participate in Occupy Wall Street, have marched against the racist SB1070 legislation in Arizona, and demonstrated against the crimes of Monsanto in Maui.  While Leonard has wasted away for forty years in prison, I’ve protested the Iraq War, have let my voice be heard about the injustice at Standing Rock, and have walked the streets of Amerika a free man.  The best we can hope for is that Martin Luther King was correct when he said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Free Leonard Peltier!

John currently resides, writes, and protests injustice in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and walks among the spirits of those who once occupied the 79 Disappeared Pueblos. He can be reached via email at: halls245@msn.com. Read other articles by John Rohn.