Sunday, March 27, 2011

KKK – From murderers to folklore society

Racist movement that has done most terrible crimes in the United States, in the twenties and sixties of the 20th century, still exists. But Ku Klux Klan never recovered after a group of enthusiasts from the FBI broke their backbone in Mississippi.

Although Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 (in the defeated South after the Civil War, as a direct consequence of the abolition of slavery), this movement was relatively quiet until the turbulent twenties of the last century. Then, some of their worst crimes they committed in the sixties. In spite of having its supporters in all forms of government (even in the Oval Office), the backbone of the Klan was broken in the late sixties in Mississippi after which KKK never recovered, although they still exist today.

The first reports of BOI (Bureau of Investigation) agents, a small unit whose work depended mostly on the enthusiasm and good will of several dozen young men who wore hats and were clumsy on the trigger, said that radical members of KKK were organizing and meeting secretly. They also noticed that KKK members were following a series of hidden symbols and protocols, and that they are prone to violence and lynching. Their goal was clear: racism, segregation and destruction of the black race. Ties with the police, judiciary, and rich industrialists from the South were confirmed, but not proven.

Crimes committed during the twenties were horrible: hanging of innocent people, stamping, cutting of limbs and the expulsion of all those who oppose KKK. All of this was enhanced with intimidation tactic, which became a symbol of the Klan - burning of crosses and white hoods.

- A journalist from New Orleans brought me a letter from the Governor of Louisiana, John. M. Parker. The Governor has been unable to use either the mails, telegraph, or telephone because of interference by the Klan. The governor is seeking assistance because local authorities are absolutely inactive. He fears that judges, prosecutors and police officers, all of them, are corrupted - J. Edgar Hoover informed the Bureau and initiated the first federal investigation of the Klan. In the letter Hoover received it was stated that the Klan has completely taken over the entire northern half of the country and are killing all those who oppose them.

In the sixties, KKK was responsible for the death of many people. Their motive was the so-called Freedom Summer, a movement that aimed to register all dark-skinned citizens of Southern states in the electoral roll, and to give them a right to vote.  With that, a campaign of terror began. One of the persons that were thorn in the eye of KKK was New Yorker Michael Schwerner (1939-1964). Schwerner organized boycotts of all shops that did not allow African-Americans to enter. Three months later his body was found buried behind a local farm. 21 suspects were arrested, including Sheriff Cecil Price, his deputy and Baptist minister Edgar Ray Killen. After three years of trials, seven of those suspects were convicted, but none of them for the murder of Schwerner.

The anger of the nation resulted in Civil Rights Act of 1964, which abolished segregation.

The hunt for the white hoods started in 1966, after an attack on Vernon Dahmer, famous human rights activist. He died of severe burns a day after his house was firebombed by the supporters of KKK. More than 120 witnesses, informers and moles assisted the FBI investigation. Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, Samuel Bowers, who ordered the attack on Dahmer, surrendered himself. He was soon sentenced to seven years in prison and the Klan began to lose its breath.

Bowers and Killen, leaders and one of the main ideologists of KKK movement, were persecuted and often ended up in detention. The Klan never again resurrected, at least not in the form he had in the twenties and sixties.

The FBI estimates that there are currently several hundred small and uninteresting branches of KKK in the U.S.. It is estimated that they have about 8,000 members in 179 communities. They are mostly posing for tabloids and organizing marches with skinheads.

FBI agents were constantly in fear of revenge

James Ingram (1932-2009), former FBI agent, who, in the period of 1975-1983, worked on the most serious cases of racial murders in Mississippi during sixties, said that agents were constantly in fear of revenge of the Klan. 

Agents would always watch. They’d look underneath their cars to make sure we did not have any dynamite strapped underneath … Then you’d open your hood and make sure that everything was clear there. We had snakes placed in mailboxes. We had threats. We infiltrated the Klan in many ways. We had female informants. … And we had police officers that were informants for us.”

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