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Friday, June 26, 1998
Black Panthers to convene in Jasper to counter
By PAULINE ARRILLAGA / Associated Press Writer
HOUSTON (AP) -- Advising Jasper residents to "load your
guns," the New Black Panther Party said Thursday it would
send armed members to the East Texas town Saturday to protect
blacks during a planned Ku Klux Klan rally.
"We're going to be there to defend and to patrol the community
and protect them from attack," said Malik Z. Shabazz, an
attorney for the New Black Panther Party. "It's not a provocative
action. We are simply fulfilling our divine and constitutional
rights for self-defense."
Two factions of the KKK have scheduled a two-hour rally Saturday
afternoon outside the Jasper County Courthouse to denounce the
June 7 slaying of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained
to a pickup truck and dragged to his death.
Three white men -- Lawrence Russell Brewer Jr., 31, of Sulphur
Springs, Shawn Berry and John William King, both 23, of Jasper,
are charged with the slaying. Authorities have said King and Brewer
have ties to white supremacist beliefs. Brewer's attorney declined
to comment on his client's beliefs. A message left for King's
attorney was not immediately returned to The Associated Press
Shabazz said he didn't know how many Black Panthers are expected,
but he said they would be carrying shotguns. Some will attend
the Klan rally to "monitor" the situation. Others will
be stationed near the homes of black residents, "setting
up a defense perimeter and defense patrols," he said.
Several black residents asked the group to provide security,
However, local authorities and Byrd's family said they would
prefer that both groups stay away.
"We're not in favor of either group because of what they
stand for," said Clara Taylor, the victim's sister. "We're
trying to get on with our lives and heal and have a little peace."
Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles said state troopers, local
police and sheriff's deputies would provide security. Neither
he nor the Texas Department of Public Safety would say how many
law officers would be on hand.
"We're asking everybody to please don't come to Jasper
Saturday," Rowles said. "Let us handle it."
DPS spokeswoman Sherri Deatherage Green admitted authorities
face an extra challenge in maintaining peace if the New Black
Panthers plan to carry guns.
"Obviously, loaded guns don't mix well with an emotionally
charged situation like this," Ms. Green said. "I don't
believe the people of Jasper are going to come out with their
guns ablaze. But if any problems arise, DPS is going to be there
to take care of it."
In Texas, it is legal to possess a loaded shotgun in public
so long as the gun owner is behaving lawfully, authorities said.
The Texas branch of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People also plans to be in Jasper Saturday to meet
with residents. However, President Gary Bledsoe said the meeting
was unrelated to the KKK rally.
"We're discouraging people from going to the march,"
Bledsoe said. "We're just having a meeting to discuss concerns
with local citizens."
Meanwhile, Gov. George W. Bush on Thursday repeated calls for
the Klan to cancel its rally.
"First and foremost, I'd tell the Klan to stay away from
Jasper. Stay home, mow your yard and don't show up trying to incite
people's sentiments," he said, adding that if the event goes
forward as scheduled, "We'll be prepared."
Also Thursday, a U.S. Senate committee approved $100,000 in
funding to help pay for the prosecution of the three men accused
of killing Byrd. The provision is awaiting consideration by the
An eight-page autopsy report on Byrd released Wednesday said
he died of "multiple severe injuries with separation of the
head and right upper extremity from the rest of the body."
The autopsy found that much of his skin was stripped and shredded,
and his broken bones included most of his ribs, his back, his
collarbone and bones in his arms, legs and feet. His elbows, kneecaps,
lower back and both heels were ground to the bone, the report
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