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Final Call responds to
returns to Memphis
MEMPHIS - Delegates of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from around the country converged on the city of Memphis Aug. 2-6, the first time since the April 1968 assassination of their leader and civil rights icon, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was the group’s 45th annual convention.
Under the banner, "A Tribute to Our Legacy, A Charge for Our Future," SCLC President Martin Luther King III presented his presidential speech on August 3. He reminded those present of the rich SCLC legacy that led to, among other things, the application of nonviolent protest action, the dismantling of racially segregated public facilities in the South and significant gains in equal rights legislation for Blacks not witnessed since the Reconstruction era.
He called for a renewed spirit in the national struggle for justice and equality and demanded that the organization refocus their priorities to reflect the ever-changing times. His most impassioned plea told the delegates that, in order to reclaim the right to struggle for the rights of all people, the organization had to be willing to set the record straight about what really happened the week of April 4, 1968.
Speaking from the historic Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, as his father did more than three decades earlier with his last public address, SCLC President King recognized the awkwardness of the moment. Daylong thunderstorms and tornado watches were in effect, as they were 35 years ago. Negative propaganda and elements of sabotage of organizational efforts to inform the city, according to organizers, were underway. Corporations that normally offer sponsorship to such conventions as well as democratic presidential candidates who attended every major convention of Blacks this year to articulate their platform for 2004 were noticeably absent. Mainstream media showed no interest in covering this historic return to the city.
What did these entities
"Biblically, we are told that ‘ye shall know the truth and that the truth shall set you free.’ But we are not yet ready to deal with the truth, because it’s painful. It sometimes, maybe, could be devastating. What truth am I talking about?" he asked.
"We came here engaged in a civil suit (in 1999). Seventy overwhelming witnesses were called to testify about who killed Martin Luther King Jr. America, and some here, say it was James Earl Ray. But James Earl Ray was just an unknowing patsy," the 45-year-old leader exclaimed.
Pres. King challenged the motives of the National Civil Rights Museum, which was developed out of the remains of the infamous Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was murdered. According to Mr. King, the museum refuses to acknowledge the King family and SCLC efforts to correct the lies the institution continues to convey, he said, particularly that James Earl Ray was the lone gunman. He additionally lamented that, although "the case of the century" in December 1999 which concluded that there was a government conspiracy to murder Dr. King, the museum still refuses to place the findings of the trial on exhibit.
"We’ve got to get some balance in the story," he said. "Pray with our family, as we pursue truth and justice," he said. He added that, if the delegates wanted to know the truth about who conspired in the events that led to his father’s assassination, they should attend a specially convened panel of experts and his family members, where it would all be revealed.
Mrs. King told reporters then that she proposed a national commission with subpoena power for evidence gathering, to grant immunity and to prosecute. The King family said it is convinced that James Earl Ray, who confessed to shooting the civil rights leader and later recanted, was not the gunman, although he was convicted. Ambassador Young said new information provided by a former Memphis businessman pointed to a conspiracy.
One year later, the conspiracy trial King vs. Lloyd Jowers and "other unknown conspirators" began, with a jury concluding that the assassination of Dr. King was, in fact, a result of a multi-leveled government conspiracy.
The trial was the first time any jury had the opportunity to hear theories of a murder conspiracy.
The six Blacks and six Whites on the jury deliberated close to three hours before returning a verdict, awarding the King family $100 in damages. They had asked for minimal damages, saying they were more interested in a verdict that would support their belief.
"The jury was clearly convinced that the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial (showed that) in addition to Mr. Jowers, a conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband," said Mrs. King.
At the conclusion of the trial, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson wrote an editorial that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, affirming the jury’s finding.
"For those of us who were with Dr. King in Memphis, the ‘lone assassin’ theory always seemed suspect. James Earl Ray had neither the means nor the method nor the motive to stalk Dr. King, shoot him and arrange his own getaway," Rev. Jackson wrote. "Despite these misgivings, the lone assassin theory became the near universal explanation. Deviation from it was too forbidding, for any conspiracy would point directly to government involvement, or at least acquiescence, in King’s murder," he said.
Stunning tape admission
"He was here and I stood there. Only when I moved away so that they would have a clear shot, then the shot rang out," Rev. Kyles said in a news conference videotaped April 3, 1998, inviting the public to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. The videotape was played for the SCLC delegates at the assassination panel.
So shocked was the public at this revelation in 1998, the tape eventually became part of the evidence during the 1999 conspiracy trial. Mr. Kyles testified at the trial, and presides today over the National Civil Rights Museum. He did not attend the panel discussion, although he appeared at the presidential speech of Mr. King the day before, and an invite was extended, according to the conference organizers.
Murder weapon doubted
Judge Brown believes that Mr. Ray could not have acted alone, and that the rifle examined could not have been the weapon used in the assassination. He challenged the expertise of previous investigators associated with the case, and as a weapons expert himself, he is the only one to ever conduct a metallurgical ballistic analysis on the alleged weapon.
"The level of expertise was extremely low. They had long histories of being able to look at bullets under a microscope and using relatively primitive technology to make an analysis subjectively. They had very little knowledge, if any, about rifles and firearms in general," he told The Final Call during an interview last year.
"Simply put, the rifle that they have in evidence is not the murder weapon," he said. "It would appear that the weapon that was used to kill Dr. King was a 308/7.62 NATO caliber weapon," he said. "The weapon in evidence is a 30 odd six with a one in 10-inch rifling twist that was never sited and that, when tested, was excluded by a number of other tests," he concluded.
Questions of perjury
"The Justice Department said in their June 2000 report on their investigation into the evidence and court proceedings that he could not have possibly instigated their removal. The Justice Department concluded that they are aware of no document exonerating Jackson; that Jackson said that he couldn’t have possibly gotten the community group off the balcony, because he did not even know they were staying in the hotel," said researcher activist Steve Cokely.
"Now I raise the question of conspiracy to cover-up," he continued. "Now, it is a question of perjury, because documents do exist—that articulate that Jackson met with the community group—through a report of informants used by the government at the Lorraine Motel. The document articulates who was in the meeting and what the results of that meeting were," he explained. "Jackson was instrumental, according to the documents, in Billy Kyles being assigned as the liaison to this community group, known as the Invaders. There is an authentic government intelligence report that corroborates Jackson’s involvement with this community group at the Lorraine Motel, contrary to his denial under oath to the U.S. government investigators."
Mr. Kyles also corroborated Rev. Jackson’s involvement with the community group at the hotel, Mr. Cokely told the delegates. Calls to Rev. Jackson’s office were not returned at Final Call presstime.
A new beginning
A nationwide "street corner campaign" is underway to draw a public consensus on the best approach to conducting a people’s court investigation of the facts related to the slaying of Dr. King. It will begin with a re-creation of the SCLC assassination panel on September 26-27 at Clark Atlanta University at the Black African Holocaust Regional Conference in Atlanta, Ga. It is expected that there will be more participation from other members of the King family, who reside in Atlanta.
"This city has represented the place of the crucifixion," commented Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. "Coming back here is like a resurrection. Resurrection symbolizes a new beginning. Everything that has been dark, in terms of lies and myths, is now over because we have come to resurrect and shed light on what the truth is. So we had to come here, if for no other reason, for God to spiritually do what He has to do in the earth to manifest what the truth is regarding my father’s assassination," she said.
Rev. King closed with
a prayer for God to bless the conveyers of truth, those who lent
their eyes and ears to the convention. She asked the Creator, "Lord,
help us to understand that if we heard it, we are now responsible."
Final Call Newspaper Retraction
Retraction and Correction
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination
In our August 19, 2003 edition of The Final Call newspaper, Vol. 22, Number 46, our front page cover sub- headline stated: "SCLC, King family seek to set the record straight about King assassination" with the front page headline: "Ye Shall Know the Truth." There was an accompanying photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also on the cover.
On page 3 of that edition, the headline reads: "SCLC returns to Memphis," with the sub-headline: "To reclaim civil rights legacy and free the future, Dr. King’s children say truth of his assassination must be made known."
The published story on page 30, column 2 under the caption "Thin theory?" included the following statement: "On April 8, 1998, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, her son Dexter King, Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young met with then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for two-and-a half hours. They demanded a new federal investigation into the King assassination, based on new evidence that had come to their attention. The family alleges that the Reverends Jesse L. Jackson and Samuel Billy Kyles are complicit in the assassination of Dr. King."
The statement that, "The family alleges that the Reverends Jesse L. Jackson and Samuel Billy Kyles are complicit in the assassination of Dr. King" was wrongfully and erroneously attributed to the King Family.
The Final Call retracts this statement as having no basis in fact or proof.
The Final Call deeply regrets this error in the publishing of the story, and extends our sincere apologies to The King Family, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson and Reverend Billy Kyles.
The Final Call hopes that the stories in this edition will aid in the correction of this erroneous allegation.
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Last Updated on October 1, 2003