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UNITED STATES Echoes of the Klan in Alabama ballot

PETER FROST celebrates an election result for reason and progress in Alabama

ON Christmas Eve 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, just a few miles from the Alabama state line, six white supremacists founded the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). For the next century-and-a-half this organisation would cut a channel through US politics like a stinking open sewer.

Amazingly the Klan, and its far from proud history, is still influencing US elections like the one just held in Alabama last week.

The winning candidate, Doug Jones, spent much of his early legal career ensuring that two Klan murderers were eventually brought to justice.

Thomas Blanton Jnr and Bobby Cherry were two Klan members, part of a larger gang of murderous thugs who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

Dr Martin Luther King described the church bombing as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” The explosion at the church killed four young girls and injured 22 others.

By 1965 the FBI and local police knew exactly who had committed the outrage. Four well-known Ku Klux Klansmen had planted sticks of dynamite in the church entrance.

Neither local police nor the FBI did anything to bring Klansmen to justice until 1977 when when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of one of the victims — 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair. Herman Cash, who died in 1994, was never charged with his involvement in the bombing.

Thomas Edwin Blanton Jnr and Bobby Cherry were finally each convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment but not until 2001 and 2002 respectively — nearly 40 years after the explosions.

The only reason that Blanton and Cherry were finally brought to justice was the tenacious way public prosecutor Doug Jones — the man who has just won the Alabama election — would not let the matter rest. 

Blanton was finally found guilty in 2001, and Cherry in 2002. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Jones argued successfully against Blanton getting parole release last year. Cherry died in prison in 2004.

Jones’s opponent in the election, Roy Moore, has a long history of sympathy and support for many of the white supremacist organisations of the US South. 

His supporter from the White House, President Donald Trump, also enjoyed support from the Klan during his campaign and after his election. Perhaps that is not surprising given his family history.  

Trump’s father Fred was arrested on a Memorial Day march in Queens, New York, when he joined a thousand Klansmen in white sheets and conical hoods. Seven Klansman were arrested that day and one was Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road in Jamaica.

This was Donald Trump’s father. 

Moore has often said the last time the US was great was during the period of slavery — just before the Klan was born. During his election campaign, He said that the nation “was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery.”

Moore served in the Vietnam war. After law school, he joined a district attorney’s office and in 1992 he was appointed as a circuit judge. In 2001 he became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. 

He was sacked from his position in November 2003 for refusing to remove a huge and heavy marble monument of the Ten Commandments which he had installed in the lobby of the Alabama Courts. The US constitution makes the linking of law and religion illegal.

Moore had had this memorial made to replace a hand-painted wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments that he had illegally hung in his court for many years.  

He was was suspended in May 2016 for directing judges to continue to enforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
During the Senate race three women stated that he had sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers. One was 14 at the time of the incident.

Moore is considered a leading advocate of the Christian Bible Belt racist politics of the South. He voices strong homophobic, anti-semitic and Islamophobic views. He has long ties with many white nationalist neoconfederate far-right groups. 

Moore was a leading voice in the movement which promoted the nonsense that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

He is also the founder and president of the Foundation for Moral Law, from which he collected more than $1 million over five years. In 2005, Moore’s Foundation accepted a $1,000 contribution from neonazi and Holocaust denier Willis Carto.

Moore met his wife Kayla Kisor when she was a teenager dancer. He finally married her in 1985 when he was 38 and she was 24, divorced and a mother. The couple have four children. 

In March 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Judge Moore, stating that his pre-session prayers and his Ten Commandments displays were both unconstitutional. 
Moore vowed to defy the ruling, continuing illegal pre-court prayers and displaying the Ten Commandments in court. 

He is strongly anti-abortion. In 2014 he said that laws should protect life “from the moment of conception.” He also totally rejects the theory of evolution, claiming that teaching evolution in schools led to an increase in drive-by shootings. 

Moore holds virulently anti-gay beliefs. He supports laws to make homosexuality illegal and has argued that same-sex parents are unfit to raise children or serve in government. 

While presiding over a divorce case, Moore ruled that a mother who had had a lesbian affair would lose custody of her children to their abusive father. 

Moore says that transgender people “don’t have rights.” He suggested that the September 11 attacks were a punishment by God for US people’s lack of religion. He has called for banning Muslims from serving in Congress, describing Islam as a false religion. 

Now Trump’s man Moore has lost the Alabama election by 1.5 per cent and is still refusing to concede defeat. His arrival to vote on a horse clearly failed to impress voters enough. 

Jones has become the first Democrat to represent Alabama for 25 years. He has also reduced Trump’s Senate majority to a tiny 51 of 100 seats, making President Trump’s chances of introducing more racist and reactionary laws far less likely. I think we can all say amen to that. 

 

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