From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Nigel Allen)
Subject: Mississippi Activists Receive Death Threats
Date: 1 Dec 1994 09:21:24 -0600
Here is a press release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
I downloaded the press release from the PR On-Line BBS in Maryland
at 410-363-0834. I do not work for or belong to the NGLTF.
Mississippi Activists Receive Death Threats; NGLTF Resounds
a Call for Justice to DOJ
To: National Desk
Contact: Gregory Fisher, 202-332-6483 ext. 3309, or
800-757-7736 (pager), or
Beth Barrett, 202-332-6483 ext. 3215, both of the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 -- Tensions continue to mount
in the central Mississippi community rocked by the double murder of
two gay men.
After a brief investigation leading to the confession of
a 16 year-old boy, shock reverberated throughout the AIDS and
civil rights activist community when it became clear that posthumous
HIV antibody tests would be conducted on the two victims. Finally,
this week two key activists involved in the case reported receiving
several death threats. In response, the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force (NGLTF), with no confidence in local authorities,
resounded the call for federal intervention.
According to April Richards, president of G.L. Friendly, a gay and
lesbian community service organization in Biloxi, Miss., she and
group founder Todd Emerson received death threats by phone due to
their continuing involvement in the case. Harassers also threatened
both of Emerson's children, prompting Emerson to distance himself
from further involvement in the murder case. Richards and Emerson
have been critical of the local investigation and have worked to draw
national attention to the situation.
In a letter sent today to Attorney General Janet Reno, NGLTF
Executive Director Peri Jude Radecic again requested intervention by
the Department of Justice (DOJ). Radecic raised questions still
unanswered by the local investigation and expressed her outrage at
the decision to allow posthumous HIV testing. Citing the atmosphere
of violence and the real threat to the lives of Richards and Emerson,
Radecic highlighted the fear of Mississippi activists whose
involvement in the case has made them targets. Radecic has called
for DOJ intervention including a thorough investigation by the FBI.
"The situation in Mississippi is explosive and I believe it
requires Department of Justice intervention," said Radecic.
Threats against Richards and Emerson followed almost two months of
activist outrage over the discrepancies in the case as presented by
the Jones County Sheriff's Department. Five days after the murder,
the agents arrested Marvin McClendon, a 16 year-old African American
boy in connection with the murders. After McClendon's confession
without the presence of a parent or an attorney, the sheriff's
department presented four separate versions of the events of the
murder ranging from robbery to attempted rape.
In addition to the many unanswered questions, doubt still lingers
over the ability of Jones County law enforcement to conduct a
thorough and unbiased investigation. Several officers, including
Sheriff Maurice Hooks, made homophobic comments regarding the October
murder investigation and harassment against Camp Sister Spirit, a
lesbian-feminist retreat also in Jones County. The apparent lack of
commitment to prosecute acts of harassment against Camp Sister Spirit
is also a cause for concern. According to Brenda and Wanda Henson,
camp co-founders, of the approximately 100 acts of violence and
harassment reported against Camp Sister Spirit, only one has resulted
in even a minor arrest.
In an unprecedented decision, Circuit Court Judge Billy Joe
Landrum agreed to allow HIV testing of the two murder victims.
Activists fear that positive results could lead to a case dismissal
on the grounds of "justifiable homicide." Landrum has not yet
determined if he will allow the results in court. Lambda Legal
Defense and Education Fund, working in conjunction with anti-violence
projects New York and Los Angeles, is working to dissuade Landrum
from admitting the evidence. Not only is testing irrelevant
to the case and questionable under privacy policies, they argue,
but if allowed, admission of the results could set a precedent
that threatens the civil rights and safety of people infected
with the AIDS virus.
"If the case is dismissed because of the HIV status of
the victims, then killing someone with HIV, or someone who is
presumed to be HIV positive, would not only be acceptable but
excusable by law," Radecic said in her letter to Reno.
NGLTF has sponsored a "Call For Justice" hotline for activists
wishing to send a telegram to Janet Reno demanding federal
intervention. By calling 800-651-1417, for a small fee ($6.50),
individuals may speak to an operator who will add their name and
address to a letter urging Reno to intervene in the matter and to
further address the rising tide of anti-gay/lesbian murders across
the country. Activists are also encouraged to send letters to Reno
and Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice by regular mail.
NGLTF continues to support the work of local activists through
coalition work with other national groups, G.L. Friendly in Biloxi,
Miss., and Southerners On New Ground (SONG), an alliance building
project connecting issues of race, class, gender and sexual
orientation. NGLTF previously requested DOJ intervention on
Oct. 10 and sent two anti-violence specialists to Laurel, Miss.,
to assist local activists.
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