MARKS, Miss.:Poor people’s march, 35 years later

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the first Poor People’s March 35 years ago beginning in Marks, Miss. The spirit of Dr. King lives to answer the deepening poverty in rural America as marchers stepped off, Aug. 2, on their way to Washington, D.C.

The Poor People’s March for Economic Human Rights is converging on the nation’s capital from Marks, Nashville, Louisville, Chichco, Va., and Durham, N.C. Organizers are planning a massive rally at the Iwo Jima Memorial on Aug. 23 and establishing a tent city, “Bushville,” to focus attention on the needs of the country’s poor.

Marchers in Mississippi fell into line behind two banners: “Land of the unemployed,” and “Land of the uninsured,” demanding jobs and health care.

Maria Del Moral, a formerly homeless mother in Philadelphia and member of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, traveled to Marks to join the march. On the way, the group stopped in Memphis. “I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of the place where Martin Luther King had gotten killed (the Lorraine Motel was the site of the King assassination in 1968),” she wrote in her online journal. “I thought to myself: I will never forget this. It’s exactly the same as back then. After that I started looking around the area. My heart was broken. It’s so poor.”

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.:Feds find ‘foul play,’ not suicide

Bobby Doctor, director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Southern regional office, investigated the death of Feraris “Ray” Golden, a 32-year-old African American, and found inconsistencies in the local inquest that declared his death a suicide. The findings, said Doctor, may implicate Palm Beach County’s justice system. “The issue, as we see it, is beginning to mushroom beyond just the hanging,” he said.

On May 28, relatives found Ray Golden’s body hanging from a tree outside his grandmother’s house in rural Bel Glade, Fla., a 15,000-resident farming community. Relatives said Golden’s hands were tied behind his back. Friends added that Golden had been dating a white policeman’s daughter.

Officials from the Palm Beach County NAACP forced the first coroner’s inquest in 18 years into the cause of Golden’s death. On July 29, the state’s Attorney General agreed with police, ruling Golden’s death a suicide.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference called in the Civil Rights Commission. The report from the commission goes to the U.S. Justice Department, which may begin an investigation.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.:Police infiltrate peace groups

On July 31, local police admitted that plainclothes cops joined peace groups planning demonstrations at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant to gather information.

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) has organized protests at Y-12 manufacturing plant since 1988, including on anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the coalition, said he wasn’t surprised by the police spying. Coalition members reported people attending nonviolent workshops held in Knoxville churches who “didn’t quite fit in.”

“Big Brother is supposed to be a fictional character, not the Oak Ridge police,” Hutchison said. Earlier this year, Larry Wallace, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, apologized after it became public that a TBI agent infiltrated an antiwar rally at Middle Tennessee State University and took names of protesters.

“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising given today’s political climate,” remarked Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee ACLU. “These tactics, however, are wrong and bring to light the serious concerns we have about the vastly expanding powers of law enforcement to spy on residents in this country.”

HARRISBURG, Penn.:Hold mine owners responsible for safety

One year following the rescue of nine coal miners trapped by flood waters from an abandoned mine for three days, the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) has concluded that the state’s 100-year-old laws regulating mining need to be changed by the legislature.

The 52-page report calls on the legislature to amend mining regulations to hold the owners of coal companies responsible for safety, including mapping. Currently, coal operators are exempt from penalties, civil or criminal, for sending miners to work in hazardous conditions. Only individual mine foremen or on-site supervisors are liable for safety violations. Fines range from $5 to revocation of an individual’s state certification. Changes to the state Mine Safety Act are “imperative,” the report said.

“We have to get owners in the chain of responsibility like they are under environmental laws,” said DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty. Meanwhile seven of the nine rescued miners have filed suit against present and former owners of the Quecreek mine.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards. Julia Lutsky, Rosita Johnson, and Carolyn Rummel contributed to this week’s clips.