A Cover Up Turns 50: Unpopular Reflections on the MLK Assassination

A Cover Up Turns 50: Unpopular Reflections on the MLK Assassination

Overview

 

Not enough Americans know that in 1999 a jury in a civil suit brought by the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ruled that a retired Memphis cafe owner was part of a conspiracy in his 1968 assassination. During the trial, which received almost no media attention, the legal team representing the King family also implicated the U.S. intelligence apparatus. Among the startling and provocative assertions made in the courtroom, included the claim that the U.S. 111th Military Intelligence Group were at Dr. King’s location during the assassination, and that the 20th Special Forces Group had an 8-man sniper team there as well. What is more, the King’s legal team presented a number of questions regarding the unusual behavior of the Memphis Police special body guards, who were advised they “weren’t needed” that day. Across the board, regular and constant police protection for King was removed, so that at the time of the shooting he had almost no official shield of defense.

The lawyers also set out to demonstrate that military intelligence set up photographers on a roof of a fire station with a clear view to Dr. King’s balcony; that Dr. King’s room was changed from a secure 1st-floor room to an exposed balcony room; and that the Memphis police ordered the cutting down of bushes that could have hid a sniper. Along with sanitizing the crime scene, the police also neglected to carry our ordinary investigative procedures such as interviewing witnesses who lived by the scene of the shooting.

After four weeks of testimony from over 70 witnesses and just three hours of deliberation, the jury of six whites and six blacks in the wrongful-death case found that Loyd Jowers, as well as “others, including governmental agencies” had been part of a conspiracy. The jury awarded the King family the damages they had sought: $100, which was then donated to charity.

Rather than explain and inform the public about the jury’s decision, mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times merely summarized the purpose behind the lawsuit in the first place. According to their feature story, the King family had long questioned Mr. Ray’s conviction and hoped the suit would change the legal and historical record of the assassination. “This is a vindication for us,” said Dexter King, MLK’s youngest son.

It has now been almost 50 years since the execution of America’s greatest citizen and the truth about his murder has continued to be covered up by almost every institution in our society. To be fair, hardly any of these institutions (e.g., universities, high schools, churches, museums, historical societies)  know that they are part of a cover up, they just believe and teach what they have been allowed to know. What they “know” about the MLK murder is mostly false. There can be no peace without justice. Until the nation is able to come to terms with the facts of MLK’s assassination, our nation cannot properly honor his legacy.

Service projects are wonderful. Candlelight vigils are beautiful. Concerts and fundraisers are inspiring. I am sure that Dr. King would be pleased with all of these positive actions to help build the “Beloved Community.” But until our country is able to come to terms with the real circumstances of his death, we will not be able to fight for what he stood for-at least not with the fortitude needed.

In a poetic mood, King once penned, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

One of the ways that unarmed truth will have the final word is when citizens stop believing the narratives from their so called leaders and muster the personal courage needed to discover what really happened on that Memphis balcony on April 4, 1968. Until this unspeakable crime is unmasked as a political assassination-one ordered at the highest levels of our secret, black-ops funded government- the starless midnight of racism and war will continue to swallow and suffocate the dream whole.

 George Payne is a freelance writer, SUNY adjunct professor of philosophy, domestic violence counselor, host of The Broken Spear Vision on Rochester Free Radio, and a social justice activist from Rochester, NY. He can be reached at

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