Jena 6 Targeted by Hate Groups
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
Black bloggers are getting credit for the turnout at last week's rally in Jena, Louisiana. Thousands flooded the small town last week to protest what they see as injustice in the courts.
Meanwhile, opposition to that rally was loud and clear on so-called white supremacist Web sites. And late last week, a neo-Nazi blogger posted the home addresses and phone numbers of five of the Jena Six.
In another post, he seemed to call for their lynching. The Web host has now shut down the blogger, William White. But plenty of people are still blogging including Richard Barrett. Barrett is counsel for the Nationalist Movement in Learned, Mississippi. The group has been called white supremacists by some. I asked him what he thought of White's action.
Mr. RICHARD BARRETT (General Counsel, Nationalist Movement, Learned, Mississippi): I think it's outrageous. And I've been trying for quite a while - in fact, I did have him shut down on various other sites that he tried to put up when he started making these death threats a year or so ago. And he actually filed a complaint with the Mississippi State Bar, because I'm also a lawyer, and he said that I had unethically tried to have him kicked off the Internet.
Well, that complaint was dismissed because I'm glad (unintelligible) he deserved to be kicked off the Internet. I mean, now I've got the axe handle here that Lester Maddox waved. And he waved because he said I want private property rights. He had a right to do that. And the young fellow that put a noose on the end of his truck saying, I just want a school that's safe. I'm not going to get mugged in. He had a right to do that as well. But you can't just go out and threaten to kill people. Now, that's crossing the - that's crossing over the line.
CHIDEYA: Have you ever put people's addresses on your Web properties?
Mr. BARRETT: No, have not, and don't intend to.
CHIDEYA: What do you hope to do with your Web site when you write about the Jena case, when you write about going to Jena, who are you hoping to reach? What kind of response do you get?
Mr. BARRETT: Well, first of all, I'd like to address the ones involved with the Jena Six. I'd like to encourage the unwed mothers, as most of them are, to consider family life and to preach the gospel, if you will, of family. To marry so that a father would be there to train these young people. I'd also like to teach them or train them or encourage them to be serious about this country.
I've gone to their Web sites. I went to the one for Robert Bailey and his friend named Theo, and I see all these black power slogans - Black is Proud, thuga(ph) and using the N-word, I think gangster lifestyle, if you will. And I would say just get down on your knees and be thankful you're in the United States of America. That's the message I would say to them. And then to the other people I would say you need to catch up. You need to organize.
And that's what we're trying to do. That means write articles, give speeches, form organizations, get discussion groups going, take up petition drives, hold rallies, get on the radio, run for office. And then the doom and gloom prognostication for 50 years from now, it's going to be a much better sunrise in a much better day. I believe that. I love this country. I fought for it. I have two Purple Hearts defending it. And I'm just going to let freedom ring. And I think Jena has helped ring that liberty bell as well.
CHIDEYA: Richard Barrett has a long history of going to towns embroiled in racial controversies and protesting, he says, for local whites. On the Web site, he runs an excerpt from what he also says is an interview that he did with Jena's mayor, Murphy McMillan. In that interview, Barrett called protesters in towns like Jena, invaders. I asked Barrett about the interview.
I noticed that on your Web site, Nationalist.org, you have a conversation with Mayor Murphy McMillan of Jena. Tell me a little bit about how you - how and when you spoke with him.
Mr. BARRETT: You know, I called him to tell him that I just want to support him. And I noticed that he said to me - he thanked me for the support and he said, we're going to hold the line. And, you know, that's the real message of Jena that Al Sharpton can huff, Jesse Jackson can puff, but Jena is still there and the American flag - not the flag of the Republic of New Africa - is still going to be flying over that town. I think that's a lesson for America.
CHIDEYA: Do you have any doubt in your mind, as you had this conversation with the mayor, that he understood that you were a white supremacist for a nationalist organization?
Mr. BARRETT: Well, first of all, we are a nationalist organization and we're a pro-majority organization. Let's try to keep that - we're democratic organization. Well, the people in Jena, they've got a lot of backbone. And I don't know that they're going to need a whole lot of organization because they did just what the people in Budapest did to the Soviet tanks. They turned their back on them and that's probably the message of Jena.
CHIDEYA: Did Mr. McMillan, the mayor, know that you were recording him or expect this to go up on the Internet?
Mr. BARRETT: Well, I didn't record it but I have a very good memory and I just did it for memory. But he seemed like he knew who I was and he was very accommodating. And, yeah, in fact, but it's not just the mayor. I talked to Harold Stevens(ph), an 88-year-old man and then I talked to Ben Gaines(ph), a 17-year-old teenager, and they all said the same thing: We're not giving in.
CHIDEYA: So we spoke to Mayor McMillan to see if the conversation, as written, was true. He declined to grant us a radio interview but he did send back two detailed e-mails. The first read in part, we are grateful for your bringing this to our attention. I was contacted by Mr. Barrett Tuesday prior to the rally. We had no idea of who he is or of his affiliation.
The statements you provided me are inaccurate and that I do not recall - him using the term invaders at any point. In terms of his wanting to use a portion of the town, to quote, "oppose these colored folks," end quote, it was my impression in responding to him that regardless of his philosophy, if you wanted to exercise his rights of free speech, I had to be accommodating rather than oppositional. I did not know I was being interviewed. I do not want my name or my town associated in any way with any white supremacist group or any group that preaches race hate. Now that I know about Mr. Barrett's inaccurate statements contained in your e-mail, I will insist that the conversation be removed from his Web site immediately.
We've then asked the mayor specifically whether he had thanked Mr. Barrett, the mayor replied with the following e-mail. To supplement my earlier response, I also take strong exception to the part where I am quoted as saying, quote, "your moral support is appreciated," end quote. That statement was not made. For someone to try to twist my words to bring about a conclusion that I or my town would support a white supremacist group is repugnant to me.
Again, that's the statement from the mayor of Jena.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.