Trump lynch­ing claim re­news pain for kin of ac­tual vic­tims

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Wil­lie Ed­wards Jr., a black truck driver, was killed by Ku Klux Klans­men who forced him to jump off a bridge in Alabama in 1957. Two years ear­lier, white men had blud­geoned black teenager Em­mett Till to death in Mis­sis­sippi. No one went to pri­son for ei­ther slay­ing.

Both peo­ple died in racist lynch­ings, and rel­a­tives of each were aghast Tues­day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump com­pared his own pos­si­ble im­peach­ment to lynch­ing — racist killings, of­ten for the pur­pose of in­cit­ing ter­ror, that took an es­ti­mated 4,400 black lives over roughly seven decades in 20 states, mostly in the South.

Made in a tweet that drew back­ing from some Repub­li­can sup­port­ers in­clud­ing Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, Trump’s claim was illinforme­d at best and racist at worst, they said. And it den­i­grated the fates of peo­ple who were hanged, beaten, shot, drowned, burned or bat­tered to death be­cause of the color of their skin, they said.

“Ei­ther he’s very ig­no­rant or very in­sen­si­tive or very racist and just doesn’t care,” said 66-year-old Malinda Ed­wards, Wil­lie Ed­wards’ daugh­ter.

Deb­o­rah Watts, a cousin of Till, called the pres­i­dent’s tweet “in­sen­si­tive and of­fen­sive.”

“Lynch­ing is the ul­ti­mate act of racial ter­ror that re­sulted in the bru­tal mur­ders, trauma and ter­ror­ism that my cousin Em­mett and thou­sands of in­no­cent black men, women and en­tire com­mu­ni­ties of color suf­fered for hundreds of years,” she said.

Till , a 14-year-old

African Amer­i­can from Chicago, was kid­napped, beaten and dumped in a river in 1955 af­ter be­ing ac­cused of whistling at a white woman in a store. An all-white jury ac­quit­ted two white men of mur­der charges, although they later ad­mit­ted the killing in a mag­a­zine in­ter­view. The FBI has yet to close a re­newed in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his slay­ing.

In the case of Ed­wards’ fa­ther, Klans­men killed the 24-year-old man af­ter mis­tak­ing him for an­other black man who sup­pos­edly smiled at a white woman or made a pass in racially seg­re­gated Montgomery. An FBI re­view found that the killers kid­napped him off a road­side and forced him to plunge off a bridge into a river.

Three men were in­dicted in Ed­wards’ slay­ing in

1976, but a judge dis­missed the case be­cause the in­dict­ment didn’t state a cause of death. Sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tions led to no pros­e­cu­tions, and all the sus­pects are now dead.

The names of Ed­wards and Till are in­cluded on a na­tional me­mo­rial to lynch­ing vic­tims that opened last year in Montgomery. Re­search by the non­profit Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive, which com­mis­sioned the me­mo­rial, doc­u­mented some 4,400 racial ter­ror lynch­ings in the United States from 1877 through 1950.

An un­told num­ber of other peo­ple also were lynched, but their sto­ries were lost to time or of­fi­cial in­dif­fer­ence. Janet Lang­hart Co­hen says those cases in­clude that of her dis­tant cousin Jimmy Gil­len­wa­ters, who was lynched in Ken­tucky in the early 1900s.

Co­hen, the wife of for­mer Repub­li­can Sen. Wil­liam Co­hen of Maine, said Trump is one of too many racist whites who have shown a lack of re­spect for lynch­ing vic­tims and their de­scen­dants.

“He knows what he’s do­ing. He knows how to hurt and di­vide,” said

Co­hen, who wrote the play “Anne and Em­mett” about an imag­i­nary con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Till and Holo­caust vic­tim Anne Frank.

Fac­ing an im­peach­ment in­quiry that he and sup­port­ers claim is il­le­gal, Trump tweeted: “So some day, if a Demo­crat be­comes Pres­i­dent and the Repub­li­cans win the House, even by a tiny mar­gin, they can im­peach the Pres­i­dent, without due process or fair­ness or any le­gal rights. All Repub­li­cans must re­mem­ber what they are wit­ness­ing here — a lynch­ing. But we will WIN!”

Josephine Bolling Mccall, the daugh­ter of lynch­ing vic­tim El­more Bolling, said Trump’s com­ment about lynch­ing “hits harder than any­thing else he has done” as pres­i­dent.

“He has said a lot of things and done a lot of things I dis­agree with, but this is just im­moral. He has no con­cept of what we have gone through. He has no con­cept of what a lynch­ing is,” said Mccall, whose fa­ther was a black busi­ness­man who was shot by a white neigh­bor near Montgomery in 1947.

The shooter, sus­pected of killing Bolling out of jeal­ousy over his fi­nan­cial suc­cess, was never pros­e­cuted.

Ed­wards, who lives in Day­ton, Ohio, said she feels sick in her stom­ach any time she hears the word “lynch­ing,” and Trump’s tweet was no dif­fer­ent. Trump’s mes­sage was all the worse be­cause it dis­played in­dif­fer­ence to the vic­tims of ac­tual lynch­ings and their de­scen­dants, Ed­wards said.

“It says to them that ‘What hap­pened to you is like noth­ing more than an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’ These are peo­ple who went through the most grue­some and heinous things that could be done to them,” said Ed­wards.

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