THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: King’s granddaughter was more than symbolism

Yolanda Renee King, the 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., took the stage at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. March 24.

She sounded every bit like her illustrious grandfather when he spoke in the same city to a like rally of tens of thousands 50 years earlier. She brought the house down when she implored the crowd to fight for a “gun-free world.”

The young King’s plea, deliberately wrapped in words from King’s legendary famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, was much more than emotional symbolism. The march and her appearance on the podium came less than two weeks before the day, April 4, 50 years ago that her grandfather was gunned down in Memphis.

King’s murder sparked a momentary deep national soul search about the carnage of gun violence and the grave peril that wanton violence posed to the nation. But that soul search was fleeting.

In the decades after his murder, the National Rifle Association grew in wealth, membership, power and influence. It clamped a near iron-fisted grip on Congress to make sure that even the most tepid, inconsequential gun control measure died a swift death there.

Meanwhile, the gun rage soared with more guns in American hands than in the hands of soldiers in World War II. An intransigent gun culture, a movie industry that glorifies violence on the big and little screen, a media that turned murder and violence into a ratings cash cow, the resurgence of hate groups and the fall off the social ledge of unhinged, frustrated young white males, virtually ensured that America would plunge into a new and even gorier era of nonstop mass murder and mayhem.

The Parkland, Florida, mass shooting was the tipping point that brought legions of protesters to the streets. It was the same peril of gun violence that brought King to the streets. He repeatedly demanded that the civil rights movement make a firm commitment to combatting violence. That was more than political pragmatism on his part.

King abhorred violence. All violence.

While it’s true that he did for a brief time in the mid-1950s keep a gun in his home in Montgomery, it was purely for self-defense. King soon got rid of it and made clear that keeping a gun flew in the face of everything that he believed in and implored others to believe in; namely a total commitment to non-violence.

That didn’t stop the NRA, though, from trying to peddle the lie that King would have backed the NRA. That was a crude, crass and cynical effort to invoke the name of America’s greatest champion of non-violence to push its anti-any gun control agenda.

King’s granddaughter’s appearance and impassioned plea at the March for Our Lives was stark recognition that the ante had been bloodily raised in the 50 years since her grandfather’s murder. Guns were not just killing individuals, they were now weapons of mass destruction and terror in schools, work places, at public events and on the streets.

Anyone, anywhere, at any time could be a victim. The lethalness of the weapons and the ease with which practically anyone could get an arsenal of them, had now turned gun violence into a major health issue and challenge for the country.

King almost certainly would have been deeply pained by the spectacular and grotesque mass killings in cities from Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut to Las Vegas, and of course, Parkland. That wouldn’t have been all.

His deep concern over gun violence would also extend to the murder plague in Chicago, Baltimore and other cities. He would almost certainly have joined in the intense lobbying campaign to get Congress to pass comprehensive gun control legislation.

He would bring much experience to the gun control campaign on how to use non-violent tactics as a weapon to appeal to the conscience of fence-sitting politicians, and even opponents, to enact meaningful gun control legislation.

Then-President Barack Obama may well have reached out to King and enlisted his support in the efforts he made to prod Congress to pass tougher gun control regulations.

When Obama eventually signed a handful of executive orders that pecked at the edge of gun control in 2013, King might have been invited to witness the signing. His presence would symbolize the importance of a renewed movement to combat murder violence in America.

On this issue, King would have had the overwhelming support for any actions he took on ending gun violence from millions of Americans. Polls show that most Americans have consistently supported stronger gun control bans.

King would not have needed a poll to be on the podium in Washington at the March for Our Lives. The fight against gun violence was a fight he championed as passionately as civil rights. His granddaughter’s words at the March 50 years after he was a victim of gun violence confirmed that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Russia Probe: What Did Trump Know and When Did He Know It?” (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

 

THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Mueller’s roadblock remains Trump

“I’m looking forward to it.”

President Donald Trump said that with almost boyish enthusiasm in January when asked whether he would submit to testimony by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe. But Trump being Trump, he couldn’t stop there with his loud no-fear of testifying boast.

He took yet another big swipe at his former presidential rival Hillary Clinton and claimed that she didn’t testify under oath, but that he would. It was hyperbole to the nth degree, but Trump gave the impression that there would be no need for a grand jury subpoena to force him to testify about what he knew, when he know it, and more to the point, did he actually collude with the Russians in their blatant tampering with the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s seeming effervescent confidence that he would talk voluntarily sans subpoena was just that, words. Trump’s testimony would be fraught with mountainous legal perils. His attorney knew that full well, and so did Mueller.

And weeks later there was still no date set for him to testify or a timetable for setting one. The prospect of him testifying set off a mad legal scramble behind the scenes by Trump and his attorneys to duck, dodge and delay him giving any testimony.

In the months before Trump’s public boast about testifying, Mueller laid the groundwork for what, if any case, could be made against Trump for collusion by pecking away around the edges.

He indicted several key Trump campaign and administration associates. He indicted 13 Russian nationals, and in the process blew open the details of how Russia pulled off its elaborate and wide-ranging presidential election scam.

He then followed that up by wringing a guilty plea to lying to investigators from a top-notch New York attorney about his work for a Ukrainian firm knee deep in the election scam. There almost certainly would be more plea deals from and indictments of those involved in some way in the scam.

However, these maneuvers were just the legal and public warm-up act to the main event. That is getting Trump to talk.

The Russia election probe always had one publicly stated official purpose and one privately unstated purpose. The official purpose was to determine if and how Russia meddled in the 2016 election. The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, in separate reports in January 2017, firmly established that it had.

Then-President Barack Obama followed that up by ordering an investigation into the extent of Russian election meddling. The indictment of the 13 Russian nationals a year later simply fleshed out the details of the meddling.

Even Trump, in between lambasting the investigation as a hoax and shouting “no collusion,” was careful to add that he had never said that the Russians “or someone” hadn’t put their dirty fingers in the 2016 presidential election. So there was really little left to say about that part of the probe.

That left the unstated purpose for the probe, which was to determine if Trump, or someone operating at his behest, knowingly or unknowingly had their hands in the Russian scheme.

That left Trump. And this is where the peril lay for the president. If he voluntarily testifies, what would Mueller ask him? He could start by asking why he fired former FBI Director James Comey? The intent here would be to determine if the firing had anything to do with Comey’s well-known stance that the FBI would continue digging into the Russian election scam.

Trump, like any other citizen called to give testimony, could invoke the Fifth Amendment shield against self-incrimination. But that would not be likely for two reasons. One, other presidents have testified under oath when summoned by special prosecutors or independent counsels.

Gerald Ford testified in a case involving a Charles Manson follower. Ronald Reagan turned over information to Lawrence Walsh during the Iran-Contra probe. Bill Clinton testified three times to Kenneth Starr. And George W. Bush testified in respect to Valerie Plame.

For Trump to take the Fifth Amendment would ignite a legal and political firestorm that would badly tarnish him, his administration and its credibility.

Trump could simply stick to his well-worn script that he was not involved with the Russians and knew nothing about what they were up to. He would punctuate that by simply repeating again his oft-stated blast at Clinton that she lost the election not because of anything the Russians did, but because she was a lousy candidate.

The burden would then be on Mueller to try to pick apart Trump’s denials and nail him for lying or obstruction.

That would be a steep legal hill to climb for Mueller. That is why Trump will remain Mueller and the Russia probe’s major roadblock.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Forty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts” (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Florida shooter is latest domestic terrorist

Alleged Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz is described in the inevitable avalanche of press reports as “troubled,” “a loner,” ‘hostile,” and “no clue he was dangerous.”

His defense attorneys piled on to this litany of descriptive cop-outs by calling him “brain damaged,” “emotionally traumatized” and the topper, “a broken child.” (He’s 19, that’s hardly a child).

Then President Donald Trump jumped in with the by-now stock characterizations reserved for white mass killers as “mentally disturbed,” “bad and erratic behavior” and with what’s hardly the revelation of the ages, “a big problem.”

As always, the two words that are glaringly and embarrassingly missing in labeling Cruz are “domestic” and “terrorist.” Cruz’s targets and the killings are, by any definition, the lethal combination of politics and raw terrorism.

It’s by now well established that these shooters in nearly every case are not Muslims. Between 2008 and 2012, according to FBI reports, only about six percent of domestic terrorism suspects were Muslim,

The encased profile of a mass killer is that he’s a he, a staunch gun nut, politically disgruntled and a young white male. Cruz added a couple of other tweaks to the stock profile.

He was enthralled by white supremacist groups, sported a Trumpian “Made in America” cap and liked to prance and pose with guns. But it was the white supremacist tweak that upped the domestic terror ante.

The Charlottesville, Virginia, rampage by assorted white nationalist groups last August should have sounded the alarm bell that white nationalist and white supremacist groups have touched the delusional and loose wires in the heads of more than a few impressionable, distraught, alienated and unhinged young white males.

They have easy access to big killer guns and stocks of ammo. They are not routinely profiled by police, so they can take pictures with guns, parade with guns publicly and blast away at rifle ranges or at training sites. They have no fear of exposure or arrest.

Despite that, studies have found that the overwhelming majority of those labeled domestic terrorists on network TV news shows were Muslim.

The issue of who gets called a domestic terrorist following a violent outburst exploded into national debate following the massacre at the Charleston AME Church in June 2015. Then-President Barack Obama branded the massacre an act of terror. He was pretty much a lone voice on that score.

Nearly all major media outlets, Republican leaders that commented on it, and the FBI, refused to brand the shooter, Dylann Roof, a terrorist or call his act an act of domestic terrorism.

That is far from an arcane quibble over terms and definitions, or even over the race and gender of the shooters. It strikes to the heart of how many Americans have been reflexively conditioned to see thuggery and terrorism.

They see it through the narrow, warped prism of who commits the acts rather than the horrific acts and their consequences.

There is simply no political incentive to call alleged shooters such as Cruz “domestic terrorists.” This crashes hard against the official narrative that made-in-America terrorists and terrorism constitute minimal or no real threat to life and property here. This danger supposedly only comes from a foreign group: Muslims of course.

That’s only part of the blind eye toward home-grown terrorism. The long, often bloody history of America is littered with groups that have imposed a kind of white frontier vigilantism on blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other groups.

For much of this history, they have committed violence with impunity and with a wink and a nod from officials, judges and police agencies. They, in effect, rewrote the definition of what terrorism is and isn’t.

The rise of white nationalist groups and the hideous reports of their penetration into the armed forces and some police departments has made it even harder to finger them as the same major threats to national security as is routinely true of Muslims from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.

Then, when you have baby-faced school boys such as Roof or Cruz, it makes it impossible for the media and the public to rail against them as major threats to the nation’s peace. They simply look too much like the kid next door, the kid at a local school or church in white suburban communities.

It would be too painful an exercise to turn the mirror inward and admit that that kid who many merely wrote off as an eccentric, a loner, or just a plain odd ball, could easily turn into a mass killer.

That is why Trump so easily lashed out at those around Cruz and blamed them for not recognizing the signs and blowing the help whistle on him.

It is just another form of see no evil, hear no evil about men such as Cruz. It virtually assures that there will be more of them with the usual duck-for-cover write off of them as “troubled” young men.

They are that, but they are also domestic terrorists. And the absolute refusal to call them anything but that invites more of the very carnage that the nation claims to be shocked by.

 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Forty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts” (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.