The Alabama Parole Board might be granting parole to an old Ku Klux Klansman, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., who was imprisoned in 2001 because of the killing of four young black ladies in 1963, after making a bomb explode near of a church.
The parole hearings are scheduled by the Alabama Parole Board to begin next Wednesday in Montgomery. This announcement has caused a serious opposition in the population given the current situation the country is living in after the recent, and apparently no justified, homicides of black men by police officers, which have generated protests over racial discrimination in several parts of the United States.
According to the president of the Alabama’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bernard Simelton, releasing Blanton will send a horrible message to the population.
“It would be a slap in the face to those young ladies and their families to release him,” said Simelton
What happened in 1963?
Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. is currently a 78-year-old Ku Klux Klansman, known for hating black people. He was sentenced to life incarceration in 2001, 38 years after he was responsible for committing hate killings in the racial disaggregated Alabama during the civil right movement.
On 15 September 1963, a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham (Alabama) causing the dead of four black girls who were preparing the church for the Sunday morning mass. The victims were Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris, also known as Cynthia Wesley. As well, Collins’ sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, was severely injured by the bomb blast, losing an eye. According to Harvey Henley (79), a neighbor of Birmingham community, the day of the explosion he was home, located few block away from the church, and he said it was the loudest thing he’s ever heard.
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“He should never set foot outside of that jail cell again,” said Henley regarding the attempt to grant parole to Blanton.
Three Klansmen were convicted by the explosion including Blanton, Robert Chambliss, known as “Dynamite Bob,” was found guilty in 1977 and Bobby Frank Cherry was indicted in 2000 just like Blanton, after FBI reopened the case, implicating Cherry and Blanton due to secret recordings made at the criminals’ houses.
However, “dynamite bomb” and Cherry died behind the bars. Therefore Blanton is the only one left alive out of the three KKK members imprisoned by the deadly explosion of 1963.
Opposition to the parole
After 15 years of incarceration, the three-person Alabama Parole Board is considering granting parole to Blanton given he is now an elderly man.
Though inmates are not allowed to attend to such hearings, Blanton’s release opponents will certainly be attending to Montgomery next Wednesday. There are expected to participate several relatives from the murdered girls, including Sarah Collin Rudolph, and the current pastor of the Baptist church.
Doug Jones, a former US attorney, who prosecuted Blanton years ago, said Blanton’s actions were terrorism even before the word became a part of the daily day communication. Jones also believes that the inmate’s advanced age should not be the reason or the determinant factor considered to grant parole.
“It took (38) years for him to be brought to justice, to begin with,” Jones said. “I think that mitigates against the fact that he is an elderly man now.”
Freeing Blanton through the parole was granting, implies an extraordinary amount of things, such as overruling a preceding life incarceration sentence, freeing a man who committed a hate crime to innocent girls, who was part of a subversive and extremist group that believed in white supremacy and pledged for the purification of the American population. But beyond that, it is important to analyze the context under which the parole hearings are being made, in a nostalgic South that suffered the racial discrimination along the civil rights movement and where the named movement was primarily promoted from.
But as well, it is important to consider the response in America, few weeks after the lethal and brutal police attacks on black men in several states, and the protest against racial discrimination. Though it is not the purpose of the Blanton’s parole consideration, it might give the message that black people are being treated distinctly, and it might be perceived as if their deaths are not so important in the legal system.
“It is our further position that it would be a travesty of justice,” he said. Hezekiah Jackson, president of the Birmingham chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Source: NY Daily News