Protesters Rally Near Texas Court in African-American Dragging Case

draggin-death-protests.jpgProtesters galvanized by a dragging death that has stirred memories of
the notorious James Byrd case rallied twice outside an eastern Texas
courthouse to speak out against a judicial system they consider racist.

About 60 people, led by a contingent from the New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam, met at the Lamar County Courthouse
on Monday to bring attention to the death of Brandon McClelland. The
groups later returned with about 200 protesters. Afterward, dozens of
people chanting “No justice, no peace!” marched to a nearby church for
a meeting.

Authorities say two white
suspects purposely ran over McClelland, who is black, following an
argument on the way home from a late-night beer run in September. McClelland‘s
body was torn apart as it was dragged some 70 feet beneath a pickup
truck near Paris, a city about 95 miles northeast of Dallas with a
history of tense relations between blacks and whites.

The
death came 10 years after James Byrd was killed in Jasper, another
eastern Texas town. Byrd was chained to the back of a pickup by three
white men and dragged for three miles.

“How do we get justice for Brandon McClelland?” cried Anthony Bond, founder of the Irving chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“We can’t get justice for Brandon,” answered another man. “He’s dead.”

Authorities
have disputed that racism was the motivation for McClelland’s death,
citing his decade-long friendship with the two suspects. They also
point out that McClelland was run over and not chained to the back of a
truck.

That stance angered McClelland’s mother and activists, who pressured Lamar County and District Attorney Gary Young to step aside in part because he once was the court-appointed defense attorney for one of the suspects.

That
suspect, Shannon Finley, was charged with murder in 2003 for the fatal
shooting of a friend. He eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and
served four years in prison.

In that
same case, McClelland pleaded guilty to perjury for providing a false
alibi for Finley’s whereabouts on the night of the shooting. He was
sentenced to five years’ probation but served some jail time when he
violated its terms, prosecutor Bill Harris said.

Young has recused himself from the McClelland case, citing his past association with Finley. A judge has appointed former Dallas County assistant district attorney Toby Shook as special prosecutor.

Finley and Charles Crostley remain in the Lamar County Jail on murder charges. They have not been indicted; the grand jury is scheduled to meet next month.

On
Monday, sitting mostly alone away from the speakers, McClelland’s
mother said she was attending the rally “to see that justice gets done
for my son.” She blamed Young for Finley’s short sentence.

“If he had done the right thing, I’m positive my son would be alive today,” Jacquline McClelland said.

Young spokesman Allan Hubbard declined comment.

Deric Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam in Houston, warned prosecutors to “handle this case wisely.”

“If you want to rewrite some of the history of Paris and Lamar County, handle this case properly,” Muhammad said.

The protest, held around the corner from a 20-foot tall Confederate war memorial statue
dedicated to “Our Heroes,” attracted about a dozen white onlookers who
watched from a parking lot about 30 yards away. More than a dozen law enforcement officials stood on street corners near the protesters. There were no arrests.

Source: AP

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