By J.P. Hervis
Chokwe Lumumba, a local attorney and associate of Imari Obadele, says the former President of the Republic of New Afrika has every right to speak inside city hall, despite his criminal record.
"Dr. Martin Luther King has a criminal record," Lumumba said, surrounded by other Obadele supporters. "Are we going to tell him he couldn't speak if he was here? He had one like Imari -- a false one orchestrated by a racist state that had a political purpose."
Lumumba says Obadele was never in the Lewis Street home where the shootout took place in August of 1971. Jackson police officer William Skinner died, and another officer and an FBI agent were shot.
"Dr. Obadele was not in the house," Lumumba said. "Dr. Obadele was ten blocks away from the house, in another house. Dr. Obadele had nothing to do with the shooting."
Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, says City Councilman Kenneth Stokes never should have invited Obadele to speak at city hall.
"This man, as far as I am concerned -- this whole organization -- did not represent the thinking of this black man," Evers said.
Sitting beside Jackson City Councilman Marshand Crisler, Hinds County Sheriff McMillin took a stand against Obadele's appearance.
"I find it patently offensive that he would be invited to city hall to talk to young people," the sheriff said.
"I support anything that involves inclusion and not divisiveness," said Crisler.
Opponents of the Obadele's appearance say it sends a bad message about the progress of the state. "I feel like this is an insult, I feel the sameway about that as I felt about Killen," says Evers.
McMillin agrees this is "no different than having Edgar Ray Killen at the Mississippi State Fair."
But Lumumba counters: "(Killen) maliciously participated in the malicious killing of three civil rights workers. How do you compare that with some people asleep in their home surrouned by racist police officers?"
It is almost certain Obadele will speak at City Hall Tuesday at 6:30. Also certain is that this controversy has struck another emotional chord in Mississippi.
Councilman Crisler says city leaders cannot take official action to stop Obadele's speech. Sheriff McMillin says Stokes' action is a slap in the face to every law enforcment officer killed in the line of duty and thier families.
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