Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center–an Introduction to Another Link

 

Morris Dees, Southern Poverty Law Center founderThe second in our series of clips regarding our weblinks. I have been a member, offering annual contributions, to SPLC since 1985. Lawyers Morris Dees and Joe Levin founded  SPLC in 1971. This is a group which we have included under the Humanism heading, for reasons that will be obvious as you read on. As their website notes,

In the decades since its founding, the SPLC has shut down some of the nation’s most dangerous hate groups by winning crushing, multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of their victims. It has dismantled institutional racism in the South, reformed juvenile justice practices, shattered barriers to equality for women, children and the disabled, and protected low-wage immigrant workers from abuse. It also has reached out to the next generation with Teaching Tolerance, a program that provides educators with free classroom materials that teach students the value of tolerance and diversity.”

Would you believe that there are still debtor’s prisons operating in America? There are,  just as wrote about by Charles Dickens centuries ago and prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. If one cannot pay a debt while free, how will one pay from jail? Did you know that there are for-profit prisons in America, that have been known to offer kick-backs to judges who sentence offenders to them? That such prisons have had an egregious record of providing medical treatment to prisoners? These are some of the abuses that SPLC brings lawsuits about to curtail.

SPLC also has a Hatewatch blog and a quarterly magazine, Intelligence Report, in which they detail extremist and hate group activities; they share this information with law enforcement agencies across America. What kind of groups are we talking about? Racist skinheads, neo-Nazis, black separatists, the various KKK progeny and more. They are ones that deny the Holocaust and blame Jews for economic ills. The ones that want to blow up government buildings. They include border militia groups and others that believe they should be able to ignore Federal laws. So-called “sovereign citizens,” who assert that no Federal, state or local government agencies have a right to arrest or enforce laws against them—like requirements to pay taxes, have a driver’s license or to register a vehicle. They hold mock courts and attempt to file various pseudo legal pleadings intended to collect money from government officials. As crazy as these things sound, in fact, they can be and have been very dangerous to law enforcement officials at traffic stops, for example.

How successful is the SPLC at what they do? Enough so that they must have a bombproof headquarters and armed security to protect the group’s leaders from death at the hands of those they have put out of business. That is the negative side. For the positive side, visit their site for the success stories—what they have accomplished and what they are currently engaged in.

Here are some examples from the news on their website:

  • Human trafficking: Opening arguments [began January 12, 2015] in a federal lawsuit brought by the SPLC on behalf of guest workers from India who were lured to a Mississippi shipyard by false promises of permanent U.S. residency only to find themselves forced into servitude and living under guard in an overcrowded, unsanitary labor camp.The New Orleans trial is part of a seven-year legal battle against Signal International, a marine services company that operates in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.
  • Schools:
    • class action suit claims that police in a predominantly African-American school district used unconstitutional, excessive force on students, some of them already restrained, by deploying chemical spray on about 300 students over a five-year period.
    • SPLC reached a landmark settlement with state and local education officials to help New Orleans children with disabilities. 
  • Hate crime: It was a vicious hate crime that shocked the country – a black man in Jackson, Mississippi, attacked by a group of white teens and killed when he was deliberately run down by a pickup truck. Captured by a motel security camera and broadcast on CNN, the murder of 47-year-old James C. Anderson in June 2011 prompted an SPLC lawsuit against the seven teens involved. That case ended with a confidential settlement.This week, the criminal case came to an end when two men – John L. Blalack, 20, and Robert H. Rice, 24 – became the last of 10 defendants to plead guilty in connection with Anderson’s murder and other, earlier hate crimes against African Americans in Jackson.
  • Hate music: On the heels of an SPLC investigation that found songs by dozens of white power rock bands being sold on iTunes, Apple has begun removing hate music from its service, though other sites offering hate music, such as Amazon, have been slow to act. 

 

 

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