COPA in Memphis- report

The COPA regional meeting in Memphis, TN, to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a success and an historic event. We got extensive press coverage in articles before and after the event in the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (see COPA’s blog). All of our meetings and speakers were listed in the Commercial Appeal’s special calendar for the King anniversary, and were visible all week online and in print. We brought in about 10 people from the Memphis area through press notices and leafleting we did at various other conferences and events.

Our keynote speaker was Judge Joe Brown, the appointed judge in the last appeal trial of James Earl Ray, who tested the alleged murder weapon only to find that it did not match the bullet in Dr. King’s body. When he sought a final test, and comparison with earlier tests by the FBI and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he was removed from the case by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and Ray died in prison with the case still undecided. Judge Brown later testified in the civil suit, brought by the King family, to exonerate Ray and expose US government and military involvement in the assassination, as the jury ruled. COPA presented the Sylvia Meagher Award for seeking truth to both Judge Brown and to Jerry Ray, a brother to the framed assassin who has worked to prove his brother’s innocence. Jerry Ray answered questions for us on the second day of the conference.

Unfortunately, neither Lyndon Barsten, author of Truth At Last about Ray, nor his research assistant T Carter were able to speak at the event about his work. This important book, based on hard documentation, chronicles apparent psychological manipulation of Ray in the Army and his positioning as a patsy later in the assassination.

Memphis was full of conferences that weekend. The April 4th Foundation held a commemorative banquet featuring civil rights leaders, where we attempted to add a COPA speaker. Harry Belafonte held a meeting on his Gathering for Justice, a program to stop the masssive incarceration of Black youth at LeMoyne Owens college nearby. We visited the National Action Committee’s conference site at the ornate Peabody hotel and got to see the famous “duck walk” to the fountain. We joined their rally, led by Al Sharpton, with over a thousand people, and held out our COPA banners and leafleted the crowd about our conference that night. We lifted our banners on releasing the files high during a talk by Martin Luther King, III. We joined with the group in a March for Recommitment to King’s program, down to the National Civil Rights Museum. the scene of the assassination, and saw the inspirational talks given from the balcony where King was killed by two of his children.

We also took a critical tour of the Museum itself and the grounds outside, commenting on the phony sniper’s nest bathroom window that has been preserved like the other one in Dallas at the Book Depository. The location of the actual assassination on the bushy hill across from the Lorraine Hotel, has been destroyed by reverse grading the dirt and breaking the retaining wall to put in a stairwell down to Mulberry St. from Main. We were able to be seen by hundreds of people with out COPA signs at the event as well, just before returning to hear Judge Brown. We visited the Dream Reborn conference, run by Green environmentalist groups and other youth-oriented programs and left out flyers out prominently.

Our attendees came from New York, Georgia, DC, Kansas, Texas, California and as far away as England. An interview in advance on Black Ops radio got renewed attention to our website, and a video teaser designed for the site by webmaster John Geraghty has gotten hundreds of hits. Joe Green was able to get a hand-held video recording of the events and we will be posting some of that along with still photographs soon at the website.

Now, we are preparing for a blockbuster meeting in Los Angeles from June 6-8 featuring great speakers and new, hard evidence of a second gun in the pantry where RFK was shot that night. We will have eyewitnesses, ballistics and audio experts, researchers and lawyers who work with Sirhan’s case. Hope you can join us. Details available at http://www.politicalassassinations.com.

John Judge

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