The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.4           January 29, 1996 
Protests Mount Over Racist Killing By Gis  


FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina - Public outrage over the killing of a Black man and a Black woman by two white soldiers here has led to a series of public protest meetings organized by the state NAACP. At the same time, the U.S. military brass has initiated an investigation into "extremist activities" among the 510,000 members of the U.S. Army.

Michael James, 36, and Jackie Burden, 27, were shot down in a city street here on the early morning hours of December 7.

James Burmeister II, 20; Malcolm Wright Jr., 21; and Randy Lee Meadows, 21, have been arrested in connection with the killings. Burmeister and Wright have been charged with the execution-style murders. They are GIs in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Bragg.

According to press reports, the third defendant told the police that the soldiers went downtown that night "to mess with Blacks and drug dealers." After Burmeister's arrest, police say they found white supremacist literature and a Nazi flag in the room he rented.

On December 27, more than 300 people attended a community forum held here in the Lewis Chapel Baptist Church, on "Community and Military Response to White Supremacist Activity In and Around Military Bases." It was sponsored by the NAACP. A number of members of the families of both victims attended the meeting, the first of three in cities in this area surrounding the military bases.

The event began with statements by city officials, NAACP representatives, and spokespeople for the Fayetteville police and sheriff's departments. Residents who spoke related a history of racial attacks in the area, including Ku Klux Klan activity and cases of racist police brutality.

One resident held up pictures of himself taken, he said, after he was beaten by police. His case against the police was closed without any action against the officers involved, he added.

"Why are the police being commended at this forum?" asked Roger Gore, a retired military man. He told his story of being abused by the cops during a false arrest.

Fayetteville city council member Ida Ross said racist violence is not something new in the area. "I saw lynching in my father's church yard when I was a child," she reported. Ross said she and others have been fighting to name a street in Fayetteville after civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. "We started in 1986 and today we still don't have a street named after him," Ross said.

A number of speakers stressed that ongoing protest and educational actions against racism and racist attacks are necessary. "Why does the NAACP always wait to do something until there is national attention?" asked Demetria Gore, 21.

"It's time to unify and speak up and make the organizations move," said Mason Raymond.

"We have to start with the children," stated Will Manuel. "They are cutting affirmative action and whittling away at your feet. One day you have to stand on your own and you will find they've cut your legs from under you."

A small number of young people attended the December 27 meeting. Marcus Johnson, 15, a student at E.E. Smith High School, said the hearing had not been widely publicized. "We need to talk about how to get to the kids," he said. "We need to have assemblies over stuff like this in our school."

An active-duty GI serving at Fort Bragg was repeatedly interrupted by applause when he spoke detailing racism in the military. He said he was previously assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division but explained that the unit is "handpicked, and there are very few Black or Hispanic officers in it."

The three soldiers arrested in relation to the killings serve in that division. A press release by the army brass of the 82nd Airborne said, "The investigation has determined that there are soldiers who hold extremist views; however, there is no indication that any organized extremist movement is operating out of the division."

The army investigation reaches beyond looking into racist activities among GIs to include "any organized extremist movement." According to an army press release, the brass has identified 22 soldiers from the 14,736 members of the 82nd Airborne "with active, passive, or former links to several categories of `skinhead groups.' " The December 23 Washington Post reported that the army includes among the 22 some GIs who belong to an antiracist group called Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP).

Findings from the worldwide investigation in the military are due March 1.

The community meetings are being organized by a task force set up by the state NAACP to solicit testimony from soldiers and civilians on racist groups and activities in and near military bases.

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