Mike McCormack (MM): Jim, if you would, give me a little history about how you got involved as an activist.
Jim Douglass (JD): I started out as a student in nuclear physics, wanting to be a nuclear physicist at Cal Berkeley, and I gave that up fairly quickly and went into the army. I was not converted to non-violence. It was between [the wars in] Korea and Vietnam, so fortunately I wasn’t shooting at a human being at that time. And then I went to Santa Clara University and was introduced to the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker movement and began to explore Gandhi. And then as time moved on I was involved in resisting the Vietnam War and working for an end to the nuclear arms race, and started writing some books on non-violence teaching. And eventually Shelley, my wife, and I, founded Ground Zero Center for Non-Violent Action with seven other friends in 1977. And Shelley and I moved down into this area, the Puget Sound area, in 1978, to live by the Trident base and be part of the Ground Zero community there. We moved into a house by the railroad tracks and blocked a lot of the trains that were carrying the nuclear warheads. They called it the white train—a heavily armored, all white train carrying about six times the power of the Second World War every time a train would come in. And then we moved to Birmingham, Alabama ten years ago last fall to block the trains going to the Kings Bay, Georgia Trident submarine base. And when those stopped going we founded the Catholic Worker House called Mary’s House for Homeless Families. And we made journeys to the Middle East, especially Iraq, taking medicines to not cooperate with the sanctions that have killed over a million innocent people.
MM: And you are now working on a book. Is that correct?
JD: Yes, I’m writing a book on the assassination of Dr. King and Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy.
MM: And what do you see as the significance of those assassinations?
JD: They allow us to see what’s happening today in a way that is more profound than anything else I’ve found. When I began to become acquainted with Dr. King’s assassination—which changed my life in many ways when it occurred—when I began to explore the details of his assassination and understood that he was killed by the United States government, then I began to ask questions. What is that? How does that relate to John Kennedy’s assassination or Robert Kennedy’s and then eventually Malcolm X’s? And I found the same patterns in all four of them, but especially the same patterns in us, and I’m talking about myself personally, and I’m talking about a collective reality, the way we see things in this country. And I began to realize there’s an extraordinary denial in us as a people when it comes to dealing with the question of systemic evil within our system right here in much more profound ways than anybody on the left, for example, is going to acknowledge any more than any of the rest of us is going to acknowledge. When it comes to the Central Intelligence Agency being engaged in assassinations abroad, many people will acknowledge that. When it comes to them doing exactly the same thing in this country, that’s another thing. We don’t want to deal with that, so I think it’s a key to seeing [the novel] 1984 in action in 2000.
MM: So you, I know, recently we were at the court. Would it be fair to just call it a trial?
JD: It was a trial. I was at the trial for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King that took place in Memphis from November 15th to December 8th, 1999—the only trial ever held for the assassination of King and it was a lawsuit by the King family focusing on a man named Lloyd Jowers, but also other unnamed co-conspirators. And the jury verdict of 12 jurors, six black and six white, was that Dr. King was assassinated by Lloyd Jowers in collaboration with government agencies. And that’s the very significant conclusion of the only trial ever held for Dr. King.
MM: Now who is Lloyd Jowers? Why was he mentioned, and what were the government agencies that they found guilty?
JD: Lloyd Jowers is a man, now elderly and dying, who was the owner of a bar and grill across from the Lorraine Motel called Jim’s Grill, and he was a conduit, an intermediary, for a 100,000-dollar payoff for the assassination of Dr. King. He held the rifle before and after the assassination, and the bar and grill opened at its back door to a heavily grown bushy area just across from the Lorraine Motel where the shot was fired. The shot was not fired from the bathroom window where the patsy James Earl Ray was located. It was fired from the bushes directly across from the Lorraine Motel. There were numerous witnesses in the trial who testified to that, and those bushes were, incidentally, cut down early the next morning on the orders of the police department so that the crime scene would no longer be in existence. That was one of the pieces of evidence that shocked the jury.
There were a number of things that shocked the jury. But Lloyd Jowers was a man who was given the rifle by a man named Raoul whom James Earl Ray had been talking about for three decades prior to his death a year ago and who emerged in the trial. There were many pictures of Raoul shown. The same picture was shown repeatedly, and many people identified it in the course of the trial. And Raoul was the person who provided the gun and took it away from Jowers. And then the person who actually fired the shot was probably a member of the Memphis Police Department. He was a sharpshooter for the Memphis Police.
The government agencies—well, they certainly included key people in the Memphis police, the person who was especially responsible on the local level was a man named Frank Holloman who was a police and fire director and who withdrew a series of African American officers from the immediate vicinity of the Lorraine Motel in the 24 hours prior to King’s assassination. So the witnesses in the trial included each of these officers whether they’re police or fire department. They were black, sensitized people who were maybe involved in the sanitation workers strike or just because of their consciousness as black people living in Memphis would have been dangerous for the powers that be if they were on the scene when the assassination occurred. So these various people were testifying, “I got pulled. There were death threats, supposedly, against me, and I never heard anything about them after the assassination.” There were all these phony reasons for withdrawing these people, and the person who withdrew them and the normal security that King would have had in Memphis was Frank Holloman.
Now Frank Holloman was the head of the police and fire department, but he was also an ex-FBI agent who had been 25 years at the FBI, head of the Memphis FBI office and J. Edgar Hoover’s appointment secretary, just prior to his becoming head of the police and fire department.
So you had a tier of people involved. And US army intelligence was there that day. There was testimony as to intelligence officers being in key positions on the top of the fire station across from the Lorraine taking pictures of the assassination. It was a wealth of evidence, a wealth of evidence, and that’s what the jury said. They said it took them two and a half hours. It was a no-brainer to decide Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated by US government agencies.
MM: Wow. Now I don’t remember actually seeing this in the paper or on the news. I have to imagine the courtroom was packed with news people.
JD: No. The courtroom was not packed with news people. I was the only person who attended the entire trial other than the participants in the trial, the judge, the jury and defendant and his counsel, and the King family and their counsel. There were people who came in and out of the court, but it was an amazing experience to see who wasn’t there. The woman who was sitting next to me one day who was a reporter and a good one from Publico, the Lisbon Portuguese daily said, “You know, everything in the US is the trial of the century.” She said, “Simpson’s was the trial of the century. Clinton’s was the trial of the century.” She said, “This is the trial of the century and who’s here? A Portuguese reporter and a writer of books,” referring to me. We were the only people in the courtroom at the time when very key evidence was coming down, as was happening day after day.
Now by the end of the trial, the courtroom had filled with African American people who had heard about it, but so far as the media in general, it was like it wasn’t happening—until it ended. Then on key days, there would be attention to it, like if Mrs. King was testifying, as she did, or Andrew Young, former [US] ambassador to the United Nations, but for the most part, except for sound bites for people who had high profiles, it got nothing. You got none of this testimony that I just referred to. Nobody knew it was going on until the end of the trial and then there were some editorial denunciations of it as having been stupid or strange, or somehow insane, or the Kings were misguided to engage in this, all this kind of stuff, but no one noted the evidence.
MM: Nobody knew what was going on and it would sound like the editorials probably came from people that didn’t even attend the trial.
JD: Of course. I know, because I was there, and they definitely weren’t there.
MM: Obviously there’s not enough time to repeat all the amazing things you must have seen in this trial, but what were some of the things that stood out, if you can share with us.
JD: First, a general impression. The King family was very courageous to do this. They knew they were going to be written off. It’s happened before. The media has gone very sour on the Kings since they supported James Earl Ray’s right to have a trial in the first place, which was a very courageous decision a couple of years ago, and now going through with it themselves and filing this suit against Lloyd Jowers, this wrongful death lawsuit. That definitely has not endeared them to the media or the government, so their courage… William Pepper, their attorney, who previously represented James Earl Ray… the courage of these people in standing against the stream of consciousness and of government power is very admirable.
On the other hand, amazing to me was the care with which the government of the United States murdered Dr. King. The care with which it was done! There was a whole network of people in Memphis on that day from US Army intelligence, FBI, probably an actual army rifle team as a backup to shoot if the shooter in the bushes failed, and there had been the withdrawal of all these firefighters and police department people who might have been too sensitive to be allowed to be on the scene. There was a very carefully developed plot, and that’s what impressed the jury. They said there was no way all these things were accidental. I mean we didn’t have anybody testifying that J. Edgar Hoover did “this, that and the other thing.” You don’t come by that kind of evidence, but there was just an extraordinary web around the assassination of King that made it extremely obvious that this was being coordinated and directed from a position of power which could keep people in their places.
And I interviewed people after the trial, and while the trial was going on, so I learned, for example, from Walter Fauntroy, who directed, as a member of Congress, The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation of King’s murder, that the cover-up was very much in place in 1977-78 just as it is today. He said that when they investigated the King assassination, “they” meaning Congress, he discovered right away it was very sophisticated forces that were behind it, without his identifying who those forces were. He said he discovered bugs on all his phones, his TV, his car. He was being bugged everywhere, and he was the first person who was investigating the King assassination and the John Kennedy assassination. Those were the two, the two that they centered on. This man was a very serious investigator and he wanted to get all the FBI and CIA documents relating to those assassinations. He was going to subpoena the whole works. He did not last, and he was attacked immediately from all sides for anything under the sun. It was a carefully coordinated attack and he had to leave. And the next man who came in just said, “I’m not going to ask those particular questions or make those requests.” In other words, the CIA and the FBI were just left off to the side.
So as Fauntroy testified, he said, “We weren’t able to conclude or explore leads, or reach through with the evidence the way we wanted to.” And they came out with the same kind of stuff that had been there before—James Earl Ray and no government involvement and so forth, but in years since then, Fauntroy has followed up and has gone through some of those documents, and he discovered in seeing raw evidence that he hadn’t even seen before that in the days preceding King’s assassination, J. Edgar Hoover was meeting in his office with veterans of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. The assassination of tens of thousands of Vietnamese villagers had been done by the CIA’s Phoenix Program, and as we learned in the trial, Phoenix Program veterans were in Memphis on the day of King’s assassination, and, as I’ve learned, in various contexts were involved. And Hoover was meeting with those people, so Fauntroy in the 1990s said, “I’m going to write a book about this,” and he made it known, and immediately he was contacted by the Justice Department saying they were going to investigate him for supposedly not having submitted a proper accounting of his funds in years previous. His lawyer looked at his records and said, “There isn’t anything wrong with your records,” except that there was one check that was dated wrong. So he said it doesn’t make any sense, and Fauntroy took the message, the message as he understood it. Then he said, “I’m not going to write this book,” and the investigation of Fauntroy’s problems ceased. So we don’t want to deal with that kind of system. We don’t want to deal with the assassinations. We don’t want to deal with evil. Who does? But what’s going to happen if we don’t deal with it?
MM: Is that what you’re hoping to bring out in your book? Details to show people the stupidity of not doing anything?
JD: It’s the kind of question that goes deeper than anything I know except Orwell’s novel 1984. That’s the best way I have of understanding these assassinations. There’s a concept that Orwell talks about: “crimestop” that we have in our own minds. What crimestop means is that when there’s a question that is an extraordinarily uncomfortable one and that involves a systemic evil in particular—he’s putting it in the context of the whole society and a government that’s operating behind the scenes—we act in our own psyches in such a way that the government doesn’t have to do anything if the crimestop is up here [in our minds]. So rather than being logical and confronting something that’s an obvious issue, we’ll take, for example… you were referring to John Kennedy’s assassination a moment ago…
Take, for example, Lee Harvey Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald was a member of the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s perfectly obvious to anyone who just examines his background. He worked for the CIA in the Far East at Atsugi Air Force Base [Japan]. He was a radar operator for the U2 planes. And then he came back to the United States, was immediately discharged from the Marines, and then a week later or so he was over in the Soviet Union divulging all the “top secrets” from Atsugi air force base to the Russians, supposedly as a traitor, and then he was over there for two years. And then the US government financed his return to Texas after he’d been a traitor. And the next moment he was working for a high-security photography outfit that was using U2 photos. He was doing this in Dallas. What the heck was going on? It’s obvious that Oswald’s a phony.
Now any investigative reporter in the US could have found that out overnight with the information we had in 1963, but if you’ve got crimestop operating here, you don’t get into the obvious. You don’t look at it. You don’t draw conclusions from just that simple data that I just gave you, that anybody could have gotten fairly early. In fact, it was going out in the media. This was [said to be] evidence of Oswald being a communist when it was evidence of his being set up, for anybody who’s going to think two plus two equals four. The government doesn’t sponsor such a person coming back. They throw him in jail if he’s a traitor. This was the height of the Cold War, but crimestop means you don’t ask those questions because it’s inconceivable that the government of the United States could kill its own president. Crimestop. That’s the way it works. It’s the way it’s working today. We don’t ask the obvious questions about Martin Luther King and his assassination. He was assassinated because he was against the Vietnam War in such a profound way that he could have worked to stop it together with Robert Kennedy who was assassinated for similar reasons—and because he wanted to change the economic structure of the United States with the Poor People’s Campaign—a redistribution of wealth in the US is what King was all about in his last year.
King in his most prophetic address on April 4, 1967, exactly one year prior to his assassination, his Riverside Church address, said, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” If we translate that into today’s terms, the greatest purveyor of violence, greatest purveyor of terrorism in the world in the year 2000, is my and your own government, the United States government. So this whole thing about terrorism left, right and center, underground, up—that’s us. That’s our government that we’re talking about, so when we have a terrorist threat out there, don’t think “Saddam Hussein.” Don’t think “North Korea.” Don’t think “Algeria.” Think “CIA,” number one, and then go down from there. Certainly there are other terrorist threats besides the government of the United States, but the primary terrorist threat in the world today is the same government that assassinated Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy.
MM: In your years of work as an activist, do you see a solution towards removing the crimestop chip from our heads?
JD: I think there was a solution in the streets of Seattle on November 30th of 1999 at the WTO event. I think that non-cooperation with evil, non-violent non-cooperation with evil, is far more powerful than the CIA, for example, but if you don’t recognize the problem, you can’t deal with it. And that’s what we were talking about a moment ago. When people were in the streets in Seattle in November and December they were dealing with it, and of course there was huge disinformation out there as to what was going on—the news that there were riots left and right while there were, basically, police riots going on, and a few people were breaking windows. But the basic issue, I think, got abroad to a lot of people as a result of those folks non-cooperating in the tens of thousands, whether they were marching or especially sitting in and blocking access to those meetings that were deciding the fate of the world behind closed doors. That was an example of exactly what King was organizing in the late 1960s, and why he was killed for the Poor People’s Campaign.
So the solution is, first of all, educating ourselves about the kind of economic power and military power that’s controlling the world, and, secondly, accepting responsibility for it. It’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s ours, and those folks in the Seattle streets accepted responsibility for it. It’s our problem, not somebody else’s, and they kept it from going on as business as usual. It was terrific. And that’s going to happen again and again, and it’ll happen in such a way that things will change, but we have got a huge struggle ahead. The main struggle is with ourselves because we do not want to face this. We do not want to face it. This is the belly of the beast where we are right now, and I’m an American. I love the Constitution of the United States of America, (I’m also Canadian, incidentally) but it is not being followed. And we still have a military industrial complex. It has now run wild because nobody’s paying much attention to it. Nuclear weapons are just as capable of destroying the world as they were at the height of the Cold War, so unless we recognize how out of control our political and economic and military scene are, we can’t to do the kinds of things that people were beginning to do at that WTO event in Seattle.
MM: You were giving us some of the insights and such that you had found from the trial, and I was wondering if you would continue to share more insights or particular moments you remember that really stick in your mind.
JD: Some of the moments, to be frank, are too painful to share because they involved people who were close to Dr. King who were involved in his assassination. That’s how shattering a trial it was. You began to understand… There’s a book about Malcolm X’s assassination called The Judas Factor. You began to understand the Judas factor in King’s assassination. That is to say it couldn’t have happened without it being set up in such a way that they knew just when he was going to be out there on that balcony and were all prepared for that moment. Everything was set up very carefully, and that involved people close to King helping to assassinate him. And that’s a very, very painful thing to see. That was part of the trial which was ignored. The whole trial was ignored.
I’ll speak about somebody who was identified in the trial, a man named Merrell McCullough. I’m not talking so much now about somebody who was close to Dr. King, but Merrell McCullough was an undercover agent for the Memphis Police Department who also worked for Army Intelligence simultaneously and who is with the Central Intelligence Agency today. He was the first person to reach the body of Dr. King. He was also one of the conspirators to assassinate Dr. King. He met with people in Lloyd Jowers’ Bar and Grill in the weeks prior to the assassination to help set it up. And he was a part of The Invaders, an African American youth consciousness-raising group, a very militant group that had tensions with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Merrill McCulloch, as an undercover agent, became their Minister of Transportation. He was the only person in their group who had a car, so he became the Minister of Transportation, but he was driving around SCLC people that afternoon, and then as soon as the assassination occurred, he was standing down there in the parking lot, and he rushed right up to Dr. King, and Andrew Young, when he was testifying in the trial, said Merrell McCullough was checking for his life signs to see if he was still alive. So, in other words, one of the assassins was checking to see if they had completed their work. These kinds of details emerged in the trial.
MM: Are the transcripts of the trial available?
JD: Yes. That’s a very good question. The King Center in Atlanta has already put up on their website the final day’s closing arguments and perhaps by this time—I haven’t checked within the last week or two since I’ve been here in Seattle—they may have the transcript of the whole trial up. I know they were planning to do that. So if you go to thekingcenter.org and click on “assassination” or whatever they have there, you will be able to read the transcript of, if not the entire trial, at least the closing arguments. I think soon the entire three-and-a-half week trial [transcript will be there], and there’s a book by William F. Pepper called Orders to Kill. Pepper was the attorney for James Earl Ray and is the Kings’ attorney, and he was the investigator in the case. Much of the information that came out in the trial is in that book, and Pepper is a person who’s been attacked heavily. And this is expected if you do this kind of stuff. He is a good man, a courageous man, and he’ll continue to be attacked heavily.
MM: It seems that from what you’ve mentioned, courage seems to be a prerequisite to dealing with these issues.
JD: Yes, and we all have it. We can all choose to deal with these issues. So when you mentioned courage, it’s like the Cowardly Lion. We’re all Cowardly Lions, including Dr. King for that matter, but when you realize that you do have the ability to do it without having to go to the Wizard of Oz, then you can deal with the Wizard of Oz. There are wizards there behind the screen who keep that image, who are playing around with our psyches and our politics and our economies and everything. I think all of us have that capacity, that capacity for courage, if we just start telling the truth. Gandhi’s key word was “truth force,” a force of truth. If you start just trying to tell the truth about some basic things, as witnesses have tried to do, in this case, witnesses to the assassination of Dr. King, people who have been trying to tell the truth for thirty years now and who were finally given an opportunity to do it in the courtroom last November and December—those kinds of people. And it could be any of us in our own lives who can bring these things to our consciousness. So crimestop isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s truth force. So I have a lot of hope that people will just decide to face the truth.
MM: You started pursuing the concept of this book about the different assassinations and such obviously prior to going to this trial.
MM: I have to imagine you couldn’t have anticipated what you would be seeing and hearing in the trial. Has that changed the course of where you’re going to be heading with the book, changed your course any?
JD: It has helped a great deal in framing some basic questions because this is the first trial in any of these four assassinations where there has been testimony that’s been put on the record. That gives you kind of a clear outline as to what really happened, so the parallels are very striking with regard to the Kennedy assassinations, and Malcolm X is a little bit different because there you’re scapegoating a whole group of people in the Nation of Islam rather than one lone assassin, as is in the other three. It has clarified issues for me. Other than that, it hasn’t resulted in any major orientations. It just clarified things. It was already pretty clear. This is a no-brainer. It isn’t hard to figure out who killed Martin Luther King or John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, or Malcolm X, and that’s what’s phenomenal. That’s the phenomenal issue: that it’s not hard. You don’t have to be a great investigator. I am no great investigator. I’m just a peace and justice activist, and I can read a few books and ask a few questions of people I contact, and it’s obvious who killed them: the government of United States, intelligence agencies. And so the question then is “What’s going on here?” This is thirty-five years later, depending on which of these you’re talking about. Why isn’t this common knowledge? If I can figure this out without having any great skills of investigating, why can’t everybody? The truth is anybody can, so all we need to do is take our citizenship in our hands and accept responsibility for this, and recognize that our government is responsible for some major, major evils. It isn’t any different than any Banana Republic or a Middle Eastern country or any government you want to talk about in the world. It’s the same kind of systemic evil that we’re responsible for elsewhere. So it’s not a mystery. No mysteries. No, there isn’t any mystery here, so the only mystery is us. We’re the mystery. We’re the mystery, and it’s not a theory. I’m not talking about a conspiracy theory. I’m talking about something that’s obvious to anybody who just checks into it.
Take one we haven’t talked about yet: Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy was not killed by Sirhan Sirhan. What do I mean Robert Kennedy wasn’t killed by Sirhan Sirhan? There was Sirhan Sirhan there in front of him, shooting him. Everybody knows that. Yeah, I know that, but Robert Kennedy, according to the autopsy, was killed by a shot fired from behind him, point-blank. Sirhan Sirhan, as everybody knows, was out in front of him, and there is a whole bunch of other people—half a dozen other people—who were shot. There were bullet holes in the ceiling behind him—far too many shots don’t add up. Thomas Noguchi, the famous coroner, did a very meticulous autopsy of Robert Kennedy. He determined from the powder burns that he had to have been killed—from the trajectory of the bullet and all of that—had to have been killed by a point-blank shot from behind. He was killed by somebody other than Sirhan Sirhan. That’s not a difficult conclusion if you just examine the basic evidence in the Robert Kennedy case. But we don’t, so we go around thinking Sirhan Sirhan, who was out there in front and who shot a lot of other people, killed Robert Kennedy. He did not.
MM: So we have to wonder then what goes on in your average American every time, for instance, let’s say, a newspaper article comes out relating to any of these and it repeats one of the lies that we know is a lie. It’s plainly obvious. Does that take us down the road further towards fooling ourselves and digging us in deeper with that? Or is it going to one day just make us all snap and say, “That’s enough”?
JD: If you hear something repeated long enough and often enough by what is assumed to be an authoritative source, and you don’t question it, it becomes ingrained. So I would assume, for example, that the folks watching this show are going to be… many at least should be, I would think, resistant to everything I’m saying. How could this be? We’ve been hearing for 30 years, depending on how many years you have been alive or listening to the media, that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy, or Oswald killed John Kennedy. It’s obvious. Everybody says this. Dan Rather says this. CBS News says this. How could this not be the case? How could you have a conspiracy that would involve all of these sources? It’s not that simple. It has to do with the way propaganda works, and the way propaganda works is through our acceptance of it and through sources that work in very crafty ways.
In the case of the crimes themselves these crimes work through the need to know, so you don’t have anybody, hardly anybody, who’s got all the pieces together. And you’ve got a lot of people who are little pieces of the solution. If we can begin—folks watching this show or listening to it—to accept responsibility ourselves without passing it on to somebody else, and begin saying it’s up to me to ask these questions and not to just think that this is the way things have to be, then the thing does start to fall apart. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s an old fairy tale. As soon as that child in the street says, “Hey, Dad, he doesn’t have any clothes on.” When somebody says that, then maybe the rest of us can look and say yeah, the Empire, the government, doesn’t have any clothes on—never did.
Those intelligence agents were out there in Dealey Plaza from the beginning. They were there in each of these instances from the beginning, and as soon as we say, “This doesn’t make sense, the official story that’s been given to us. It doesn’t make sense—this magic bullet nonsense about John Kennedy… that a bullet can spin up and spin around in the middle of the air and go into Governor Connally and then back into Kennedy…” Who can believe such nonsense, if you think about it? And if you try to put together the physical facts around the bullets and the time sequence of John Kennedy’s assassination, nobody can make any sense out of that except through a team of assassins shooting from the grassy knoll. If you look at the Zapruder film with Kennedy going back in his car, it makes no sense whatever, except from a shot from the grassy knoll. These are all obvious things from the evidence that we have today, and anybody can reach the conclusion that this was a conspiracy. You don’t have to have the Warren Commission. In fact, if you have the Warren Commission, you have exactly the opposite. You’ve got Allen Dulles, who was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency fired by John Kennedy, providing the evidence. You’ve got the fox investigating the killing of the chickens. It’s crazy, but we accepted all of that as a people. Nonsense.
MM: Are you optimistic about where things are heading in this country, and seeing as this country tends to be the primary leader for the rest of the planet on so many issues?
JD: Certainly not optimistic, but hopeful. They aren’t the same. I’m not optimistic because I think we haven’t reached a point where we will accept responsibility for militarism and economic injustice. There are pockets here and there, there are groups that have been organizing in very key ways to stop the way we have descended as a people and stop the huge disparity in incomes. There are very important forces of justice and peace within this country and the world today, but it’s a contingent prophecy that Martin Luther King left us with. Non-violence or non-existence. Non-violence or non-existence. We have to choose, and right now we’re trying to play this game. In general terms, in this country we’re trying to play this game that we can just play at our computers and become millionaires with no consequences. That’s not going to happen. The consequences are huge. Every moment that we take another step into environmental disaster or choose to bomb Kosovo or Iraq and accept the killing of a million people by the economic sanctions in Iraq, and not facing that.
This is one phenomenon, whether it’s the killing of John Kennedy or 36 years later the killing of over a million people in Iraq. Martin Luther King had the analysis of the entire globe in his April 4, 1967 Riverside Church address. They’re all interconnected, and I feel hopeful because I know that the power of non-violence, how he says non-violence or non-existence, is far more powerful than the military industrial complex or the World Trade Organization. But the hope is that we will choose that power. If you don’t choose it, it doesn’t exist it. It exists in us and in our acceptance of responsibility.
So it’s a question. Yeah, I’m hopeful, but the hope is in us, and that’s a matter of free choice. The hope is that we will choose. We will choose the power of non-violence. If that’s the case, sure. If we don’t choose it, disaster is coming fast.
MM: Any other insights, getting back to the Martin Luther King trial?
JD: I mentioned inspiring elements in the trial, namely the courage of the King family and William Pepper in having the strength to stand up against the government and against all kinds of pressures—media pressures—to bring out this truth. And the witnesses! There was one woman, Olivia Catling, who lived a block away from the Lorraine Motel and who still does live a block away from the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum. She testified that on the evening Dr. King was assassinated, she had planned to go to the Lorraine to see him—not personally. She just hoped to catch a glimpse of him because she’s a great admirer of his. She had been active in the civil rights movement. She is a married woman with a couple of children, and so at 6:01 PM, when she heard the shot ring out, she thought immediately of Dr. King. She knew he was just down the street and she ran with her two children and a neighbor’s child from her home and down to the corner just north of the Lorraine, and as she reached that street corner, a man came running out from between two buildings that led toward the brushy area I was mentioning where the shot was fired from. He jumped into a Chevrolet and sped away turning the corner right in front of her, and she said to the woman who had grown up next to her, “It’s going to take us six months to pay for the rubber,” indicating just how fast he took off. As that man was racing away from the scene, a police car drove up just behind him. She was testifying to this in the trial and she said instead of doing the obvious thing and following this man, the police car turned in the opposite direction and blocked off a street where there was nobody coming from. Then a moment or two later when the police got out of the car, a firefighter was there from the station across the street. He was saying the shot came from over there in the bushes and so forth. So you had various things that this woman saw. She said, “31 years later, Nobody has ever asked me for my evidence, for my testimony, for my experience of what I saw that day.”
In fact, she said they didn’t ask anybody in the neighborhood. The police did not investigate the crime from the moment that they drove up behind the guy who was taking off in the car whom she said, incidentally, was not James Earl Ray. She said he was much too heavy set and was a different person. She was an extraordinarily good witness, was very clear as to what she’d seen, and she was very articulate in her own way. She said, “I’ve been haunted for years. I’ve had nightmares about this because nobody ever asked me. Nobody wanted to know what happened that day.” And, incidentally, when the verdict came down, I went back to her home. I had seen her after her testimony in the trial. I’d gone and interviewed her at her home, but when the verdict came down, I went to see her again, and when she came to the door and I told her the guilty verdict, she said, “So now I can sleep.” She said, “The shot has been ringing in my head for all these years, so now I can sleep.” So there were witnesses like her who were trying to bring out the truth, and witness after witness said police had never asked them anything. If they had brought evidence to the police, the police had ignored it because it didn’t fit in with [the theory of] the lone assassin, James Earl Ray. It indicated something else altogether: that there was a conspiracy and that it took far more people than James Earl Ray to do what was going on in that location that day. For example, the cutting down of the brush, destroying the crime scene the morning after, the morning after the assassination. As the juror I talked to after the trial put it, “That was very, very odd,”
MM: You have to wonder, talking about that woman being haunted all those years because no one ever asked her about her experience, about the same haunting on the other side is we, the public, for not asking. It was the police that, technically, should have done the asking, but where was the rest of the country?
JD: Exactly. The evidence against James Earl Ray being the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King: It was all contained in a bundle that was dropped immediately after the assassination of Dr. King, supposedly. The official story is that James Earl Ray was in this bathroom in the flophouse opposite the Lorraine Motel. He shot Dr. King [allegedly] while standing in an extraordinarily unusual position on this bathtub, and anybody could have walked into the bathroom. It’s not an ideal place to carry out an assassination, but anyhow, he’s supposed to have done this, and then he went to his room [allegedly] and he wrapped up all this material—his radio from his days as a prisoner (he was an escaped prisoner), so he wrapped up his radio, which had his prison number on it. That was immediately going to identify him. And his rifle—he puts it in a box. And he put in beer cans, bobby pins, all these personal items, and then he raced out. He would have had to do it very fast because people were pouring out know at this time. Dr. King had been assassinated. People were running up and down the street, but now Ray had to do all of this within two minutes and get out of there. And so he was racing down the street and was about to jump into his white Mustang—a very anonymous automobile, a white Mustang—so as he was going down the street, instead of going right into this Mustang and taking all his evidence with him—instead, this is the story: He stopped and he put all this evidence down on the pavement in front of an amusement center that was right next to his flophouse, and that was how he was going to be identified. Then he went to the car and drove off unimpeded to Atlanta, Georgia.
Now this is an extremely unusual story—that the murderer would leave all his evidence at the scene of the crime for him to immediately be identified and so forth. In the trial, the first attorney for James Earl Ray, a man named Arthur Hanes—Arthur Hanes Jr. (his father died a few years ago) who was a co-attorney with him said that he interviewed the man who is the owner of the Canipe Amusement Center where James Earl Ray supposedly left his evidence, his rifle that supposedly killed Dr. King. The man who was the chief witness here said the bundle was dropped ten minutes before the shot was fired—ten minutes before the shot was fired! Now this is very interesting. That’s the whole case against Ray. It was there in that bundle, and this man was saying that the bundle was dropped ten minutes before the shot was fired. When I went to talk to Arthur Hanes Jr. after the trial, I said, “This is remarkable—what you said in the trial.” He said, “I’ve been saying it for 30 years. For 30 years I’ve been telling people that Mr. Canipe, who’s now long since deceased, told me that the bundle was dropped before the shot was fired.” He said, “I’m not at all surprised at the jury’s verdict.” Now any investigative reporter could have found that out 30 years ago. Crimestop. CRIMESTOP.