The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is urging the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) and Civil Rights division to launch an investigation into the murder of Marco McMillian. The NBJC wants the agency to investigate the murder as a potential racially-motivated and/or anti-gay hate crime.
McMillian was a black gay mayoral candidate in Mississippi whose dead body was found beaten and burned along the Delta last week. Although authorities have arrested 22-year-old Lawrence Reed and charged him with McMillian’s death, they have said that the killing was personal, not political.
In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, NBJC Executive Director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks writes:
After speaking extensively with the family, community and anti-violence coalition members like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), NBJC feels the perpetuation and validation of the “gay panic” defense is irresponsible. The conflicting reports as well as the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi is justification enough for a federal investigation.
NBJC is standing firmly with Marco McMillian’s family so that their concerns do not fall on deaf ears. The details of this case just aren’t adding up. Whether on the basis of race or sexual orientation, hate is hate. If there is the possibility that McMillian was murdered because of who he is, that warrants the Department of Justice’s involvement.”
The letter goes on to cite the disturbing uptick in recent Mississippi hate crimes.
In 2011 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report released a report that detailed a spike in Mississippi anti-gay and racially-motivated hate crimes. According to NBJC’s letter, local activists expressed concerns that the numbers may be twice as high than what is officially on record due to underreporting and fear of retaliation. The report also revealed that more than two-thirds of Mississippi’s counties failed to file a report with the Justice Department.
In 2011, James C. Anderson, 48, died tragically in a Jackson, Mississippi, parking lot. Surveillance video shows two carloads of white teenagers beating and robbing Anderson. They later ran him over repeatedly with a truck. Witnesses report one teenager yelled “white power,” and the driver of the pickup shouted a racist slur. Anderson and his partner, James Bradfield, of 17 years were raising a child together. Last year, three men were convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
Just last month, when an openly gay couple, Dr. Ravi Perry and Prince Paris, were invited to speak at a Mississippi Historically Black College and University, local pastors rallied and protested the lecture. The public outcry resulted in the institution scaling down the visibility of the event and distancing itself.