David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
(This weekend I am attending "Breaking the Chains," a conference on race and the drug war organized by Drug Policy Alliance, in downtown Los Angeles. Last night's opening reception featured viewing of a movie by the Kunstler fund on the Tulia 46, 12% of the small Texas town's African American population, who were framed by a corrupt police officer. Several family members as well as activists from Tulia are attending, so in their honor we reprint an editorial from last year, "The Tulia Lynchings." Those in LA can join the conference for $25 at the Hyatt Regency, Macy's Plaza, downtown, see http://www.breakingthechains.info for info on the conference, and visit http://www.kunstler.org and http://www.fojtulia.org for updates on the Tulia situation.)
On Sunday, July 22nd (2001), civil rights activists, drug law reformers and others will gather in the small Texas town of Tulia to demand justice for the Tulia 46.
Who are the Tulia 46?
In this small town of 5,000 people, they represented about 12% of the town's African American population. Based solely on the word of a corrupt police officer who is widely known for his own criminal activities -- he's been fired twice, once for sexual harassment and a related attempt at insurance fraud -- the Tulia 46 were indicted for drug dealing offenses following one massive wave of arrests perpetrated by this officer working undercover, 43 of them on a single day. Most of them were black, and some of the others were dating blacks. Twenty-two are now in prison, serving insanely long sentences ranging as high as 435 years!
Tulia has its share of drug use, just like any other town -- residents say there were a few drug dealers, and everyone knew who they were. The idea, however, that a town of 5,000, whose African American residents and many others live in something most of us would consider poverty, could support 46 drug dealers, or 22 drug dealers, much less major dealers meriting 20 or 100 year prison terms, is an economic absurdity: Only an idiot or a prosecutor with an agenda could believe such a set of criminal charges could be valid.
That is why the Tulia prosecutions and incarcerations can in no way be considered legitimate criminal justice activity. Rather, it is fair to say that they differed from lynchings only by the absence of a noose or other means of execution; at least Tulia's stolen are still alive to be released.
The fact that they have not been released is itself a gross violation of human rights. Again, it is simply impossible in economic terms for such a town to have supported that number of drug dealers. Therefore, the convicted must be innocent -- most of them, anyway -- and therefore must be released immediately. Anything other than immediate release is morally equivalent to kidnapping.
That is why the perpetrators of the Tulia lynchings -- police, prosecutors, judges -- should be fired and banned forever from working in the justice system or any job giving them power over the lives of other people. They have betrayed their oaths to protect the public and seek justice, and the moral turpitude of their crime increases each day that Tulia's stolen remain confined in our nation's barbaric prisons. The jurors, perhaps, can plead gullibility, but should at least be ashamed.
Let us be clear, it is not by letter of law that this mass injustice constitutes a crime. Rather, that charge is justified on the basis of higher moral principles, principles that reach beyond legislation, to the realm of conscience. Principles that allowed people of conscience to defy federal law by helping fleeing slaves escape to freedom. Principles by which the oppressed of all nations can stand up and be heard and have wrongs redressed despite the letter of the law enacted to keep them silent.
Principles that will free Tulia's stolen and end the war on drugs.