Thursday, 16 June 2011

Soweto uprising

Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot by South African police. His sister, Antoinette Sithole runs beside them. Pieterson was rushed to local clinic and declared dead on arrival at the clinic.
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The Soweto Uprising, also known as "June 16", was a series of student-led protests in South Africa that began on the morning of June 16, 1976. Students from numerous Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets of Soweto, in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools . An estimated 20 000 students took part in the protests, and roughly 176 people were killed. The 16th of June is now a public holiday, Youth Day, in South Africa, in remembrance of the events in 1976.

Causes of the protests

Black students in Soweto protested against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974 which forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50-50 mix as languages of instruction. The Regional Director of Bantu Education (Northern Transvaal Region), J.G. Erasmus, told Circuit Inspectors and Principals of Schools that from January 1, 1975, Afrikaans had to be used for mathematics, arithmetic, and social studies from standard five (7th grade), according to the Afrikaans Medium Decree; English would be the medium of instruction for general science and practical subjects (homecraft, needlework, woodwork, metalwork, art, agricultural science). Indigenous languages would only be used for religion instruction, music, and physical culture.
The association of Afrikaans with apartheid prompted black South Africans to prefer English. Even the homelands regimes chose English and an indigenous African language as official languages. In addition, English was gaining prominence as the language most often used in commerce and industry. The 1974 decree was intended to forcibly reverse the decline of Afrikaans among black Africans. The Afrikaner-dominated government used the clause of the 1909 Constitution that recognized only English and Afrikaans as official languages as pretext to do so. While all schools had to provide instruction in both Afrikaans and English as languages, white students learned other subjects in their home language.
Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education at the time, was quoted as saying: "I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I'm not going to. An African might find that 'the grootbaas' only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages"'.
The decree was resented deeply by blacks as Afrikaans was widely viewed, in the words of Desmond Tutu, then Dean of Johannesburg as "the language of the oppressor". Teacher organizations such as the African Teachers Association of South Africa objected to the decree.
The resentment grew until April 30, 1976, when children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school. Their rebellion then spread to many other schools in Soweto. A student from Morris Isaacson High School, Teboho 'Tsietsi' Mashinini, proposed a meeting on June 13, 1976, to discuss what should be done. Students formed an Action Committee (later known as the Soweto Students’ Representative Council) that organized a mass rally for June 16 to make themselves heard.
In a BBC/SABC documentary broadcast for the first time in June 2006, surviving leaders of the uprising described how they planned in secret for the demonstration, surprising their teachers and families (and the apartheid police) with the power and strength of the demonstration (see 'Radio' section below).

The uprising

On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of black students walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium for a rally to protest against having to learn through Afrikaans in school. Many students who later participated in the protest arrived at school that morning without prior knowledge of the protest, yet agreed to become involved. The protest was intended to be peaceful and had been carefully planned by the Soweto Students’ Representative Council’s (SSRC) Action Committee, with support from the wider Black Consciousness Movement. Teachers in Soweto also supported the march after the Action Committee emphasized good discipline and peaceful action. But this changed when one teacher was assaulted with a brick when trying to stop the students and another was stabbed with a knife.
Tsietsi Mashininini led students from Morris Isaacson High School to join up with others who walked from Naledi High School. The students began the march only to find out that police had barricaded the road along their intended route. The leader of the action committee asked the crowd not to provoke the police and the march continued on another route, eventually ending up near Orlando High School. The crowd of between 3,000 and 10,000 students made their way towards the area of the school. Students sang and wove placards with slogans such as, "Down with Afrikaans", "Viva Azania" and "If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu".

A 2006 BBC/SABC documentary corroborated the testimony of Colonel Kleingeld, the police officer who fired the first shot, with eyewitness accounts from both sides. In Kleingeld's account, some of the children started throwing stones as soon as they spotted the police patrol, while others continued to march peacefully. Colonel Kleingeld, drew his handgun and fired a shot, causing panic and chaos. Students started screaming and running and more gunshots were fired.
The rioting continued and 23 people, including two white people, died on the first day in Soweto. Among them was Dr Melville Edelstein, who had devoted his life to social welfare among blacks. He was stoned to death by the mob and left with a sign around his neck proclaiming 'Beware Afrikaaners' (sic).
The violence escalated as the students panicked; bottle stores and beerhalls were targeted. The violence abated by nightfall. Police vans and armoured vehicles patrolled the streets throughout the night.
Emergency clinics were swamped with injured and bloody children. It is not known how many injured children sustained bullet wounds because doctors refused to collect such details for fear that police would target the families of such children. In many cases bullet wounds were indicated on hospital records as abscesses.
Emotions ran high after the massacre on June 16. Hostility between students and the police was intense, with officers shooting at random and more people joining the protesters. The township youth had been frustrated and angry for a long time and the riots became the opportunity to bring to light their grievances.
The 1,500 heavily armed police officers deployed to Soweto on June 17 carried weapons including automatic rifles, stun guns, and carbines. They drove around in armoured vehicles with helicopters monitoring the area from the sky. The South African Army was also ordered on standby as a tactical measure to show military force. Crowd control methods used by South African police at the time included mainly dispersement techniques, and many of the officers shot indiscriminately, killing many people.


The accounts of how many people died vary from 200 to 600, with Reuters news agency currently reporting there were "more than 500" fatalities in the 1976 riots . The original government figure claimed only 23 students were killed. The number of wounded was estimated to be over a thousand men, women, and children. it was later found that most of the wounds received by the protestors were in the back clearly indicating that the majority of the victims where running away


The aftermath of the uprising established the leading role of the ANC in the liberation struggle, as it was the body best able to channel and organize students seeking the overthrow of apartheid. So, although the BCM's ideas had been important in creating the climate that gave the students the confidence to strike out, it was the ANC's non-racialism which came to dominate the discourse of liberation amongst blacks. The perspectives set out in Joe Slovo's essay No Middle Road - written at just this time and predicting the apartheid regime had only the choice between more repression and overthrow by the revolutionaries - were highly influential.
The Soweto Uprising was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa. Prior to this event, the liberation struggle was being fought outside of South Africa, mostly in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), South West Africa (later Namibia) and Angola. But from this moment onwards, the struggle became internal and the government security forces were split between external operations and internal operations.
The clashes also occurred at a time when the South African Government was being forced to "transform" apartheid in international eyes towards a more "benign" form. In October 1976, Transkei, the first Bantustan, was proclaimed "independent" by the South African Government. This attempt to showcase supposed South African "commitment" to self-determination backfired, however, when Transkei was internationally derided as a puppet state.
For the state the uprising marked the most fundamental challenge yet to apartheid and the economic (see below) and political instability it caused was heightened by the strengthening international boycott. It was a further 14 years before Mandela was released, but at no point was the state able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s as black resistance grew.
Many white South African citizens were outraged at the government's actions in Soweto, and about 300 white students from the University of the Witwatersrand marched through Johannesburg's city centre in protest of the killing of children. Black workers went on strike as well and joined them as the campaign progressed. Riots also broke out in the black townships of other cities in South Africa.
Student organizations directed the energy and anger of the youth toward political resistance. Students in Thembisa organized a successful and non-violent solidarity march, but a similar protest held in Kagiso led to police stopping a group of participants and forcing them to retreat, before killing at least five people while waiting for reinforcements. The violence only died down on June 18. The University of Zululand's records and administration buildings were set ablaze, and 33 people died in incidents in Port Elizabeth in August. In Cape Town 92 people died between August and September.
Most of the bloodshed had abated by the close of 1976, but by that time the death toll stood at more than 600.
The continued clashes in Soweto caused economic instability. The South African rand devalued fast and the government was plunged into a crisis.
The African National Congress printed and distributed leaflets with the slogan "Free Mandela, Hang Voster", immediately linking the language issue to its revolutionary heritage and programme and helping establish its leading role (see Barush Hirson's "Year of Fire, Year of Ash" for a discussion of the ANC's ability to channel and direct the popular anger).

International reaction

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 392 strongly condemned the incident and the apartheid regime.
Henry Kissinger, United States United States Secretary of State at the time, was about to visit South Africa at the time of the riot, and said that the uprisings cast a negative light on the entire country.
African National Congress (ANC) exiles called for international action and more economic sanctions against South Africa.

In the media

Images of the riots spread all over the world, shocking millions. The photograph of Hector Pieterson's dead body, as captured by photo-journalist Sam Nzima, caused outrage and brought down international condemnation on the Apartheid government.
The Soweto riots are depicted in the 1987 film by director Richard Attenborough, Cry Freedom, and in the 1992 musical film Sarafina!. The riots also inspired a novel by Andre Brink called A Dry White Season, and a 1989 movie of the same title. In the 2003 film Stander, the Soweto riots start Captain Andre Stander's disillusionment with apartheid, and he seeks forgiveness from the father of a protesting student he killed.


Twenty years on from the uprising, in June 1996, the Ulwazi Educational Radio Project of Johannesburg compiled an hour-long radio documentary portraying the events of June 16 entirely from the perspective of people living in Soweto at the time. Many of the students who planned or joined the uprising took part, as did other witnesses including photographer Peter Magubane, reporter Sophie Tema, and Tim Wilson the white doctor who pronounced Hector Pieterson dead in Baragwanath hospital. The programme was broadcast on SABC and on a number of local radio stations throughout South Africa. The following year, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service broadcast a revised version containing fresh interviews and entitled The Day Apartheid Died. The programme was runner-up at the 1998 European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) TV & Radio Awards and also at the 1998 Media Awards of the One World International Broadcasting Trust, and was highly commended at the 1998 Prix Italia radio awards. In May 1999, it was re-broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as The Death of Apartheid with a fresh introduction, providing added historical context for a British audience, by Anthony Sampson, former editor of Drum magazine and author of the authorised biography (1999) of Nelson Mandela. Sampson linked extracts from the BBC Sound Archive that charted the long struggle against apartheid from the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, through the riots of 1976 and the murder of Steve Biko, and right up to Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and the future president’s speech in which he acknowledged the debt owed by all black South Africans to the students who gave their lives in Soweto on 16 June 1976.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Manchester bombing

Fire engine with extended ladder in a street full of rubble
Corporation Street after the bombing
Location Corporation Street,
Manchester, England
Date 15 June 1996
11:17:04 (BST)
Target Manchester city centre
Attack type Vehicle bomb
Death(s) 0
Injured 212
Perpetrator(s) Provisional IRA
The 1996 Manchester bombing was an attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 15 June 1996 in Manchester, England. The bomb, placed in a van on Corporation Street in the city centre, targeted the city's infrastructure and economy and caused widespread damage, estimated by insurers at £700 million (£1 billion as of 2011). Two hundred and twelve people were injured, but there were no fatalities.
Formed in 1969, the Provisional IRA adopted a strategy of violence to achieve its aim of a united Ireland. Although Manchester had been the target of IRA bombs before 1996, it had not been subjected to an attack on this scale, the largest device detonated in Great Britain during peacetime. The bombing was condemned by the British and Irish governments, along with US President Bill Clinton. Five days after the blast the IRA issued a statement in which it claimed responsibility, but regretted causing injury to civilians.
Several buildings close to the centre of the explosion had to be demolished, while many more were closed for months for structural repairs. Most of the rebuilding work was completed by the end of 1999, at a cost of £1.2 billion, although redevelopment continued until 2005. At the time of the explosion Manchester was playing host to the Euro '96 football championships; a match between Russia and Germany was scheduled for the following day at Old Trafford, and the city had the year before won its bid to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The perpetrators of the attack have not been caught, and Greater Manchester Police have conceded it is unlikely that anyone will be charged in connection with the bombing.


Ireland came under British rule at the end of the Nine Years War in 1603, but was partitioned in 1921 under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed from the old Irish Republican Army between 1969 and 1971, with the aim of achieving the reunification of Ireland. The IRA used violence to achieve its aims until 1994, despite intermittent truces. The Downing Street Declaration of 1993 allowed Sinn Féin, the IRA's political arm, to participate in talks about the future of Northern Ireland on condition that it called a cease-fire. On 31 August 1994, the IRA announced its "complete cessation of military operations", but that ended on 9 February 1996, when it detonated a bomb in Canary Wharf, killing two people. The IRA then planted five other devices in London within the space of 10 weeks.
Manchester had been the target of earlier IRA bombs. A man was imprisoned for 15 years in 1975 for placing two firebombs in Manchester city centre in 1973–1974. In February 1974, a bomb exploded in Manchester Magistrates' Court, injuring twelve people. IRA bomb factories were discovered in Fallowfield and Salford and five men were imprisoned for planned attacks in North West England. Manchester may have been chosen because the city was one of the hosts for the Euro '96 football championships, attended by visitors and media organisations from all over Europe, guaranteeing the IRA what Margaret Thatcher called the "oxygen of publicity". A match between Russia and Germany was scheduled to take place at Old Trafford just over 24 hours after the bomb exploded, and Manchester had the previous year won its bid to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the biggest multi-sport event ever to be staged in Britain.

Details of the bombing


Three photographs arranged one on top of the other, taken from the air. The first shows a white truck parked outside a tall building. The second shows a sheet of flame, and the third, taken from further away than the first, shows a tall mushroom-shaped cloud rising into the sky above the surrounding buildings.
Stills taken from India 99, a Greater Manchester Police helicopter, showing the Ford Cargo truck moments before the blast, the explosion taking place, and the resulting smoke plume over the city, dwarfing the adjacent 23-storey high-rise, Arndale House.

At about 9:20 am on Saturday 15 June 1996, a red and white Ford Cargo truck was parked on Corporation Street, outside the Marks & Spencer store, close to the Arndale Centre. CCTV footage shows the truck abandoned on yellow lines by two hooded men. Within three minutes a traffic warden had issued the vehicle with a parking ticket and called for its removal. At 9:43 am Granada TV Studios received a telephone call claiming that there was a bomb at the corner of Corporation Street and Cannon Street and that it would explode in one hour. The caller had an Irish accent and gave a codeword so that police would know the threat was genuine.
The first policeman to arrive on the scene noticed wires running from the truck's dashboard through a hole into the rear and reported that he had found the bomb. Forensic experts later estimated that the truck contained a 3,300-pound (1,500 kg) mixture of Semtex, a military-grade plastic explosive, and ammonium nitrate fertiliser, a cheap and easily obtainable explosive used extensively by the IRA. Components of what may have been a tremble trigger were also found later, designed to detonate the bomb if the truck was tampered with.


At 10:00 am, there were an estimated 75,000–80,000 people shopping and working in the vicinity. An evacuation of the area was undertaken by police officers from Bootle Street police station, supplemented by officers drafted into Manchester to control the football crowds. The police forces were helped by security guards from local shops.
One group worked to move people away from the bomb while another, assisted by firefighters and security guards, established a continuously expanding cordon around the area to prevent entry. By 11:10 am the cordon was at the maximum extent that available manpower would permit, about a quarter of a mile (0.40 km) from the truck and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in circumference.


The bomb squad arrived from their Liverpool base at 10:46 am and attempted to defuse the bomb using a remote-controlled device, but they ran out of time. The bomb exploded at 11:17 am, causing an estimated £700 million (£1 billion as of 2011) of damage and affecting a third of the city centre's retail space. Marks & Spencer, the sky bridge connecting it with the Arndale Centre, and neighbouring buildings were destroyed. It was the largest peacetime bomb ever detonated in Great Britain. Glass and masonry were thrown into the air, and behind the police cordon – up to 0.5 mi (0.80 km) away, people were showered by falling debris. There were no fatalities, but 212 people were injured. A search of the area for casualties was confused by mannequins blasted from shop windows, which were sometimes mistaken for bodies. Hospitals across Greater Manchester were made ready to receive those injured in the blast. The police commandeered a Metrolink tram to take 50 of the casualties to North Manchester General Hospital, which treated 79 in total; a further 80 were cared for at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and many others were treated in the streets by ambulance crews assisted by doctors and nurses who happened to be in the city centre that morning.


The bombing was condemned by John Major's government, the opposition, and by individual Members of Parliament (MPs) as a "sickening", "callous" and "barbaric" terrorist attack. Sinn Féin was criticised by Taoiseach John Bruton for being "struck mute" on the issue in the immediate aftermath. Bruton described the bombing as "a slap in the face to people who've been trying, against perhaps their better instincts, to give Sinn Féin a chance to show that they could persuade the IRA to reinstate the ceasefire". Early on, Major stated that, "This explosion looks like the work of the IRA. It is the work of a few fanatics and ... causes absolute revulsion in Ireland as it does here". President of the United States, Bill Clinton, stated he was "deeply outraged by the bomb explosion" and joined Bruton and Major in "utterly condemning this brutal and cowardly act of terrorism". On 20 June 1996, the IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing, though it stated that it "sincerely regretted" causing injury to civilians.
In an effort to allay fears that Manchester's considerable Irish community might be subjected to reprisal attacks, Councillors Richard Leese and Martin Pagel – leader and deputy leader of Manchester City Council respectively – made a public visit to the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill. In the event there were only a few incidents, the most serious of which occurred on the evening of the bomb when a gang of 10 men rampaged through an Irish-themed bar in the centre of Middleton shouting "No Surrender" and smashing furniture and windows. Seven days after the explosion Manchester Council held a family fun day in front of the Town Hall in Albert Square to encourage shoppers and visitors back into the city centre, the first of a "series of events and entertainments". The scheduled Euro '96 football match between Russia and Germany at Old Trafford on the day following the bombing went ahead as planned after the stadium had been heavily guarded overnight and carefully searched; the game, in which Germany beat Russia 3–0, was watched by a capacity crowd of 50,700.


A damaged traffic light that was on the corner of the junction between Cross Street and Market Street at the time of the explosion, now in the Museum of Science and Industry

In an effort to trace the route of the Ford Cargo truck, police examined CCTV footage from every major road and motorway taken in England within two days of the bombing. Footage revealed that the truck was driven south along the M1 motorway into London on the Friday afternoon before the attack. It was seen again heading north along the motorway at 7:40 pm, accompanied by a Ford Granada. Detectives surmised that the truck had been loaded with explosives in London and that the Granada was intended to be the getaway vehicle. The truck was last recorded travelling east along the M62 motorway towards Manchester at 8:31 am on the morning of the explosion.
Police in Manchester were aware that their Metropolitan Police colleagues in London were investigating a suspected IRA unit based in the capital, and wondered whether the London unit was responsible for the Manchester bombing. On 15 July, Metropolitan police arrested six men suspected IRA membership: Donal Gannon, John Crawley, Gerard Hanratty, Robert Morrow, Patrick Martin, and Francis Rafferty. Each was tried and convicted of "conspiracy to cause explosions at National Grid electricity stations", and sentenced to 35 years in jail. Police in Manchester meanwhile worked to establish if the men were also responsible for the Manchester bomb.
Their investigation was led by Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Mutch of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP), "astonishingly ... the only person ever charged with a criminal offence in connection with the Manchester bomb". The truck's last registered owner told police that he had sold it to a dealer in Peterborough, who had in turn sold the truck on to a man calling himself Tom Fox, two weeks before the bombing. After the purchase price was delivered in cash by a taxi driver, the dealer was instructed to take the truck to a nearby lorry park, and leave it there with the keys and documents hidden inside.
On checking records of telephone calls made to the dealer, the police discovered that some had been made from a mobile phone registered in Ireland, and on further checking the records of that phone it appeared that the calls were made from locations consistent with the known whereabouts of the Ford truck. One call was to a known IRA member. The phone was last used at 9:23 am on the morning of the bombing, just three minutes after the bombers had positioned their truck in Corporation Street. On 27 June, the phone's registered owner reported that it had been stolen 17 days earlier, but the police felt they had gathered enough evidence to bring a prosecution against the six IRA men held in London.
At a meeting attended by the commander of Special Branch in Manchester, a GMP assistant chief constable and a "senior officer" from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it was decided, for reasons never made public, not to present the findings of the investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS); the body responsible for undertaking criminal prosecutions in England. The three may have felt that as the IRA suspects were already in police custody they had ceased to be a threat, or that to pursue the case against them may have jeopardised ongoing undercover operations. It was not until 1998 that the police finally sent their file to the CPS, who decided not to prosecute.


Early in 1999, Steve Panter, chief crime reporter for the Manchester Evening News, was leaked classified Special Branch documents naming those suspected of the bombing. The documents also revealed that the man suspected of organising the attack had visited Manchester shortly after the explosion and been under covert police surveillance as he toured the devastated city centre before returning to his home in South Armagh. Suspicion fell on Mutch as the source of the leaked documents after an analysis of mobile phone records placed both him and Panter at the same hotel in Skipton, Yorkshire, about 40 miles (64 km) from Manchester on the same evening.
On 21 April 1999, the Manchester Evening News named a man it described as "a prime suspect in the 1996 Manchester bomb plot". The newspaper reported that the file sent by Greater Manchester Police to the Crown Prosecution Service contained the sentence: "It is the opinion of the investigating officers of GMP that there is sufficient evidence to charge [him] with being a party in a conspiracy to cause explosions in the United Kingdom." The man denied any involvement. The Attorney General wrote in a letter to a local MP that the advice given to the CPS by an independent lawyer was that "there was not a case to answer on the evidence available ... a judge would stop the case": the Attorney General further wrote that the decision not to prosecute was not influenced by the government. The newspaper also identified the six men arrested in London on 15 July as having planned the attack. By July 2000 all six had been released under the terms of Belfast Agreement of 1998.
As of 2011, Panter and Mutch are the only people to have been arrested in connection with the bombing. Mutch was tried for "misconduct in a public office" during an 11-day trial held in January 2002, but was acquitted. During the trial Panter was found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal his source, an offence that is punishable by a term of imprisonment without the right of appeal. Greater Manchester Police announced in 2006 that there was no realistic chance of convicting those responsible for the bombing.


About twelve buildings in the immediate vicinity of the explosion were severely damaged. Overall, 530,000 square feet (49,000 m2) of retail space and 610,000 square feet (57,000 m2) of office space were put out of use. Insurers paid out £411 million (£600 million as of 2011) in damages for what was at the time one of the most expensive man-made disasters ever, and there was considerable under-insurance. Victims of the bombing received a total of £1,145,971 in compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority; one individual received £146,524, the largest amount awarded as a result of this incident.

The epicentre of the blast in 2009
According to Home Office statistics, an estimated 400 businesses within half a mile (0.8 km) of the blast were affected, 40% of which did not recover. The heaviest damage was sustained by the three buildings closest to the bomb: Michael House, comprising a Marks & Spencer store and a six-storey office block; Longridge House, offices for Royal and Sun Alliance, an insurance company; and the Arndale Centre, a shopping mall. Michael House was deemed beyond economic repair and demolished. Marks & Spencer took the opportunity to acquire and demolish the adjacent Longridge House, using the enlarged site for the world's biggest branch of Marks & Spencer. Marks and Spencer's fortunes changed during construction, and Selfridges subsequently co-occupied the building. Marks & Spencer became tenants of part of the Lewis's store in the interval. The frontage of the Arndale was badly damaged and was removed in a remodelling of that part of the city centre.
The glass domes of the Corn Exchange and the Royal Exchange were blown in. The landlord of the Corn Exchange invoked a force majeure condition in the lease to evict all tenants, and the building was converted into a shopping centre. The dome of the Royal Exchange, home to the theatre, was found to have shifted in the blast; its repair and refurbishment took two and a half years.
The possibility of taking the opportunity to rebuild parts of the city centre was raised within days of the bomb. On 26 June 1996, Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced an international competition for designs of the redevelopment of the bomb-affected area. Bids were received from 27 entrants, 5 of whom were invited to submit designs in a second round. It was announced on 5 November 1996 that the winning design was one by a consortium headed by EDAW.


Much of the 1960s redevelopment of Manchester's city centre was unpopular with residents. Market Street, close to the explosion and at that time the second busiest shopping street in the UK, was considered by some commentators a "fearful" place, to be "avoid[ed] like the plague". Until Margaret Thatcher's third consecutive election victory in 1987, the staunchly Labour-controlled Manchester Council believed that Manchester's regeneration should be funded solely by public money, despite the government's insistence on only funding schemes with a significant element of private investment. Graham Stringer, leader of Manchester City Council, later admitted that after the 1987 General Election result "there was no get out of jail card. We had gambled on Labour winning the General Election and we lost." Thatcher's victory effectively put paid to Manchester's "socialist experiment", and Stringer shortly afterwards wrote a letter of capitulation to Nicholas Ridley, then Secretary of State for the Environment, saying, "in a nutshell; OK, you win, we'd like to work together with you".
Efforts at improvement before the bombing had in some respects made matters worse, cutting off the area north of the Arndale Centre – the exterior of which was widely unloved – from the rest of the city centre. A large building nearby, now redeveloped as The Printworks and formerly occupied by the Daily Mirror newspaper, had been unoccupied since 1987. Many locals therefore considered that "the bomb was the best thing that ever happened to Manchester", as it cleared the way for redevelopment of the dysfunctional city centre, a view also expressed in 2007 by Terry Rooney, MP for Bradford North. The leader of Manchester City Council, Simon Ashley, responded that "I take exception to his [Rooney's] comments about the IRA bomb. No one who was in the city on that day, who lost their jobs or was scared witless or injured by the blast, would say the bomb was the best thing to happen to Manchester". Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton, stated that the bomb provided the opportunity for redeveloping Manchester city centre, although it was not fully exploited. "The bomb was obviously bad but from a redevelopment point of view, it was a lost opportunity. While the area around St Ann's Square and Deansgate is not disagreeable, if you compare it with Birmingham and its exciting development, we've got nothing to touch that in Manchester". Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, has been quoted as saying "people say the bomb turned out to be a great thing for Manchester. That's rubbish." There was already substantial regeneration and redevelopment taking place in Manchester before the bombing, in support of the city's bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games, its second Olympic bid. Tom Bloxham, chairman of property development group Urban Splash and of the Arts Council England (North West) agreed with Bernstein that the bomb attack was not the trigger for the large-scale redevelopment that has taken place in Manchester since the early 1990s:

Standard UK pillar box with memorial brass plaque
A pillarbox that survived the bomb blast. A memorial brass plaque commemorates the 1996 bomb
For me the turning point for Manchester came before the bomb ... it was the second Olympic Games bid [in 1992] when we lost but the city suddenly had a realisation. There was a huge party in Castlefield and people grasped the idea that Manchester should no longer consider itself in competition with the likes of Barnsley and Stockport. It was now up against Barcelona, Los Angeles and Sydney and its aspirations increased accordingly.


A pillar box that survived the blast despite being yards from the explosion, now carries a small brass plaque recording the bombing. It was removed during construction and redevelopment work, and returned to its original spot when Corporation Street reopened.
A Thanksgiving service for the "Miracle of Manchester" was held at Manchester Cathedral on 24 July 2002, to coincide with the arrival of the Commonwealth Games baton, attended by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. At 11:17 am on 15 June 2006, a candle was lit at a memorial held at Manchester Cathedral to mark the tenth anniversary of the bombing.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Eltham Well Hall rail crash

The Eltham Well Hall rail crash was an accident on the British railway system that occurred on 11 June 1972 at approximately 21:35.
An excursion train from Margate to Kentish Town derailed on an acute curve at Eltham Well Hall station, Eltham, London. The driver and five passengers were killed, and 126 people were injured. At the subsequent public inquiry it was revealed that the driver had been intoxicated by alcohol.


The train was an excursion for Cricklewood-based employees of the London Midland Region and their families. After arrival at Margate, the train was stabled at Ramsgate. The driver of the return working was not due to be on duty until the afternoon and had gone to a pub at lunchtime with his brothers; he spent the afternoon at home.
At about 15:20 he booked on duty by telephone with Hither Green depot and travelled by train to Ramsgate. He met with his secondman, a youth of 18 years, there. They prepared the train which consisted of a Class 47 diesel locomotive and 10 coaches. While they chatted the secondman noticed a strong smell on the driver's breath and when questioned about it, he replied that he had "had some beer at dinner time" and had "ended up going somewhere and drinking some sherry".
Nevertheless, on the driver's suggestion, they both went to the nearby Railway Staff Association Club at about 19:00 and drank three pints of light and bitter beer each. At 19:45 they met with the guard and drove the train to Margate to get the passengers.
As a side note, the actor Phil Daniels star of Quadrophenia, Scum, and more recently Eastenders was aboard one of the derailed coaches with his parents after a day trip.

The journey

The crew left the cab for a few minutes and as a result the train departed from Margate eight minutes late. The journey was normal until the train stopped for signals at Rainham, whereafter the driver made an unscheduled stop in the station to telephone the signalman and ask about another excursion train that they were due to pass some distance ahead. This was a very unusual action, particularly as he had made up almost seven minutes of the lost time.
The guard told the inquiry that after leaving Rainham he had noticed that the train's speed has been "a little bit excessive" and that the driver braked intensely between Gillingham and Chatham. Approaching Eltham Park he became so concerned at the speed that he made two quick applications of the vacuum brake to try and draw the driver's attention, but before he could get a reaction it was too late.

The accident

The curve at Eltham has a speed limit of 20 mph, but according to eyewitness accounts, the train entered it whilst travelling at about 65 mph. Computations later proved that the driver had apparently shut off power where required, but had not made brake application.
The locomotive and first four coaches came to rest at an angle to the track, the second and third coaches on their sides. The next five coaches were derailed but the 10th, in which the guard was riding, was not.


All witnesses who saw the driver including the guard, the station staff at both Rainham and Margate, and the depot staff at Ramsgate, observed no signs of intoxication. His speech was clear and his gait was normal. Those who knew the driver said that he was quite a frequent drinker of alcohol and could "carry" much beer.
A post-mortem examination of the driver showed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.278% (the legal limit for driving a road vehicle is 0.08%). There was an imbalance with the urine alcohol level which made it very likely that the driver had also been drinking alcohol at the controls. Two bottles of beer given to the crew by the excursion's organisers were found in the cab, but they were unopened. A medical expert stated that during the time given, 5½ pints of bitter, a third of a bottle of sherry and a quarter bottle of spirits would "just about achieve" the levels found, providing that "the bulk of the spirits was drunk between 20:15 and 21:30". The inquiry hypothesized that the driver had taken spirits into the cab with him, having collected them during his unexplained absence before leaving Margate.
The secondman may not have been attentive because he had also been drinking, but he did not know the route and would not have realised that the driver was not braking for the curve when he should have been.


The Inspecting Officer, Colonel J.R.H. Robertson, concluded that the driver had "grossly impaired his ability to drive safely by drinking a considerable quantity of alcohol both before and after booking on duty, including some shortly before leaving Margate and some more in his cab during the journey."
He made recommendations that booking-on of drivers by telephone should be controlled carefully, but did not recommend any changes to warnings of permanent speed restrictions. However, changes were made to the signalling at Eltham so that through trains would receive a yellow signal on approach.
The recommendation that booking-on by telephone be controlled carefully was reiterated in the Inspectorate report of the Cannon Street Station rail crash during 1991.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Akihabara massacre

The crossing where the incident happened.
Location Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Coordinates 35°41′59″N 139°46′17″E
Date June 8, 2008
12:33-12:36 p.m. (JST)
Attack type Mass murder, stabbing
Weapon(s) Truck, dagger
Death(s) 7
Injured 10
Perpetrator Tomohiro Katō (加藤 智大 Katō Tomohiro?)
The Akihabara massacre (秋葉原通り魔事件 Akihabara Tōrima Jiken?, lit. "Akihabara random attacker incident") was an incident of mass murder that took place on Sunday, June 8, 2008, in the Akihabara shopping quarter for electronics, video games and comics in Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan.
At 12:33 p.m. JST, a man hit a crowd with a truck, eventually killing three people and injuring two; he then stabbed at least 12 people using a dagger (initially reported as a survival knife) killing four people and injuring eight.
Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested Tomohiro Katō (加藤 智大 Katō Tomohiro?), 25, on suspicion of attempted murder. The suspect, dressed then in a black T-shirt with a jacket and off-white trousers, was a resident of Susono, Shizuoka. He was held at the Manseibashi Police Station. Two days later on June 10, he was sent to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office. He was later re-arrested by the police on June 20 on suspicion of murder. During the trial, prosecutors sought the death penalty,  and the Tokyo District Court agreed, sentencing Kato to death.

The rented truck used to run into the crowd.

Makeshift memorial set up at Akihabara for mourning.

The incident

The suspect Katō drove a two-ton rented truck into a crowd at the crossing of Kanda Myōjin-dōri and Chūō-dōri streets in Akihabara. While Kanda Myōjin-dōri was open to traffic, Chūō-dōri was closed to vehicular traffic for the convenience of shopping pedestrians, a practice observed every Sunday and during holidays. Police concluded it was at 12:33 P.M. when he hit five people with the truck, after ignoring a red light earlier that morning. As some people gathered to care for the victims, he then left the truck and stabbed at least 12 people, a witness told, he was screaming. Police chased him, cornered him into a narrow alley, and a police officer pointed a gun at him; he dropped his knife and was held down by the police at 12:35 P.M., about 170 meters (600 ft) away from the truck.

The victims

At least 17 ambulances rushed to the scene as passersby tried to revive the victims. Five of the victims reportedly went into cardiac arrest at the scene. It was initially reported two people died from the attack, and during the day the death toll increased to seven. Later it was determined through autopsies that three victims died as a result of being hit by the truck while the other four were fatally stabbed.
According to police and hospital officials, six of the seven who were killed were men, including Kazunori Fujino and his friend Takahiro Kamaguchi (both 19), Katsuhiko Nakamura (74), Naoki Miyamoto (31), Mitsuru Matsui (33), and Kasuhiro Koiwa (47). A woman, Mai Mutō (21), was also killed. Communication records showed that Mutō probably made an emergency call for police from her mobile phone, though she left no message. Later that day, a makeshift memorial was created by a passersby.


Early life and education

Tomohiro Katō (加藤智大 Katō Tomohiro) (born September 28, 1982) grew up in a suburban home in Aomori, Honshu. His father was a top manager in a financial institution. Katō's grades were considered to be exceptional in elementary school and he was a top track athlete. He entered Tsukuda Junior High School and became president of the tennis club in middle school. He started to act violently at home after enrolling at Aomori Prefectural Aomori High School, an elite high school. Katō was unpopular with his classmates and his class academic ranking fell to 300 (of 360 students). He failed entrance examinations for the prestigious Hokkaido University, eventually training as an auto mechanic at Nakanihon Automotive College. He was hired as a temporary worker at an auto parts factory in central Shizuoka Prefecture, though he was recently told that his job was going to be cut at the end of June.
Katō reportedly did not get along well with his parents, and seldom returned home. An interview with Katō's brother revealed that his parents had put immense pressure on them to perform, and to excel in their studies, ordering that their homework be redone to standards in order to impress teachers in school and recalling one incident where Katō was made to eat scraps of food from the floor. Another neighbour described Katō being punished by his parents, who made him stand outside for hours in deep cold during winter. Previous online postings before his announcement of the attack contained sharp criticisms towards his own upbringing. Deeply in debt and believing that his family had given up on him, Katō unsuccessfully attempted suicide in 2006 by ramming his car into a wall.


Three days before the attack, on June 5, Katō accused people at his workplace of hiding his work clothes, and left work immediately afterwards. Apparently he believed at this point he was going to lose his job, though this was not actually the case.This may have triggered the attack.
The suspect apparently posted messages from his mobile phone to a Web site "Extreme Exchange, Revised", revealing his intentions through his final message via his mobile phone 20 minutes before the attack. A police official stated the first message read, "I will kill people in Akihabara." Other messages he is alleged to have posted include, "If only I had a girlfriend, I wouldn't have quit work," "I would never have become addicted to my mobile phone. Anybody with hope couldn't possibly understand how I feel," and "I don't have a single friend and I won't in the future. I'll be ignored because I'm ugly. I'm lower than trash because at least the trash gets recycled." It also referred to "a stabbing spree in Tsuchiura." Commentators referred to the incident, based on the messages, as another case with the phenomenon of Hikikomori or Internet suicide. Later messages revealed his plan to use a vehicle until it became inoperable, and then to use a knife to continue the attack on foot. He waited out for Chūō-dōri to close at noon to vehicular traffic before commencing the attack.


The 35-year practice of closing Chūō-dōri avenue to vehicular traffic on Sundays and holiday afternoons was discontinued after the attack. The Japanese text on the sign translates in English to "Pedestrian precinct shall be discontinued for the time being from June 15." 
The suspect Katō was arrested red-handed on suspicion of attempted murder after a police officer spotted him stabbing a woman. On June 10 the police sent him to Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office. The police on June 20 arrested him again on suspicion of murder of the seven victims. On the same day the Prosecutor's Office withheld action on him for the first suspicion. While being positive about his capacity to hold the criminal liability, the Prosecutor's Office decided by June 20 to demand that his detention for a psychiatric test be authorized by the Tokyo District Court.
Katō was cooperative during the inquiry but unapologetic, and cried at times. Police seized from his apartment empty packages of knives, their receipts, and one club.
Katō erased all contacts and communication records from his mobile phone just prior to the attack, the purpose of which he confessed was to avoid annoying those around him. Katō later said that he posted the online messages hoping that police would take notice and stop him.
The knives were reportedly purchased two days before the attack from a military supply shop in Fukui at about 12:40 p.m. Katō spent about 20 minutes in the store, purchasing a telescopic baton and a pair of leather gloves while the store closed-circuit television captured him talking to and laughing with the salesman and demonstrating stabbing motions. Katō came to Akihabara a day before the attack to sell his personal computer and some software to raise money to rent the truck.

Reactions and consequences

The attack made global headlines and sent shock waves across Japan, shaking public confidence in what is traditionally considered a society safe from violent crime. The Government of Japan is now reviewing laws regulating knives. The Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission announced that the 35-year old practice of closing Chūō-dōri on Sundays and holidays was to be suspended until safety measures were reviewed. Katō's parents gave an apology to the victims in a television interview.
Konami canceled three launch events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in Tokyo, with the "safety of participants in mind" as a result of the attack.
The massacre also sparked many conversations in Japanese blogs when it was discovered that two Ustream users had broadcast live video streams of the tragedy, attracting a viewership estimated at between 1000 and 3000 people. No known recording has been saved of the videos, although the event has been written about in many Japanese blogs and online IT magazines.
The current Super Sentai series at the time of the attack, "Engine Sentai Go-onger" (2008) featured transforming daggers as part of the heroes' standard personal sidearms, called Switch Funshaken Rocket Dagger(s) (in reference to their rocket-shaped themes). After the attack, which occurred the day immediately after the Rocket Daggers made their debut in the series, both Bandai [the company that makes the toy versions of the weapons] and Toei [the company that produces the TV series] changed their names to "Switch Funshaken Rocket Booster(s)" and re-designated them as "swords" rather than "daggers" out of respect for the victims of the attack, and to lessen any trauma toward the 6-8yrs audience that the tokusatsu franchise regularly targets.
Toei animation's One Piece was edited in TV broadcast the following week, as one of the main characters was stabbed in the back with a knife.
On 17 June 2008, convicted child serial murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki was executed by hanging, which was suspected to be a reaction to Katō's massacre.
The media labeled the attacks as a growing epidemic of "kireru" (キレる?), acts of rage committed by Tokyo's alienated youth; others labeled the otaku culture as the answer for its negative stereotype of compulsive, antisocial behavior.


On March 24, 2011, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Kato to death after finding him fully responsible for the attack.

Related or similar events

The stabbings occurred exactly seven years after the Osaka school massacre, where eight elementary school students were killed. In 2008, there has also been another random knife killing by Masahiro Kanagawa, though on a smaller scale. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who visited the site a week after the massacre to offer prayer to the victims, said that he "is worried that similar cases occur about 10 times a year in Japan." According to the National Police Agency, 67 similar random attacks have taken place between 1998 and 2007. It was reported that Katō's massacre was "the worst case of its kind" since World War II "in terms of the number of deaths."
A few days after the attack, police arrested several people who stated their intention to make copycat killings elsewhere in Japan, including one case who made his intentions known to popular message board 2channel. On June 22 three women were injured by a female attacker at Ōsaka Station.; a 38-year-old woman later confessed to attacking two of the victims with a razor. A 19-year-old man who made an Internet threat to go on a June 15 stabbing spree at Tokyo Disney Resort was arrested by police. Between June 8 and June 23, 12 people were arrested, and five people warned, for making threatening messages. The 17 people involved in the threats ranged from 13 to 30 years old. On 26 June 2008, police overpowered and arrested a man who was found to have a knife in possession in Akihabara.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Murder of James Byrd, Jr.

James Byrd, Jr.
Born May 2, 1949
Beaumont, Texas, United States
Died June 7, 1998 (aged 49)
Jasper, Texas, United States
James Byrd, Jr. (May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998) was an African-American who was murdered by three white men in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King dragged Byrd behind a pick-up truck along a asphalt pavement after they wrapped a heavy logging chain around his ankles. Byrd was pulled along for about two miles as the truck swerved from side to side.
Byrd, who remained conscious throughout most of the ordeal, was killed when his body hit the edge of a culvert severing his right arm and head. The murderers drove on for another mile before dumping his torso in front of an African-American cemetery in Jasper. Byrd's lynching-by-dragging gave impetus to passage of a Texas hate crimes law. It later led to the Federal October 22, 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly known as the "Matthew Shepard Act". President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.

The victim

James Byrd, Jr. was born in Beaumont, Texas, one of nine children, to Stella (1925 – October 7, 2010) and James Byrd, Sr. (born 1924).

The murder

On June 7, 1998, Byrd, age 49, accepted a ride from Shawn Berry (age 24), Lawrence Brewer (age 31), and John King (age 23). Berry, who was driving, was acquainted with Byrd from around town. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three men took Byrd to a remote county road out of town, beat him with anything they could find, urinated on his unconscious body, chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck dragging him for three miles. Brewer later claimed that Byrd's throat had been slashed by Berry before he was dragged. However, forensic evidence suggests that Byrd had been attempting to keep his head up while being dragged, and an autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive during much of the dragging. Byrd died after his right arm and head were severed after his body hit a culvert. His body had caught the culvert on the side of the road, resulting in Byrd's decapitation.
Berry, Brewer, and King dumped their victim's mutilated remains in front of an African-American cemetery on Huff Creek Road; the three men then went to a barbecue. Along the area where Byrd was dragged, authorities found a wrench with "Berry" written on it. They also found a lighter that was inscribed with "Possum", which was King's prison nickname. The following morning, Byrd's limbs were found scattered across a seldom-used road. The police found 75 places that were littered with Byrd's remains. State law enforcement officials, along with Jasper's District Attorney, determined that since Brewer and King were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime. They decided to call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation less than 24 hours after the discovery of Byrd's remains.
King had several tattoos considered to be racist: a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, the words "Aryan Pride," and the patch for a gang of white supremacist inmates known as the Confederate Knights of America. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer that was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized in committing the murder he might have to die. "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!", King wrote. An officer investigating the case also testified that witnesses said King had referenced The Turner Diaries after beating Byrd.
Berry, Brewer, and King were tried and convicted for Byrd's murder. Brewer and King received the death penalty, while Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

The perpetrators

The perpetrators who are under a death sentence are held at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit
Shawn Allen Berry
The driver of the truck, Berry was the most difficult to convict of the three defendants because there was a lack of evidence to suggest that he himself was a racist. Berry had also claimed that Brewer and King were entirely responsible for the crime. Brewer, however, testified that it was Berry who cut Byrd's throat before he was tied to the truck. The jury decided that there was little evidence to support this claim. As a result, Berry was spared the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison. Berry, Texas Department of Criminal Justice#00894758, is in the Ramsey Unit in Brazoria County, Texas, and his parole eligibility date is June 7, 2038. As of 2003 Berry is in protective custody; he spends 23 hours per day in a 8-foot (2.4 m) by 6-foot (1.8 m) cell, with one hour for exercise. Berry married a woman named Christie Marcontell by proxy.
Lawrence Russell Brewer
Brewer was a white supremacist who, prior to Byrd's murder, had served a prison sentence for drug possession and burglary. He was paroled in 1991. After violating his parole conditions in 1994, Brewer was returned to prison. According to his court testimony, he joined a white supremacist gang with King in prison in order to safeguard himself from other inmates. Brewer and King became friends in the Beto Unit prison. A psychiatrist testified that Brewer did not appear repentant for his crimes. Brewer was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death. Brewer, TDCJ#999327, is in the death row at the Polunsky Unit. Brewer has a scheduled execution date of 09/21/2011.
John William King
King was accused of beating Byrd with a bat and then dragging him behind a truck until he died. King had previously claimed that he had been gang-raped in prison by black inmates. Although he had no previous record of racism, King had joined a white supremacist prison gang, allegedly for self-protection. He was found guilty and sentenced to death for his role in Byrd's kidnapping and murder. King, TDCJ#999295, is in the death row at the Polunsky Unit.

Reactions to the murder

Numerous aspects of the Byrd murder echo lynching traditions. These include mutilation or decapitation and revelry, such as a barbecue or a picnic, during or after.
Byrd's murder was strongly condemned by Jesse Jackson and the Martin Luther King Center as an act of vicious racism and focused national attention on the prevalence of white supremacist prison gangs.
The victim's family created the James Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing after his death. In 1999 Chantal Akerman, inspired by the literary works of William Faulkner, set out to make a film about the beauty of the American South. However, after arriving on location (in Jasper, Texas) and learning of the brutal racist murder, she changed her focus. Akerman made Sud (French for "South") a meditation on the events surrounding the crime and the history of racial violence in the United States. In 2003, a movie about the crime, titled Jasper, Texas, was produced and aired on Showtime. The same year, a documentary named Two Towns of Jasper, made by filmmakers Marco Williams and Whitney Dow, premiered on PBS's P.O.V. series.
Basketball star Dennis Rodman offered to pay for Byrd's funeral. Although Byrd's family declined this offer, they accepted a $25,000 donation by Rodman to a fund started to support Byrd's family.
While at radio station WARW in Washington, D.C., DJ Doug Tracht (also known as "The Greaseman") made a derogatory comment about James Byrd after playing Lauryn Hill's song "Doo Wop (That Thing)". The February 1999 incident proved catastrophic to Tracht's radio career, igniting protests from black and white listeners alike. He was quickly fired from WARW and lost his position as a volunteer deputy sheriff in Falls Church, Virginia.


Some advocacy groups, such as the NAACP National Voter Fund, made an issue of this case during George W. Bush's presidential campaign in 2000. They accused Bush of implicit racism since, as governor of Texas, he opposed hate crime legislation. Also, citing a prior commitment, Bush could not appear at Byrd's funeral. Because two of the three murderers were sentenced to death and the third to life in prison (all charged with and convicted of capital murder, the highest felony level in Texas), Governor Bush maintained that "we don't need tougher laws". The 77th Texas Legislature passed the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act. With the signature of Governor Rick Perry, who had inherited the balance of Bush's unexpired term, the act became Texas state law in 2001. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.


Ross Byrd, the only son of James Byrd, has been involved with Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, an organization that opposes capital punishment. He has campaigned to spare the lives of those who murdered his father and appears briefly in the documentary Deadline about the death penalty in Illinois.

Musical Tributes

In 2010, Alabama musician Matthew Mayfield penned, recorded, and released a song in Byrd's honor. The tune, titled "Still Alive," is the fourth track on Mayfield's EP "You're Not Home." "Still Alive" clearly related a stark bitterness towards racism and equated such hate crimes to genocide.
"The Ballad of James Byrd" is another tribute to Byrd, written and performed by Southern Californian musician Ross Durand.
"The New Hell" by death metal band The Famine mentions Byrd on their album The Architects of Guilt (2011).
"Jasper" by Confrontation Camp, the fifth track on the album "Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" (2000).

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy assassination

Robert F. Kennedy
Location Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California, USA
Date June 5, 1968
12:15 a.m. (Pacific Time Zone)
Target Robert F. Kennedy
Weapon(s) .22 caliber Iver-Johnson
Death(s) 1
Injured 5
Perpetrator Sirhan Sirhan
The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. After winning the California primary election for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Kennedy was shot as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel and died in the Good Samaritan Hospital twenty-six hours later. Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant, was convicted of Kennedy's murder and is serving a life sentence for the crime. The shooting was recorded on audio tape by a freelance newspaper reporter, and the aftermath was captured on film.
Kennedy's body lay in repose at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York for two days before a funeral mass was held on June 8. His body was interred near his brother John at Arlington National Cemetery. His death prompted the protection of presidential candidates by the United States Secret Service. Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency, but ultimately narrowly lost the election to Richard Nixon.
As with his brother's death, Robert Kennedy's assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned a variety of conspiracy theories. As of 2011 Kennedy remains one of only two sitting United States Senators to be assassinated.


Robert Kennedy campaigns in Los Angeles
Kennedy was United States Attorney General from January 1961 until September 3, 1964, when he resigned to run for election to the United States Senate. He took office as Senator from New York on January 3, 1965. The approach of the 1968 presidential election saw the incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson, serving during a period of social unrest. There were riots in the major cities despite Johnson's attempts to introduce anti-poverty and anti-discrimination legislation, and there was significant opposition to the ongoing military action in Vietnam. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968 led to further riots in 100 cities. Kennedy entered the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for president on March 16, 1968—four days after Senator Eugene McCarthy received a large percentage of the vote in the New Hampshire primary against the incumbent President (42% to Johnson's 49%). Two weeks later, a demoralized Johnson announced he was no longer seeking re-election. One month later, Vice President Hubert Humphrey announced he would seek the presidency. Humphrey did not participate in any primaries but he did obtain the support of many Democratic Party delegates. Following the California primary, Kennedy was in second place with 393 delegates compared to Humphrey's 561.


Boris Yaro's photograph of Robert F. Kennedy lying wounded on the floor immediately after the shooting. Kneeling beside him is 17-year-old Juan Romero, who shook Kennedy's hand when the shots fell.
Four hours after the polls closed in California, Kennedy claimed victory in the state's Democratic presidential primary. At approximately 12:10 a.m. PDT, he addressed his campaign supporters in the Ambassador Hotel's Embassy Room ballroom, in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles. At the time, the government provided Secret Service protection for incumbent presidents but not for presidential candidates. Kennedy's only security was provided by former FBI agent William Barry and two unofficial bodyguards, former professional athletes. During the campaign, Kennedy had welcomed contact with the public, and people had often tried to touch him in their excitement.
Kennedy had planned to walk through the ballroom and then, when he had finished speaking, on his way to another gathering of supporters elsewhere in the hotel. However, with deadlines fast approaching, reporters wanted a press conference. Campaign aide Fred Dutton decided that Kennedy would forgo the second gathering and instead go through the kitchen and pantry area behind the ballroom to the press area. Kennedy finished speaking and started to exit when William Barry stopped him and said, "No, it's been changed. We're going this way." Barry and Dutton began clearing a way for Kennedy to go left through swinging doors to the kitchen corridor, but Kennedy, hemmed in by the crowd, followed hotel maître d' Karl Uecker through a back exit.
Uecker led Kennedy through the kitchen area, holding Kennedy's right wrist but frequently releasing it as Kennedy shook hands with those he encountered. Uecker and Kennedy started down a passageway narrowed by an ice machine against the right wall and a steam table to the left. Kennedy turned to his left and shook hands with busboy Juan Romero as Sirhan Bishara Sirhan stepped down from a low tray-stacker beside the ice machine, rushed past Uecker, and repeatedly fired what was later identified as a .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver.
After Kennedy had fallen to the floor, security man Bill Barry hit Sirhan twice in the face while others, including maître d's Uecker and Edward Minasian, writer George Plimpton, Olympic gold medal decathlete Rafer Johnson and professional football player Rosey Grier, forced Sirhan against the steam table and disarmed him. Sirhan wrestled free and grabbed the revolver again, but he had already fired all the bullets. Barry went to Kennedy and laid his jacket under the candidate's head, later recalling: "I knew immediately it was a .22, a small caliber, so I hoped it wouldn't be so bad, but then I saw the hole in the Senator's head, and I knew". Reporters and photographers rushed into the area from both directions, contributing to the chaos. As Kennedy lay wounded, Juan Romero cradled the senator's head and placed a rosary in his hand. Kennedy asked Romero, "Is everybody safe, OK?" and Romero responded, "Yes, yes, everything is going to be OK". Captured by Life photographer Bill Eppridge and Boris Yaro of the Los Angeles Times, this moment became the iconic image of the assassination.
Ethel Kennedy stood outside the crush of people at the scene, seeking help. She was soon led to her husband and knelt beside him. He turned his head and seemed to recognize her. After several minutes, medical attendants arrived and lifted Kennedy onto a stretcher, prompting him to whisper, "Don't lift me". He lost consciousness shortly thereafter. Kennedy was taken a mile away to Central Receiving Hospital, where he arrived near death. One doctor slapped his face, calling, "Bob, Bob", while another massaged Kennedy's heart. After obtaining a good heartbeat, doctors handed a stethoscope to Ethel Kennedy so she could hear her husband's heart beating, much to her relief. After about 30 minutes, Kennedy was transferred several blocks to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for surgery. Surgery began at 3:12 a.m. PDT and lasted three hours and 40 minutes. Ten and a half hours later, at 5:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, spokesman Frank Mankiewicz announced that Kennedy's doctors were "concerned over his continuing failure to show improvement"; his condition remained "extremely critical as to life".
Kennedy had been shot three times. One bullet, fired at a range of about 1 inch (2.54 cm), entered behind his right ear, dispersing fragments throughout his brain. Two others entered at the rear of his right armpit; one exited from his chest and the other lodged in the back of his neck. Despite extensive neurosurgery at the Good Samaritan Hospital to remove the bullet and bone fragments from his brain, Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting. Five other people were also wounded: William Weisel of ABC News, Paul Schrade of the United Auto Workers union, Democratic Party activist Elizabeth Evans, Ira Goldstein of the Continental News Service and Kennedy campaign volunteer Irwin Stroll. Although not physically wounded, singer Rosemary Clooney, a strong Kennedy supporter, was present in the ballroom during the shooting in the pantry and suffered a nervous breakdown shortly afterward.

Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan was strongly anti-Zionist. A diary found during a search of Sirhan's home stated, "My determination to eliminate RFK is becoming more and more of an unshakable obsession. RFK must die. RFK must be killed. Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated...Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68." It has been suggested that the date of the assassination is significant, because it was the first anniversary of the first day of the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. When Sirhan was booked by police, they found in his pocket a newspaper article that discussed Kennedy's support for Israel, and at his trial, Sirhan testified that he began to hate Kennedy after learning of this support.] This interpretation of his motives has, however, been criticized as an oversimplification that ignores Sirhan's deeper psychological problems.
During his trial, Sirhan's lawyers attempted to use a defense of diminished responsibility, while their client tried to confess to the crime and change his plea to guilty on several occasions. Sirhan testified that he had killed Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought", although he has maintained since being convicted that he has no memory of the crime. The judge did not accept this confession and it was later withdrawn.
Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969, and six days later was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972 after the California Supreme Court, in its decision in California v. Anderson, invalidated all pending death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. In 2011, he was denied parole for the fourteenth time and is currently confined at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California.

Media coverage

As the shooting took place, ABC News was signing off from its electoral broadcast, while the CBS broadcast was already over. It was not until 21 minutes after the shots that CBS's coverage of the shooting would begin. The reporters who had been present to report on Kennedy's win in the primary ended up crowding into the kitchen where he had been shot and the immediate aftermath was captured only by audio recording and cameras that had no live transmission capability. ABC was able to show scant live footage from the kitchen after Kennedy had been transported but unlike CBS and NBC, all of ABC's coverage from the Ambassador was in black and white. CBS and NBC shot footage in the kitchen of the shooting's aftermath on color film, which could not be broadcast until it was developed two hours after the incident.
Reporter Andrew West of KRKD, a Mutual Broadcasting System radio affiliate in Los Angeles, captured on audio tape the sounds of the immediate aftermath of the shooting but not the actual shooting itself. Using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and attached microphone, West also provided an on-the-spot account of the struggle with Sirhan in the hotel kitchen pantry, shouting at Rafer Johnson to "Get the gun, Rafer, get the gun!" and telling others to "get a hold of [Sirhan's] thumb and break it, if you have to! Get his thumb! We don't want another Oswald!"
Over the following week, NBC devoted 55 hours to the shooting and aftermath, ABC 43, and CBS 42, with all three networks preempting their regular coverage and advertisements to cover the story.

Conspiracy theories

As with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's brother, in 1963, the senator's death has been the subject of widespread analysis. Some individuals involved in the original investigation and some researchers have suggested alternative scenarios for the crime, or have argued that there are serious problems with the official case.

CIA involvement theory

In November 2006, the BBC's Newsnight program presented research by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan alleging that several CIA officers were present on the night of the assassination. Three men who appear in films and photographs from the night of the assassination were positively identified by former colleagues and associates as former senior CIA officers who had worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's main anti-Castro station based in Miami. They were JMWAVE Chief of Operations David Morales, Chief of Maritime Operations Gordon Campbell and Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations George Joannides.
The program featured an interview with Morales's former attorney Robert Walton, who quoted him as having said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard". O'Sullivan reported that the CIA declined to comment on the officers in question. It was also alleged that Morales was known for his deep anger toward the Kennedys for what he saw as their betrayal during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
After further investigation, O'Sullivan produced the feature documentary, RFK Must Die. The film casts doubt on the earlier identifications and ultimately reveals that the man previously identified as Gordon Campbell may, in fact, have been Michael D. Roman, a now-deceased Bulova Watch Company employee, who was at the Ambassador Hotel for a company convention.

Second gunman theory

The location of Kennedy's wounds suggested that his assailant had stood behind him, but some witnesses said that Sirhan faced west as Kennedy moved through the pantry facing east. This has led to the suggestion that a second gunman actually fired the fatal shot, a possibility supported by coroner Thomas Noguchi who stated that the fatal shot was behind Kennedy's right ear and had been fired at a distance of approximately one inch. Other witnesses, though, said that as Sirhan approached, Kennedy was turning to his left shaking hands, facing north and so exposing his right side. As recently as 2008, eyewitness John Pilger asserted his belief that there must have been a second gunman. During a re-examination of the case in 1975, the Los Angeles Superior Court ordered expert examination of the possibility of a second gun having been used, and the conclusion of the experts was that there was little or no evidence to support this theory.
In 2007, analysis of an audio tape recording of the shooting made by freelance reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski appeared to indicate, according to forensic expert Philip Van Praag, that thirteen shots were fired, even though Sirhan's gun held only eight rounds. Van Praag states that the recording also reveals at least two cases where the timing between shots was shorter than humanly possible. The presence of more than eight shots on the tape was corroborated by forensic audio specialists Wes Dooley and Paul Pegas of Audio Engineering Associates in Pasadena, California, forensic audio and ballistics expert Eddy B. Brixen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and audio specialist Phil Spencer Whitehead of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Some other acoustic experts, however, have stated that no more than eight shots were recorded on the audio tape.


Robert Kennedy's Grave in Arlington National Cemetery
Following the autopsy on June 6, Kennedy's body was returned to New York City, where he lay in repose at St. Patrick's Cathedral, viewed by thousands, until a funeral mass on the morning of June 8.
Kennedy's younger brother, U.S. Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, eulogized him with the words:
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'
Immediately following the mass, Kennedy's body was transported by a slow-moving train to Washington, D.C. and thousands of mourners lined the tracks and stations, paying their respects as the train passed by. Kennedy was buried near his older brother John, in Arlington National Cemetery, in the first burial ever to take place there at night; the second being the burial of his younger brother Ted.
After the assassination, Congress altered the Secret Service's mandate to include protection for presidential candidates. The remaining candidates were immediately protected under an executive order issued by Lyndon Johnson, putting a strain on the poorly resourced Secret Service.

1968 election

At the time of his death, Kennedy was substantially behind Humphrey in convention delegate support, but many believe that Kennedy would have ultimately secured the nomination following his victory in the California primary. Only thirteen states held primaries that year, meaning that most delegates at the Democratic convention could choose a candidate based on their personal preference. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and others have argued that Kennedy's broad appeal and charisma would have been sufficiently convincing at the 1968 Democratic National Convention to give him the nomination. Historian Michael Beschloss believed, however, that Kennedy would not have secured the nomination. Humphrey, after a National Convention in Chicago marred by violence in the streets, was far behind in opinion polls but gained ground. He ultimately lost the general election to Republican Richard Nixon by a narrow margin.