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January 09, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-01-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Seventy-nine years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by s+udents of the University of Michigan

Rebuilding discrimination in Mississippi

laynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Doily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

AY, JANUARY 9, 1970

NIGHT EDITOR: ALEXA CANADY

What price dissent?
$240 and 7 days

P IS CEASELESSLY observed that so-
ciety's concept of an imperturable
id unchanging system of Justice is
ally a delusion. Unfortunately the re-
nt sentencing of an individual convict-
for sitting in at the LSA Bldg. last
[1 serves to illustrate how blind justice
America sometimes is.
The student, Roy Mash, received a
nalty amounting to $240 (a $40 fine
us $200 in court costs) and must spend
e week in jail. If he declines to pay
e fine, he must serve an additional 45
vs.
In other words, for committing a con-
entious act of civil disobedience, t h e
ident is faced with penalties stiffer
an those often imposed on felons.
And this is not the first irregularity in
e sit-in cases. Although the majority
those tried so far have received con-
:tions, several students brought to trial
r the same contentiofi have been found
t guilty by local juries. They will pay
. fines and serve no jail terms. Thus
rks the District Court.
HIS IS NOT to say that laws against
civil disruption should be abrogated
that the practice of trial by jury
ould be abolished. Indeed, it is tradi-

Credibility
revisited

tionally accepted that if an individual
sees no other way than civil disobedience
to redress or dramatize a grievance, he
must be willing to accept the penalty for
it.
Although certain ideologues of the New
Left refute this--arguing that one is not
guilty if he breaks an illegitimate law-
most students who sat in at the LSA
Bldg. to protest the University's failure
to establish a bookstore have submitted
without resistance to arrest and court
proceedings. They defend their actions,,
but they expect convictions.
However, it is difficult to understand
the justification of such a harsh sent-
ence. Although conviction carries a max-
imum penalty of $100 fine, plus court
costs and 90 days in jail, the sentence
imposed in this case is, as several lawyers
have observed, quite severe.
IT IS APPARENT that the court hopes
to discourage further civil disobed-
ience on the part of University students
by enforcing stiff penalties. This is pro-
bably prompted by a desire to stifle future
extralegal activity and is a reaction to
the fact that more benevolent w o r k
penalties imposed on those convicted in
last year's ADC sit-in did not prevent
this years action.
But in the case of the LSA sit-in,
merciful juries, together with last year's
more sensible sentences, merely under-
line the capricious operation of the court.
WHAT IS NEEDED, is a more studied
and realistic code for dealing w i t h
civil disobedience cases - a code under
which the political protester would not
be treated like the felon.
The urgency of finding new proced-
ures for dealing with civil disobedience
is increasing as is the incidence of such.
cases. Clearly, more people are turning
toward civil disobedience as the best
means to effect social change and it is
hard to refute the efficacy of the tactic.
In its last report, even the National Com-
mission on the Causes and Prevention of
Violence was almost evenly split on whe-
ther or not to endorse civil disobedience
as the most successful means of spurring
change.
If the courts are to squash essentially
nonviolent action in the name of justice,
they will merely be confirming the worst
suspicions of protesters about the closed
state of American political channels.
THE INCREASING incidence of civil
disobedience, therefore, should not
cause the court to throw the book at
each and every offender, but should
cause lawyers and legislators to re-exam-
ine the book they are using.
In sentencing, the court should con-
sider the morality of an individual and his
act as well as the letter of the law.
Travesties like the latest sentencing
should not continue.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following
article is an extended version of an
article which will appear in the
Jan. 10 edition of the New Re-
public.)
By DANIEL ZWERDLING
WHEN GULF COAST Mississip-
pians talk now about the great
disaster, they mean not only Hur-
ricane Camille which ripped apart
600 square miles of their state last
Aug. 17, but also the national re-'
lief effort that has followed.
For despite most heroic accounts
of government programs to rescue
Mississippi from one of America's
worst natural disasters, there is
growing evidence that federal and
state relief programs have em-
phasized physical reconstruction
while ignoring human misery, and
have discriminated against the
poor and the blacks.
Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Me)
and Birch Bayh (D-Ind) and the
special Senate Subcommittee on
Disaster Relief, have tromped to
Biloxi this week just to investigate
such charges. Spurred largely by
a recent report by the American
Friends Service and Southern Re-
gional Council, the investigation-
which will move to Washington in
February-may uncover a disaster
porkbarrel crammed with govern-
ment incompetence and political
maneuvering.
THE HURRICANE relief efforts
read like a bumbling play with
various federal and state agencies
playing disjointed roles.
The script began when Missis-
sippi Gov. John Bell Williams
formed an elite Governor's Emer-
gency Council on Sept. 6, and or-
dered it to write a comprehensive
plan for the long-range economic
development of the disaster area.
Initial operating expenses for the
Council come from a $495,000
grant made by the Commerce De-
partment's Economic Development
Administration.
In a state which is 43 per cent
black, and largely impoverished,
Williams managed to appoint to
the council white, rich bankers,
realtors, attorneys and corporation
executives. (This was not unusual,
however. Out of 104 governor's
councils in Mississippi, one mem-
ber is black.) Despite an outcry
from civil rights and anti-poverty
groups, the council seemed good
enough to President Richard Nixon
-who 10 days later issued an
executive order commanding "all,

ed first for rehabilitation aid to
the Red Cross, whose 29 emer-
gency field offices gave outright
grants-not loans-for food, cloth-
ing and housing. However, "the
Red Cross told people to exhaust
all other possibilities for aid be-
fore coming to them," reports Gil-
bert Mason, Biloxi NAACP chair-
man.
So that meant going to HUD, to
find a trailer to live in. If you
were a single person without a
family, HUD told you to forget it
-no trailers provided, except to
families.
But families who didn't own a
big enough lot, or families who
couldn't clear the debris from their
lots, didn't qualify under HUD
regulations. Neither did poor fam-
ilies who owned decrepit inland
shacks which the storm damaged
but left standing. Most trailers
didn't evenarrive until October
and November; and only 16 had
trickled into hard-hit inland coun-
ties by late October. The first
families who managed to get them
had to sign blank leases without
knowing how long they could live
in the trailers or how much rent
they would have to pay. HUD
simply hadn't formulated its
terms.
Before HUD even publicized the
trailer policy, it suddenly an-
nounced it would not consider
more applications-because, as one
official told the Friends, HUD was
"unsympathetic" to anyone who
had failed to apply. When local
groups pointed out that in such
confused circumstances hardly
anyone knew about the trailer
rentals, HUD finally extended the
application deadline 30 days.
Finally, at the end of October,
HUD announced it would pay the
$50 per month rent and utilities
for only three months, although
law permits the government to pay
up to one year. After that, families
would pay on their own. (HUD did
add a poverty provision guarantee-
ing that no one would have to pay
more than 25 per cent of his in-
come on the trailers. That sounds
generous, but actually doesn't af-
fect anyone unless his income falls
below $2400 a year.
ONCE STORM victims moved
into their shiny but cramped (uar-
ters, they could approach the fi-
nance agencies like SBA, to see
about rebuilding their homes and
businesses.

ling of national charities, is a
quasi-government agency charter-
ed by Congress as America's of-
ficial human relief organization.
It exercises autonomy over its
funds and operations.
Undoubtedly an invaluable pub-
lie servant, the Red Cross unfor-
tunately sees its mission as helping
families to "resume normal family
life in the home and in the com-
munity"--which means restoring
them to their pre-disaster level of
living.
Translated into dollars, this
means that the poor get just
enough to restore their shacks,
while the middle class receive un-
limited grants to rebuild their com-
fortable carpeted homes. The
Friends Service cites a case in
which a $39.00a income family
received a full bedroom outfit,
while' another family which made
$3 000 per year got a mattress.
An official Red Cross food guide,
furthermore, advises caseworkers
to follow either a "low-cost" or

EW VACATION TV special cheered
>ur souls this winter. Right along-
"Arnahml and the Night Visitors" and
Wizard of Oz," there was good 01'
himself, reminiscing to W a 1 t e r
kite about how he never really want-
be President at all.
the former President filled t h e
n, it seemed almost like 1967 again,
7, when "credibility gap" was t h e
of the day,randall the voices from
Lington seemed dripping with evil.
wondered if anyone at the networks
bothered to check with the film clips
e 1964 State of the Union Address to
. Johnson really fumbled in his vest
et for his withdrawal statement, as
aims.
aetheless, one could almost feel nos-
for the time gone by. Is it true we
had a President who was a human
and not a plastic windup poli-
i doll?
-JENNY STILLER
Editorial Staff
HENRY GRIX, Editor
TEVE NISSEN RON LANDSMAN
City Editor Managing Editor
ANZALONE...........Editorial Page Editor
STEELE............... Editorial Page Editor
STILLER......... .. Editorial Page Editor
A ABRAMSON ....Associate Managing Editor
LIPPINCOTT ......Associate Managing Editor
WAYNE...........Arts Editor
GRAY ..... ..... ......Literary Editor
BLOCK ..............contributing Editor
BOGEMA ............Contributing Editor
RADTKE...............Contributing Editor
NCE ROBBINS ...............Photo Editor
IR SHAPIRO.. Daily Waahington Correspondent

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". ..The Red Cross unfortunately sees its mission as helping families to
'resume normal family life in the home and in the community'-which
means restoring them to their pre-disaster level of living. Translated in-
to dollars, this means that the po fr get just enough to restore their
shacks, while the middle class receive unlimited grants to rebuild their
carpeted home s."

-HENRY GRIX
Editor

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agencies and departments of the
government of the United States
S to coordinate their activities
and efforts" through Williams'
council.
The council, as a result, has be-
come the main clearinghouse for
what will surpass $100 million in
federal aid, and the virtual di-
rector of Misissippi's economic
future.
ON THE FEDERAL level, the
government in Washington hands
all responsibility for disaster relief
to the Office of Emergency Pre-
paredness in the Executive Offices.
According to statute, the OEP con-
centrates after natural disaster
on rebuilding public facilities,
clearing debris, and funneling aid
to state and local governments.
The OEP spends the rest of its
time preparing the nation to sur-
vive an armed military attack.
Who handles the human aspects
of a disaster? The federal govern-
ment parcels out that responsibili-
ty to various departments and
their innumerable agencies, such
as Housing and Urban Develop-
ment, the Red Cross, the Small
Business Association, the Federal
Housing Administration and the
Office of Economic Opportunity.
Clustered in turn around each
of these organizations, each a mas-
sive bureaucracy in itself, are
countless local church, civil rights,
charity and anti-poverty groups
who want to help. The result is a
plethora of independent, special-
ized human relief groups with no
centralized responsibility or con-
trol.
THIS IS WHAT faced over 4,000
destitute families as they began
re-emerging in September from
storm refugee camps, ready to be-
gin reconstructing their lives. Over
80 miles of the Gulf Coast, once
crammed with hotels, business
firms and homes, lay utterly flat-
tened by the worst hurricane in
America's history.
Two towns, Pass Christian and
Long Beach, had been virtually
blown from the face of the earth
by 200 mile per hour winds; even
their wreckage had washed away.
The toll: 135 dead, 12,000 homes
destroyed and badly damaged, and
600 businesses obliterated.
One third of Mississippi's econ-
omy had disappeared in a single
storm.
Where does a family begin when
theu'irworl l hn:-, ihv~oo l blown

In the coastal areas, the hur-
ricane left SBA offices as wiped
out and confusedas everyone else.
One OEp official working in the
field recalls "finding a man wan-
dering the streets mumbling some-
thing about the SBA. I asked him
if he needed help finding their of-
fice, and he said, 'Yes, I'm the
local SBA representative.'"
BUT EVEN storm victims who
found the SBA couldn't get help
unlessthey alreadyshad substan-
tial assets - because they could
provide no loan collateral. The
poor never had the collateral to
begin with, and middle and mar-
ginal income families who had
once had collateral, had lost it to
Hurricane Camille.
As a result, most loan agen-

"moderate-cost" budget in doling
out money to needy families. The
low-cost food plan, reads the
guide, "places a heavier reliance
on less expensive food groups, such
as potatoes, legumes (dried beans
and peas), flour, and cereals. The
moderate-cost food plan permits
the use of higher-priced cuts of
meat, eggs, citrus fruits, and some
frozen and convenience foods."
Red Cross officials claim this
food budget was issued only as a
guide, and insist that everybody
in the disaster got equal food al-
lowances.
Citizens testifying at Biloxi's
Senate hearings will disagree.
As for housing grants: Disaster
Relief Director Robert Pierpont
acknowledges the disparity be-
tween funds granted to the poor

flies in desperate need of money
to settle for a quick cash settle-
ment, worth only a fraction of
their total damage claims.
THE MISSISSIPPI STATE Bar
Association, apparently recogniz-
ing the need for general legal aid,
urgently called the Office of Eco-
nomic Opportunity on Aug. 22 to
request for a legal services pro-
gram. Within 12 h o u r s - the
quickest grant approval in its his-
tory - OEO was sending $50,000
to the Association, despite its no-
toriously conservative, r a c i s t
stance. (OEO officials n o w de-
scribe the grant simply as a sac-
rifice, in order to squeeze a tiny
foot in the door of Mississippi's
legal programs.)
Since then, none of OEO's mon-
ey has gone toward helping the
poor. Instead, Bar President Boyce
Holleman - the coast district at-
torney who won fame prosecuting
civil rights workers in 1963-65 -
has funneled the grant only to-
ward middle and lower-middle
class whites.
The whole 'effect is to bypass
any involvement by community
action and anti-poverty groups,
who under OEO legal services reg-
ulations should really control the
entire program.
Holleman, infact, has told law-
yers volunteering f r o m various
civil rights organizations to get
lost. H 1 s legal aid "volunteers"
consist mostly of fellow attorneys
who lost their offices in the storm,
and who have earned $10 per hour
from OEO funds for their ser-
vices. A local newspaper recently
noted that even former Gov. Ross
Barnett (who in 1963 blocked fed-
eral marshalls trying to enroll
James Meredith in the University
of Mississippi) has helped out.
NOW, ALMOST five months af-
ter Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf
Coast, most of the wreckage has
been cleared a w a y and a few
small businesses are struggling
back out of the soil. Some roads
are almost repaired, and the water
and sewage lines, ripped apart like
spaghetti, are being relaid. A few
families have e v e n returned to
their damaged b u t repairable
homes.
BUT MOST OF the 4900 fam-
ilies still homeless are doomed to
live the rest of the year in emer-
gency HUD trailers scattered over
the coast.
Many of them - the poor, and
the new poor who lost their hold-
ings in the storm - don't know
how they .will begin paying rent
and utilities when their leases ex-
pire this month, how they will
purchase food (the state welfare
department has refused to lower
food stamp prices), or where they
will find work.
The Department of Labor re-
cently released $800.000 in Emer-
g e n c y Disaster Unemployment
Compensation to Mississippi work-
ers, but they will need more mon-
ey than that.
Prospects in the n e a r future
don't look good. Industry hasn't
started moving back, but when it
does, businesses like the canning
companies will probably mechan-
ize.
The Army Corps of Engineers
didn't help during the debris
cleanup when it let $21 million
in contracts to out-of-state firms,
rather than local firis who des-
perately needed business. Local
firms simply didn't produce the
best bids, according to corps per-
sonnel, who add "We can't give
t h e m preferential treatment."
Perhaps in future disasters the
Army might make allowances.
THE OEO has tried to initiate
social rehabilitation, but curious-
ly, the government has tied its
hands. Within three weeks after
the hurricane, OEO visited all the
concerned federal agencies, ped-
dling lengthy recommendations on
flflmnnt an ., t+inn n,nurn~.o t c ur

Care" fund appeal on television.
But most of that money, donated
by citizens wanting to ease human
misery, has been invested by local
governments in municipal bonds
where it quietly earns interest.
Mississippi's o w n Governor's
Council, meanwhile, busies itself
with grandiose economic plans for
the future. Councilmen, industry
and state political leaders have
their eyes on consolidating t h e
coastal communities into a model
metropolitan region - whose
shining glory will be a $100 mil-
lion complex dripping with golf
courses, boat marinas and high-
priced apartments styled in a Ha-
waiian motif.
The worst-hit victims of t h e
hurricane don't want a Mississippi
Miami Beach, but so far the
Emergency Council has made few
efforts to listen to them. "Public
hearings will come later," says
Chairman Edward Brunini, an at-
torney
In t h e meantime, local black
leaders Gilbert Mason and Robert
Clark, the only Negro state legis-
lator, have filed a formal co-
plaint with t h e Commerce De-
partment, charging the all-white
council violates Title VI of the
1964 Civil Rights Act, which for-!
bids discriminatory use of federal
funds. Commerce investigators are
still studying the matter, but the
Governor may first yield to grow-
ing pressure to appoint three
blacks to the Council - an easy
way to quiet dissidents and avoid
embarassing legal hassles.
The source of this pressure is
President Nixon, who apparently
is using the hurricane disaster to
build a solid political base in Mis-
sissippi - and doesn't want to
spoil everything w i t h racial
troubles. From the moment Nixon
turnedthe mostly Dixiecrat Gov-
ernor's Council into a conduit for
$100 million in federal funds, he
has made valuable friends among
the states top Democrats. Many
have already flaunted their affec-
tions at a state Republican fund-
raising dinner last October f a r
Vice President Agnew - who pre-
ceded his pitch f o r Republican
support by a grand tour of the
disaster area.
"The indication Nixon wants to
do everything possible to help is
certainly making an impression,"
notes Fred La Rue, Nixon's spec-
ial consultant on political patron-
age and now his personal liaison
with the Council. That was the
message in recent full-page news-
paper ads picturing the President
and - Williams in a f o n d hand-
shake: "Mississippi thanks Pres-
ident Nixon."
IN THIS ATMOSPHERE, th e
special Senate subcommittee hear-
ings may provide some hard,
much needed scrutiny of thefed-
eral government's response to
Hurricane Camille - and all dis-
asters.
There is still time to salvage the
aftermath of Camille by assuring
that as Mississippi rebuilds her-
self, all the old patterns of pov-
erty a n d discrimination - de-
stroyed for one moment by na-
ture - are not rebuilt by the gov-
ernment.

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cies automatically discriminated
against most blacks-particuarly
the SBA, which granted over 95
per cent of its loan dollars to
whites.
To make m n hers r se. maO ny

and funds given better-to-do fam-
ilies. "We can't give a poor man
the money to go out and build a
mansion," declares Pierpont. "Is it
right to ride social reform on the
coattails of tvaopiv?"

Wr

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