Justice for Bernard C. Burden!

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People who knew Bernard say the implication that he committed suicide is ridiculous.

Southern trees bear a strange fruitBlood at the leavesBlood at the rootBlack body swinging in the southern breezeStrange fruit hanging from the poplar trees — by Billie Holiday

ATLANTA — On the morning of October 13, 2004, a tree in the yard of a white family in Grantville, GA, bore strange fruit. That fruit was the body of Bernard C. Burden, who was found hanging with a noose around his neck.

Bernard frequented this house as he socialized with a group of white people who hung out there. But on that dreadful morning, Chris Ward, who lived there, claims he found Bernard’s body hanging from a tree.

He called the police, and they cut the body down from the tree and awaited the coroner’s arrival. The coroner, Wimp Pierce, arrived and immediately ruled it a suicide.

Bernard’s mother, Tamathy Pless, was at her job when Police Chief Ramos finally told her the dreadful news. When she inquired about a criminal investigation, she was told that it was not necessary. Ramos told her that the coroner’s investigation was good enough for him.

Since when are coroners qualified and authorized to investigate a crime scene?

There were more than five people in that house that night and none of the other people in the house were thoroughly questioned.

When Ms. Pless spoke to the coroner and asked if she could come to identify the body, she was told that the others in the house had already identified him.

Ms. Pless later went to meet with Sheriff Yeager of Coweta County to request an investigation and was told that the Sheriff’s Department could not get involved in the city’s jurisdiction.

She asked the sheriff to inquire with the coroner about performing an autopsy and the coroner’s response was that there was no need. Ms. Pless then asked if a toxicology test could be done to check for any drugs in his system and the response was still “no.”

She later contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) who told her to contact the Coweta County District Attorney, Pete Skandalakis. Over four months later, Ms. Pless received a report of the findings from the GBI, which supported the ruling of suicide though its findings contradicted the statements made by Chris Ward.

They supposedly did a toxicology test on Bernard’s body that they say showed no sign of drugs. However, the statement given by Chris Ward was that they were smoking marijuana earlier that day. Along with that, Bernard was on two forms of medication that should have shown up in the GBI test.

Chris Ward also stated to Ms. Pless and her family that when he found Bernard, his feet were touching the ground with his knees bent. He claimed he thought Bernard was playing a joke, but the report from the GBI states that his feet were raised off the ground.

Chris Ward said himself that the noose that Bernard was hung with was kept above his bed, nailed to the wall. They want us to believe that Bernard came into Ward’s room while he was sleeping and pulled the nails from the wall to retrieve the noose from over his bed, without waking him.

Ward could not have been that hard of a sleeper because in his statement he claims that he woke up several times that night to answer the phone and the door.

There was another white male in that house named Robert Barnett who was there to sell drugs to the mother of Chris Ward, Donna Young. He and Bernard had an altercation approximately six months prior, which is on record, where Barnett threatened Bernard’s life.

In Barnett’s statement, he claims to have only known Bernard for about a week. However law enforcement still felt no need to prosecute despite this inconsistency.

There is contradiction after contradiction in this situation that wreaks of foul-play. They want us to believe that Bernard hung himself over a breakup with his white girlfriend, Hope Watson, who was also in the house that night. But everyone in that town that knows Bernard says, “No way!”

Bernard was a well-liked, popular, fun-loving, charismatic, and good-hearted 21-year-old African.

The only people that are painting this picture of a suicide are the people in that house and law enforcement. We know Bernard was lynched and we want justice!

The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) recognizes this as but another example of the State protecting the historically violent and parasitic relationship between the white community and the African community.

Lynching has been a longtime tactic of white power used to intimidate the African community into total submission.

The State has always played a role in this process by either protecting those white civilians involved or carrying out the lynchings itself. This furthers the objectives of the U.S. counterinsurgency, or war on the African community, by intimidating us into submission and preventing our people from standing for justice and control over our own lives.

The State wants to make it clear that even in 2004 they can lynch one of us and get away with it. They can kidnap us, steal from us, and murder us and say we do it to ourselves. Its just like how they criminalize our community when they block us from participating in the legal capitalist economy, then impose an illegal drug economy on our community and claim that we do it to ourselves. This is the way they murdered Bernard C. Burden and claimed that he did it to himself.

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The people versus the State

On March 12, 2005 the Uhuru Movement participated in a Rally in front of the Grantville Police Department in protest of this cover-up. On March 25 we had a People’s Justice Hearing where we put the State on Trial.

The People’s Justice Hearing is an institution that the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement has established as a means for African people to get justice for ourselves. Here we take the question of justice out of the hands of the State and place it in the hands of the people.

The People’s Justice Hearing is a form of dual and contending state power in opposition to the U.S. government which has never dealt our people any justice but instead oppressively dominates our people for economic and political advantage.

This is what the People’s Justice Hearing represents. Although we may not have the means at this juncture to carry out the sentence, that tells us what we have to do – which is to seize state power!

In this Justice Hearing, Sekou Hill, local president of InPDUM, acted as the People’s Advocate where he made a powerful presentation of evidence of foul-play in this particular case and how it was all part of the U.S. war on Africa and her children — from COINTELPRO to the government’s imposition of crack/cocaine on the African community.

Tamathy Pless, Bernard’s mother gave a heart-wrenching testimony of her ordeal in seeking justice for her son. Several Africans who attended the hearing gave their testimony as victims of the U.S. government’s counterinsurgency as well.

A special testimony was given by Willie ‘Mukassa’ Ricks, former Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee member who coined the phrase “Black Power.” He delivered an empowering address on the struggle for Black Power.

The People’s Verdict came down as an uncompromising guilty! The following sentences were given: 1) reparations to the family of Bernard C. Burden and the African community; 2) imprisonment of all involved in his murder and 3) community control of the police.

We must continue to raise the struggle to seize state power so that we may have total control over our collective lives as African people.

Uhuru!

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