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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Mississippi ponders putting KKK leader and Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest on license plates (USA)

A new civil war is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal to put a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard on state license plates.

Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, notorious for leading a massacre of black Union soldiers and leading the KKK in its early days, would appear on the plates in 2014 if the group Sons of Confederate Veterans gets its way.

The organization is sponsoring a series of specialty plates over the next four years to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

This year's plate features the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

The state's chapter of the NAACP strongly criticized the call to honor Forrest, who led several battles in Mississippi during the war.

"He should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden," Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP in Mississippi, told The Associated Press, adding that the Klan was a "terrorist group."

"The state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state," he said.

Forrest was born in Tennessee and joined his home state's KKK shortly after the war. Klan members were notorious for beating and killing blacks in the South, as well as intimidating black voters during elections.

The general has been hailed as a military hero and disgraced as a butcher leading a slaughter of black troops who had surrendered during a battle at Fort Pillow, Tenn. in 1864.

However, before his death in 1877, some historians claim Forrest softened his views on racial relations.

"If Christian redemption means anything - and we all want redemption, I think - he redeemed himself in his own time, in his own actions, in his own words," Greg Stewart, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member, told the AP. "We should respect that."

At least one black state lawmaker isn't bothered by the group's push to remember Forrest.

"I don't have a problem with it," Rep. Willie Bailey said. "They have that right. We'll look at it. As long as it's not offensive to anybody, then they have the same rights as anybody else has."

 NY Daily News


The Serbian National Movement 1389, one of a plethora of far-right groups in the country, has announced a decision to register as a political party, in what is seen as a move to evade a future court ban on far-right groups with a record of violence. The citizens' group said it was determined not to remain "a silent spectator of political life in Serbia... We are going to present the party's programme on Sretenje [Serbia's national day, February 15], and start collecting the signatures we need to register as a party," Misa Vacic told Balkan Insight. Movements in Serbia are obliged to collect 10,000 signatures before they can register as political parties. 1389, named after the date of a revered historic battle against the Ottoman army in Kosovo, advocates the unification of all those territories it considers Serbian into a single state. Vacic was one of 35 persons detained for violating a ban on gatherings in public places in 2009, as a result of which courts sentenced him to 30 days' jail.

The decision to register as a party comes after a president was appointed to the Constitutional Court last week. Now fully constituted, the court can rule on official calls to outlaw 14 allegedly violent far-right groups, one of which is 1389. But if 1389 collects the 10,000 signatures it needs to register as a party, no court ban on far-right groups will apply to it. For a political party to be banned, it has to be convicted of publicly spreading hatred, which has never happened in Serbia. The official request for the court to ban the 14 groups follows a series of violent incidents. These include the cancelation of a Belgrade Gay Pride parade and the murder by thugs of French football fan Brice Taton in Belgrade in September 2009. The court has discussed the issue of banning violent groups several times before but failed to reach a decision. The issue will be back on the table by the end of March, Balkan Insight has learned from sources in the Constitutional Court.

Another far-right group, Dveri Srpske, which does not face a ban, says it is also mulling becoming politically active in order to take part in general elections in March 2012. However, it does not want to become a formal, registered party. Meaning "doors of Serbia", this citizens' organisation advocates a programme based on "svetosavlje", a blend of Serbian Orthodox piety and nationalism, named after Serbia's patron saint, St Sava. Bosko Obradovic, from the organisation, says they are ready to assume political responsibility but will not form a party, as they oppose what they call the existing "party-parasite system". The organisation has been active in staging "pro-life" [anti-abortion] lectures and staging rallies against gays, the independence of Kosovo and other hot topics of the Serbian far right - but its protests and events have been peaceful.

Balkan Insight