On Thursday, February 13 at 1:30, students at Miller High School in Corpus Christi, TX will have the privilege of missing an hour of class in order to be subjected to an anti-war harangue by Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton.
Linda Brown, the Texas spokesperson for Sharpton's National Action Network, said that all of the high school's students from grades 9-12 will be required to attend the assembly. She said Sharpton will discuss "issues germane to youth and his position on the war in Iraq."
Sharpton will lead an anti-war rally in Corpus Christi at a location Brown said had not been determined. Brown noted that Sharpton chose to visit Corpus Christi, a Texas city on the Gulf of Mexico with a population of 300,000, because "there is a factory there that builds artillery or tanks." Corpus Christi is also home for flyers from the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force training at the nearby naval air station. Some of these pilots' children may be sitting in Sharpton's captive audience.
Edward Blum, Director of Legal Affairs for the American Civil Rights Institute, stated, "It is outrageous that high school students will be pulled out of class and made a captive audience to the anti-war ravings of Al Sharpton. It is inappropriate for any public high school to suspend classes and hold an assembly promoting any presidential candidate, but it is especially galling that they would do so for Sharpton to deliver an anti-war, anti-Bush diatribe, with no one there to provide a rebuttal. If public schools are going to interrupt classes for a discussion of current events topics such as the war, at least both sides of the debate should be represented."
Blum also argued, "Al Sharpton is one of the most incendiary and divisive figures in American politics today. Given his long record of anti-Semitism and race-baiting, it is almost a hate crime to force impressionable students to be subjected to him. This school is turning the National Action Network into the National Indoctrination Network. Jesus Chavez, the superintendent of the Corpus Christi School District, ought to order Miller High School to cancel the assembly for Sharpton."
Sharpton first earned national notoriety for promoting the false claims of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who in 1987 alleged she had been abducted and raped by a gang of white youths. Sharpton inflamed a race riot over the incident, but a New York grand jury found no evidence of any crime against Brawley and it is now widely acknowledged that she concocted the allegation. Steve Pagones, a prosecutor whom Sharpton blamed for the false incident, won a $345,000 verdict against Sharpton for defamation.
A January 16, 2003, column by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe recounted Sharpton's involvement in the infamous 1991 Crown Heights riots. Jacoby described the episode as follows:
"A Hasidic Jewish driver in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section accidentally kills Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, and anti-Semitic riots erupt. Sharpton races to pour gasoline on the fire. At Gavin's funeral he rails against the 'diamond merchants' - code for Jews - with 'the blood of innocent babies' on their hands. He mobilizes hundreds of demonstrators to march through the Jewish neighborhood, chanting, 'No justice, no peace.' A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, is surrounded by a mob shouting 'Kill the Jews!' and stabbed to death."
Jacoby noted that Sharpton's racial arson campaign continued in 1995 with the Freddy's Fashion Mart fiasco:
"When the United House of Prayer, a large black landlord in Harlem, raises the rent on Freddy's Fashion Mart, Freddy's white Jewish owner is forced to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store. A landlord-tenant dispute ensues; Sharpton uses it to incite racial hatred. 'We will not stand by,' he warns malignantly, 'and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.' Sharpton's National Action Network sets up picket lines; customers going into Freddy's are spat on and cursed. 'We're going to see that this cracker suffers,' says Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell. On Dec. 8, one of the protesters bursts into Freddy's, shoots four employees point-blank, then sets the store on fire. Seven employees die in the inferno."
Yolanda Gonzalez, Principal of Miller High School, did not return a call requesting comment on the Sharpton school assembly. Gonzalez can be contacted at YFGonzalez@miller.corpus-christi.k12.tx.us. The school's phone number is (361) 884-4963. Superintendent Chavez can be reached at (361) 886-9003 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brown said the Sharpton assembly will be held in the school's auditorium or gym and that Sharpton will take questions if the venue permits. She said the assembly will be open to the media.
Sharpton's visit to Corpus Christi is sponsored by the local chapter of 100 Black Men, "an organization designed to improve the quality of life for African Americans and other minorities."
Brown said Sharpton is planning to make many more appearances in Texas and would like to lecture at other schools as well.