CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The Bessie Smith Center hosted a celebration of the victims of a hate crime incident 40 years ago in Chattanooga.
Four women were shot by Ku Klux Klansmen in a vehicle on what is now Martin Luther King Boulevard.
When an all-white jury found the suspects not guilty of attempted murder, it lead to riots in Chattanooga that made national news (the birdshot fired from the shotgun was not considered lethal enough to warrant the attempted murder convictions, the shooter was convicted on lesser charges). But the women filed a federal lawsuit against the three men and won that verdict.
Attorney Randolph McLaughlin represented the victims in a federal lawsuit.
He spoke in the event Thursday.
Victim Opal Jackson was also there.
McLaughlin said “Some had bullet wounds in their bodies and shot gun pellets. And the other woman had cuts in her neck. The criminal justice system failed them. So we came behind that and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.”
“The women got a verdict in their favor, and equally important, we got a federal court order, an injunction preventing any further Klan violence in the city. And I’m happy to say there hasn’t been a single incident of Klan violence since we won this case.”