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Leaflet: MLK, Repression of Dissent, and War

by Burt Monday, Jan. 21, 2002 at 1:55 PM

A one-page footnoted leaflet I made on MLK's experience with COINTELPRO and government repression and how it relates to today's "War on Terrorism" and the USA-PATRIOT Act. Copy Left, no credit needed.

errorThe PDF Version contains 5 MLK quotes. Access it via Words as Weapons: http://www.wordsasweapons.com/mlk.pdf

Distribute to educate, honor MLK, and question these repressive times of unquestioned war.


For demanding economic and racial justice and speaking out against war, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became a target of FBI and US government repression. Through a program formerly known as COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program), the FBI used systematic fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally protected political activity in order to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or...neutralize individuals and groups. Targets included King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as pacifists, socialists, and New Left groups.(2) In close coordination with local police, the FBI used infiltration, psychological warfare, harassment through the legal system, and violence(2), highlighted by cooperation in the assassination of black leader Fred Hampton and providing information to the KKK facilitating physical attacks on civil rights workers(3). For King and the SCLC, the FBI leaked false stories to the national press, forged documents in Kings name, used paid informants and electronic surveillance, and even sent anonymous threatening letters to King encouraging him to commit suicide-all in order to prevent what the FBI called the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the black movement.(3)


By December 10, 2001, the number of civilians killed by US-led bombing and fighting in Afghanistan outnumbered those murdered in the attacks on the WTC.(4 Today, Kings words are as relevant as ever: Man must e)volve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.(5) Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.(6)

Continuing in Kings radical legacy, non-violent activists struggling for peace and justice have regularly faced government and FBI repression and harassment(3). The War on Terrorism has given additional leeway to repressive and secretive elements in a government with a history of domestic political repression of dissidents-who have already begun to legalize tactics used against King. The USA-PATRIOT Act allows for indefinite detention of non-citizens, minimized judicial supervision of internet/telephone surveillance, broad access to business records without evidence of crime, and sharing of gathered information with the CIA-the agency that assisted the FBI in a massive operation against anti-Vietnam War activists.(7) Even Attorney General John Ashcroft has directed government agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act requests(8)-the very act that citizens used to expose known features of COINTELPRO.(9)

As you remember Kings monumental struggles, consider that he, too, was condemned as un-American for supporting freedom, equality, and peace. Honor Martin Luther King by continuing his fight against racism, poverty, and militarism. Justice must be brought to terrorists and oppressors, NOT terror upon civilians and activists struggling for justice in Kings tradition.


1. MLK from: Churchill, Ward (1988). Agents of Repression.
2. Glick, Brian (1989). War At Home.
3. Churchill, Ward (1988). Agents of Repression.
4. Herold, M. A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting. http://www.globalexchange.org/september11/heroldAfghanReport.pdf
5. MLK: Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 11, 1964.
6. MLK. A Christmas Sermon on Peace", 24 Dec. 1967
7. ACLU Feature: Safe and Free in Times of Crisis: www.aclu.org/safeandfree
8. Rosen, Ruth (Jan. 7, 2002). The Day Ashcroft Censored Freedom of Information. San Francisco Chronicle
9. Blackstock, Nelson (1975). Cointelpro: The FBIs Secret War on Political Freedom.
10. MLK: Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 11, 1964.
11. MLK: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967
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