Local police have arrested a man in connection with a race-based attack on a candidate for Jefferson County sheriff, according to media reports.
Texas-based 12News is reporting that a man was arrested for shooting up the headquarters of Zena Stephens, a Black woman running for sheriff. The man carried out the shooting while allegedly shouting “F*ck the n**gers,” according to an eyewitness.
Stephens, who is currently police chief at Prairie View A&M University, said this was the first time her campaign had been attacked like this.
“Anytime something like that happens with innocent people around you’re concerned for them,” said Stephens. “I don’t know if it was a random act or whether it was targeted, but I just think it is, you know, ignorance.”
Police traced the man based on the white Jeep he was driving. They also said they believe the shooting was carried out using a pellet gun. But it could have been much worse. Police recovered two guns from the Jeep and took four other people into custody.
A Stephens campaign worker said it was ridiculous that Black people were still having to deal with this kind of racism in the 21st century.
However, white supremacist groups, such as the KKK, have a long history of using intimidation to stop Black people from participating in the electoral process. In 1963, NAACP official Medgar Evers was shot dead in his driveway because he was trying to register Black people to vote. An all white-jury twice deadlocked in the murder trial of his killer, Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist. De La Beckwith was retried and convicted of murder in 1994. He died in jail.
In one of the most infamous acts of violence during the civil rights era, three activists were killed and dumped in a Mississippi swamp. James Earl Chaney, a Black man from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two white men from New York, had also been trying to register Black people to vote. The 1964 killings led to a huge FBI investigation and was memorialized in the movie Mississippi Burning.
After the state of Mississippi refused to prosecute anyone, federal officials took over the case. Seven people eventually received minor sentences. But in 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and received 60 years in jail.
The attack on Stephens’ campaign headquarters is one of a series of recent racial attacks. Counter protesters demonstrating against a Klan rally in Anaheim, California, over the weekend were stabbed in a scuffle. Raw Story also reported that three white supremacists were arrested for attacking Latino youths in a Los Angeles park.
According to The Atlanta Blackstar, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported hate groups showed a marked increase last year. This increase can be traced to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump has appealed to white Americans’ fear of becoming a racial minority with his promises to crack down on illegal immigration from Mexico. He has also frequently retweeted messages from white supremacists. During a CNN interview, Trump refused to condemn the KKK or white supremacist David Duke, claiming he didn’t know who they were.