House of Representatives Passes Legislation Aimed at Clearing Unsolved Civil Rights Cases

June 20, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union cheered the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 923, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, by a vote of 422-2. The bill authorizes $10 million annually to establish a special federal investigator in the FBI’s civil rights unit focusing on solving crimes committed before 1969. In addition, it allocates additional funds to assist local law enforcement agencies with investigating and prosecuting unsolved civil rights crimes.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The ACLU is heartened by the House of Representative’s overwhelming support for this important legislation. Hundreds of African-Americans and civil rights activists were victims of violence during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s. Too many of these cases still await justice because local law enforcement failed to fully pursue the offenders due to personal bias or political considerations. In light of recent revelations at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, we hope this legislation will send a message, that effective law enforcement and prosecution cannot and must not be politicized if it’s to perform its duty – protecting the rights of all Americans.”

The bill is named for, and highlights the life of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American teenager from Chicago, who was brutally murdered by two white men in 1955 – a crime that shocked the nation. The reported rationale for Till’s murder was that he whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi, where Till was visiting with relatives.

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