Jewish Progressive Org Invokes Freedom Summer Murders to Protest Trump

Jewish Journal - Los Angeles
June 22, 2016
Eitan Arom

 Bend the Arc's vigil and protest against Donald Trump.

The heat wave had broken by the time Pastor Cue Jn-marie stood up June 21 at the auditorium of Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax District before a mostly-Jewish audience of about 40. But as he spoke, his anger seemed to boil over.

The Skid Row pastor delivered a fiery speech at the death anniversary, or yarzheit, of three civil rights activists, two Jews and an African American, who were abducted and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964 while organizing for the Congress of Racial Equality.

“The blood of Martin Luther King cries to god,” Jn-Marie intoned, more slam poet than pulpit priest. “The blood of [Andrew] Goodman, [Mickey] Schwerner and [James Earl] Chaney still cries to god today.”

Behind him on the ground, a sign read “Jews Reject Trump” above the hashtag.

#WeveSeenThisBefore, a nod to Nazi rhetoric in Europe and state-sanctioned racism in the U.S. The event had a dual purpose, serving as a “vigil and a protest” against “Donald Trump and the politics of hatred and exclusion,” according to Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, the local rabbi-in-residence for the progressive group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, known simply as Bend the Arc, which organized the event.

The progressive Jewish group hosted similar events across the country, including in New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“Today we’re saying that in memorializing Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, we are also signing our commitment in the future to make sure that Trump never gets near the White House,” he told the Journal.

Locally, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization founded by King, co-sponsored the event with Bend the Arc, whose name is derived from a King quote.

Cohen spoke along with Jn-marie, William Smart, Southern California president of SCLC, Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Rabbi Susan Goldberg, Adrian Dove, a man in his seventies who organized alongside the three murdered activists in Mississippi, Ameena Mirza Qazi, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, who wears a hijab, and Bend the Arc chair Stephen Rohde, a local constitutional lawyer.

Aviva Rosenbloom, cantor emeritus at Temple Israel of Hollywood, led the audience in a kaddish prayer for the activists and in song. As attendee disbanded, Bend the Arc organizers handed out candles, traditionally lit on the eve a yarzheit, decorated with the faces of the three men.