From Charlotte resident Kathy Sparrow:
In the Nov. 15 For the Record about Dilworth history, Ed Williams said I was leader and funder of the Red Hornet Mayday Tribe. He also stated that police believed we were drug peddlers.
The Red Hornets were anti-war activists who organized demonstrations in the early 1970s against the Vietnam War. Members had equal voice within the group, and all contributed more or less equally to finance our activities.
We never sold drugs. We were under intense police scrutiny because of President Richard Nixons COINTELPRO (an acronym for counterintelligence program), which infiltrated and tried to discredit anti-war groups thus the drug label. Here are other examples of COINTELPRO:
• Local police officers were found in court to have shot into and damaged the leftist Crazy Horse Book Store in uptown Charlotte several times once with people inside.
• The politically motivated Wilmington 10 and Charlotte Three cases resulted in imprisonment for many activists.
• Federal agents broke into Jim Grants home and stole documents that were later used against him in court. (Editors note: Grant was one of the Charlotte Three who were convicted in 1972 of the 1968 firebombing of the Lazy B Stables where 15 horses died; Grant served about five years of a 25-year sentence.)
• Unknown to us at the time, a federal agent was living with us, trying to learn if we were selling drugs to veterans. He became a friend and later apologized.
• A police informant tried to convince us to blow up a bridge, offering to get us dynamite. We told him to leave.
These were scary times in which the rights of citizens, who stood up for their beliefs, were trampled by our government. You may be wondering why this is relevant now. It happened 45 years ago in a different era, and we have serious issues facing us today that need solutions.
Nevertheless, our civil rights are once again under attack. Lawyers are aware of it. Activists are aware of it. But many people do not see that the Patriot Act is eroding the foundations of our democracy by hindering free speech and our right to assemble. The security around the Democratic National Convention this year in Charlotte was just such a challenge to our right to free speech and assembly.
My son, James Tyson, was arrested for driving without a license while on his way to a demonstration before the DNC. He was not driving his truck when he was arrested. He was in the truck but someone else was driving. He was held on a $10,000 cash-only bond in order to keep him in jail during the convention. Police told authorities that he is on a federal terrorism watch list.
My son is not a terrorist or even a violent person! He does work tirelessly to try to stop climate change and mountaintop removal, and has been targeted by our government for this. Why would such a person be on this list?
I do understand the importance of our nation protecting people from violence and terrorism. Nevertheless, I think it is crucial to find the balance between such protection and protecting the rights of individuals upon which our country was founded. Activists who hold beliefs that are unpopular with the powerful should not be targeted by our government. This happened in the 1960s and 1970s. It is un-American. We must not let it happen again today!