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Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Jackson demands hanging probe
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson wants the case reopened
American civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, is leading a two-day march in Kokomo, Mississippi, to urge authorities to reopen inquiries into the death of a black teenager.

Mr Jackson and civil-rights groups suspect that 17-year-old Raynard Johnson, found hanging from a pecan tree, was murdered by white racists.

After a coroner's report found no suspicious marks, the local authorities concluded it was suicide.

But Jesse Jackson and other prominent civil rights activists believe Mr Johnson was murdered for dating white girls in the small Mississippi town.

We challenge the Department of Justice to use their resources to find the source of a heinous lynching hate crime

The Rev Jesse Jackson

"The hostility toward him and his brother was very substantial," said the Mr Jackson.

Mr Jackson also noted that graffiti bearing the words "Kill all niggers" had been scrawled on a bridge near Kokomo where white supremacists recently held a rally.

Hate Crime

He is now demanding that Mississippi open an inquiry into Raynard Johnson's death, and the deathsof other blacks, including more than 20 reported suicides in the state's jails.

"In addition to Raynard Johnson, there are other rather mysterious deaths called suicides, some by gunshot and some by hanging," said Mr Jackson.

"We are involved in a challenge to urge the Department of Justice and the FBI and the state of Mississippi to use all of their resources to find the source of a heinous lynching hate crime in Mississippi, " he added.

An investigator in the local sheriff's office has said he's already working with the FBI and state police on an inquiry into Mr Johnson's death.

Leaders unite

Mr Jackson will be joined on the protest by many other prominent black leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton.

They intend to march to Mr Johnson's home and visit the scene of the hanging before continuing on Sunday to the Marion County courthouse in Columbia.

The Rev. Al Sharpton
The Rev Al Sharpton is showing his support

One civil rights group is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Johnson's alleged killers.

Activists say Johnson's case bears similarities to a notorious incident in the 1950s, when a black teenager was abducted and murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman.

Once the heartland of the old segregationist south, the last recorded lynching in Mississippi occurred 40 years ago, when a black man was dragged from prison and hanged before standing trial for raping a white woman.

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18 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
America's painful past
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