ATLANTA: Court of public opinion frees Marcus Dixon

Victories are few and far between, which made the pictures of Marcus Dixon, 19, walking out of prison, May 3, all the more beautiful.

In a 4-3 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the child molestation conviction of the young African American scholar/athlete. A lower court in Dixon’s hometown of Rome had sentenced him to 15 years in prison last year, stemming from an incident that involved consensual sex with a young white woman.

A national movement led by Dixon’s guardians, Ken and Peri Jones, who are white, and Rev. Terrell Shields of the Rome NAACP, organized rallies in Atlanta and Rome, letter-writing and fundraising events and an Internet petition drive, which garnered over 186,000 signatures.

“I’m thankful to be out,” Dixon told a crowd of supporters who greeted him with cheers and tears. “I’m thankful to all the people who helped me. And I’m just glad to be home.”

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WOODVILLE, Miss.: Land dispute = lynching?

In the southwest corner of Mississippi, near the Louisiana border, lies this tiny hamlet, hometown of U.S. slavery’s president, Jefferson Davis, who led the Confederate States of America over 140 years ago. On April 24, the body of Washington State resident Roy Veal, 55, an African American, was discovered by two hunters. He was hanging from a tree, a hood over his head.

Veal had returned to the family home to resolve a suit filed by a white man over ownership of the 40 acres where Veal’s mother, 79, still lives.

“It’s awful,” Veal’s sister, Doris Gordon, told the Associated Press. “We don’t know who did it. There are people trying to take part of our land because they apparently think there is oil on the land.” There is oil production in the area.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Harassment of U.S. Muslims skyrockets

In a report released at the National Press Club, May 4, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that attacks, verbal or physical, against Muslims nearly doubled in 2003. The Council received 1,019 reports from U.S. Muslims of verbal or physical harassment, discrimination at work and racial profiling by law enforcement. In 2002, that number was 602.

The Council pointed to rhetoric that demeaned Islam and portrayed Muslims as the enemy in the wake of Bush’s Iraq War as a contributing cause of the dramatic increase.

LEBANON, Tenn.: Racism around the Cracker Barrel

African American diners and workers forced the Justice Department (DOJ) to act on a pattern of racist acts by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a chain of 497 restaurants headquartered here. Based on evidence from African Americans from over 50 of the restaurants, mostly in seven southern states, the DOJ filed suit against Cracker Barrel. Rather than face public embarrassment and lengthy litigation, Cracker Barrel settled. The chain agreed to a six-point program of affirmative action, in both service and employee relations. Suits involving money are still outstanding.

One Black waitress in Mississippi told the DOJ that white waitresses would pay her $3 if she would wait on their African American customers. A Black patron testified that when he complained to Cracker Barrel management that white customers received better treatment, he was told to go to Burger King.

Attorney Heidi Doerhoff, who represented plaintiffs from Arkansas and Mississippi, said, “It’s shocking that something like this still happens 40 years after the passage of civil rights legislation.”

KALAMAZOO, Mich.: Workers, peace activists line I-94 to protest Bush

In a picket line stretching along Interstate 94, workers and residents in this Republican stronghold demanded jobs and an end to the Iraq War, as George W. Bush arrived for a scripted campaign stop at Wings Stadium.

Inside, Bush declared the economy alive and well in Michigan, although the state has the third worst economy in the country, having lost over 200,000 jobs since Bush seized office.

Hundreds of workers used the padlocked 2.2 million square foot General Motors plant to make their statement on Bush’s performance. The plant once provided jobs for 3,000 families. “Look at the jobs that left and look at the ones that are coming in,” said auto worker Doug Waggoner. “McDonald’s jobs ain’t gonna fill that up.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Terrie Albano, Mark Almberg and Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s clips.