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(en) Czech, AFED: Ballot box fire -- A thrilling historical fragment about one great illusion of freedom [machine translation]

Date Thu, 24 Sep 2020 10:19:47 +0300


In 1946, World War II veterans decided to run in the municipal elections in McMinn County, Tennessee. As the election results were falsified, they raised their weapons and decided to defend their rights regardless of state authority. The small town of Athens in Tennessee has turned into a battlefield. The city prison was under siege by a crowd that decided to take justice into their own hands, as the town hall was plagued by corruption, police arbitrariness and held in power due to electoral fraud. ---- Political tension was already felt before the war, when the influential Memphis politician Edward Hull "Boss" Crump announced in 1936 Paul Cantrell's candidacy for sheriff, who won the election. The sheriff's office has introduced a new system of rewards for cooperation. A reward was newly paid for each arrest. The system soon proved to be inoperable as dubious arrests took place, often without convincing evidence. Passengers and tourists were fined for anything. In ten years, the sheriff collected about $ 300,000 in fines. Cantrell, meanwhile, broke into the Senate and left his position to confidant Pat Mansfield. The atmosphere in the town thickened. The locals were really upset. After the investigation of arbitrariness by the Ministry of Justice came to naught, the situation reached a boiling point.

During the war, many McMinn residents became involved in the fight against fascism behind the Great Puddle. The lack of capable people has led to low criteria in the employment of law enforcement officials. Former criminals began to appear among the sheriffs. In 1945, the war ended and troops began returning home to McMinn County to find that the corrupt town hall was stronger than ever. In addition to the sheriff's office, Crump's corrupt clique controlled the local media, schools, and most institutions. The veterans decided to act. In 1946, before the local elections, they introduced their non-partisan candidate. The Infantry Party (GI party) has chosen Henry Knox, a distinguished veteran from the North African battlefield, as its election leader. As the infantry were not naive and doubted the regularity of the previous election, their slogan was:

Preliminary measures have been taken following previous experience. Veteran Bill White formed a militia to observe the elections and expose possible frauds by Cantrell and Mansfield. The militia was called "The Fighting Bunch" and was joined by about sixty armed men. The election scheduled for April 1, 1946 was accompanied by a number of incidents. Mansfield's lineman Windy Wise forbade Tom Gillespie, an African-American of retirement age, from entering a polling station in Athens. Despite the presence of the Wise militiamen, he cursed Gillespie racistly and denied him his right to vote. Then he hit him with a boxer. The farmer dropped the ballot and tried to escape. Wise drew his weapon and shot him in the back. The event exacerbated the situation.

The last straw was the arrest and torture of militiaman Bob Hairrell. Hairrell objected when the sheriff's deputies brought a cross-country girl to the polling station who was not on the electoral roll. He was then arrested, the polling station closed, and the urn taken to Athens Prison. When Bill White learned of the incident, he ordered the militiamen to seize the National Guard armory. The militiamen received sixty Enfield rifles, two Thompson submachine guns, and enough ammunition to bring justice. After the official end of the election, all ballot boxes were transferred to that prison. At that moment, White reportedly said, "Guys, something's up. I'm glad they did. Now we just have to get to jail."

The prison was soon under siege. Paul Cantrell, Pat Mansfield and about fifty other men of the law were caught counting votes without the presence of an official witness. The infantry took a strategic position on the second floor of the bank opposite the prison. If anyone in the prison started firing, they could shoot him in bullets. Cantrell's boys were trapped. The infantry knew they had to resolve the situation quickly before the authorities sent reinforcements and drowned the rebel veterans in blood. Several law enforcement officers who were not currently in prison tried to break the siege to no avail. Soon, several linemen managed to escape through the back entrance of the prison. They left their weapons inside. White ordered the militiamen to leave the fleeing alone. However, several representatives, including Cantrell and Mansfield, refused to give up. The prison was covered with Molotov cocktails without serious damage. An ambulance appeared on the street. The militiamen stopped throwing the bats because they thought he was going for the wounded. There was a truce. But the ambulance said the Cantrell and Mansfield chiefs were picked up while their men were left to their fate.

White's priority was the ballot box. Time was running out, panic began to spread among the veterans. The prison door was broken with dynamite and the rest of the linemen surrendered. An angry crowd appeared in front of the building, and a couple of Mansfields caught it. Including Wise, who shot Tom Gillespie this morning. The crowd moved on through the city streets. He scrapped police cars and private cars of corrupt people. After the riots stopped, votes were counted. Veteran Henry Knox has become the new Sheriff of McMinn County. The events in Athens initiated a nationwide movement against the corruption handle of Edward Hull Crump. Although the infantry council also faced corruption cases, they were never as serious as in the previous administration. Some party members made their disappointment with the system clear in an open letter: "We overthrew one machine to replace it with another, even more powerful one.

https://www.afed.cz/text/7226/prestrelka-kvuli-volebni-urne
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