Political murder of the day

Ariel Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem in 2000 set off waves of violence.

Sept. 28, 2000: A visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the area near Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque set off street protests and violence that led to the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. By the end of the year, nearly 800 Palestinians were dead, and thousands more would be killed by the end of the intifada.

The compound around the Al Aqsa mosque is considered Jerusalem’s holiest site, with symbolic representations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The site is known as Temple Mount to Jews and as Haram al Sharif to Muslims. It is on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and it is at the heart of the dispute over Jerusalem’s sovereignty.

On Sept. 28, 2000, Sharon arrived with a large heavily armed Likud delegation, claiming he had come with a “message of peace.” But he repeated a phrase from a 1967 Israeli radio broadcast describing the Israeli takeover of Jerusalem during the Six-Day war: “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” reminding the shoe-throwing Palestinians demonstrating outside about the Israeli presence. Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat described Sharon’s visit as a “dangerous step.”

Soon after Sharon left the site, angry demonstrations turned violent, and Israeli police fired into crowds of Palestinians. By the next day, seven Palestinians were dead and more than 100 were injured. It was the beginning of a wave of violence as riots broke out throughout Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank. Rock-throwing Palestinians were met by Israeli soldiers shooting live ammunition.

By the end of the intifada, nearly 3,000 Palestinians had been killed and tens of thousands injured. More than 3,700 Palestinian homes had been destroyed, and more than 7,300 Palestinians were in prison.

Miss a murder? Here are past ones.

Thomas Hindman

Sept. 27, 1868: A former Democratic U.S. congressman from Arkansas who backed voting rights for African-Americans was shot and killed at his home in Arkansas.

Thomas C. Hindman, a brigadier general for the Confederacy during the Civil War, served in the Mississippi Legislature before joining the Army to fight in the Mexican-American War. In 1854, he and his family moved to Arkansas, where Hindman started a law practice and where he saw more of a future in politics. Hindman led the movement for Arkansas to secede from the Union and resigned his congressional seat after Arkansas’ secession.

After the war, Hindman was indicted for war activities, and he and his family fled to Mexico. He was able to return to Arkansas in 1868, where he apparently had a change of heart and became an advocate for African-American voting rights, earning the enmity of several other local politicians.

On Sept. 27, 1868, Hindman was shot by unknown assailants through his parlor window at his home in Helena, Arkansas, while he was reading the newspaper. Among the rumored suspects were his political opponents. No one was ever charged in the killing.

Pavlos Bakoyannis

Sept. 26, 1989: A leader in the Greek Parliament who spoke out against the military dictatorship in Greece was shot and killed by members of a leftist guerrilla group as he entered his office in central Athens.

Pavlos Bakoyannis was a journalist who became well known in Greece for his broadcasts against the Greek military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974. He joined the liberal New Democracy Party and rose through its ranks, becoming party leader in the Hellenic Parliament by 1989.

A Marxist group called the November 17 Guerrillas claimed responsibility for his killing by leaving a pamphlet at the scene of the shooting with the claim that the “cleanup” of Greece had begun. The group was blamed for bombings that killed 15 people.

Bakoyannis’ wife, Dora Bakoyannis, was elected to Parliament after her husband’s death and became the first woman in Greece to hold high government office, including minister of foreign affairs and minister of culture.

Herbert Lee’s widow, Prince E. Lee, with the historical marker in honor of her husband.

Sept. 25, 1961: A civil rights activist working to register Black voters in Mississippi was shot and killed by a pro-segregationist state legislator.

Herbert Lee, a local farmer, had been active in the local chapter of the NAACP and was trying to sign up fellow African-Americans to vote. At meetings in Amite County, NAACP leaders reported to Justice Dept. officials that white residents were copying down license plates of those attending meetings. They also reported that State Rep E.H. Hurst had publicly threatened to kill several NAACP members — including Lee.

The day of the killing, Lee was driving a load of cotton to a cotton gin in Liberty, Mississippi, when Hurst started following him. According to reports from the Mississippi Civil Rights Project, Hurst got out of his truck at the cotton gin and pulled a gun on Lee. The two argued, and Hurst shot Lee.

Hurst claimed self-defense for Lee’s murder, saying that Lee tried to attack him with a tire iron. Despite the presence of 11 witnesses who saw Hurst shoot Lee with no provocation, an all-white coroner’s jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide at an inquest the same day. Some witnesses said they had been pressured into lying by the presence of armed white men at the inquest and that the sheriff had instructed them to tell the tale of the tire iron.

One month later, a federal grand jury considered an indictment for Hurst, and one of the witnesses, Louis Allen, said he would testify truthfully if the FBI could put him into the federal witness protection program. He was given no such protection, so he didn’t testify. But Allen, too, was later shot and killed. Reports said the killer was the county sheriff. No one was ever charged in either killing.

Lee was memorialized in a song during the civil rights era called “We’ll Never Turn Back.”

An 1899 illustration of Snorri Sturluson by Christian Krogh.

Sept. 23, 1241: An Icelandic historian, poet, politician, and chieftain who may be best known in popular culture as a clue in crossword puzzles was assassinated at his home in Reykholt.

Snorri Sturluson was the author of the Prose Edda, or Snorra Edda, one of the great literary works of Iceland. The piece tells the story of Norse mythology (if you’re a crossword puzzle fan, that’s how the clue is usually framed; answer: EDDA). Snorri also wrote the Heimskringla, or Sagas of the Norwegian Kings, which tells the stories of Norwegian history and its kings.

Snorri spent part of his early life in Norway, where he befriended a teenage King Haakon IV. Upon his return to Iceland, Snorri became chieftain of his family and other families, growing in influence and power. Snorri was elected lawspeaker (a sort of ruler/judge, or president) of the Althing, the national parliament in Iceland.

Haakon, looking to expand Norway’s influence and facing a possible civil war, wanted to annex Iceland, but he realized Snorri was against him in this plan. Haakon sent a letter to Iceland asking Gissur Porvaldsson, one of Snorri’s enemies and a supporter of Haakon, to kill Snorri.

Gissur led 70 men on a raid to Snorri’s house, where Snorri was killed. Haakon got his wish — all chieftains in Iceland swore an oath of loyalty to Norway. Iceland finally became a fully independent country in 1944.

Although there are no known drawings of Shaka done in his lifetime, this European artist’s rendition shows the larger shield and shorter spear Shaka designed.

Sept. 22, 1828: Shaka, king of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa, was killed by his two half-brothers after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the enormous Zulu tribe he had built up.

Shaka established one of the most dominant Sub-Saharan African kingdoms in history. He became Zulu chief in 1816 and led the Zulu in conquering neighboring tribes, eventually holding all of the territory of present-day Natal — more than 2 million square miles. He increased the number of people in his kingdom from 1,500 to 250,000.

Shaka is viewed as a military innovator for the time. He changed the military tactics of intertribal battle, designing new shields and spears, and attacking the other side directly rather than keep up an exchange of spear-throwing, as was the war custom.

Shaka’s conquests caused much destabilization in the area, which caused large migrations by uprooted tribes. His reign is still said to have a cultural influence in South Africa, although historians debate whether he was a unifier or a brutal dictator.

In 1827, Shaka’s mother, Nanti, died, and the grief-stricken Shaka reportedly went mad. He outlawed planting crops and the use of milk for a year. He massacred thousands of his subjects so that others could join him in mourning. He had all pregnant women and their husbands killed.

Lesser Zulu chiefs rebelled, and to keep the kingdom together, Shaka’s brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, killed him. Dingane took over as Zulu chief.

5 Comments on “Political murder of the day”

  1. Pingback: Political murder is on a Rocky Mountain high | Political Murder

  2. Pingback: Political murder is headed to the cradle of democracy | Political Murder

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