Civil Rights Workers and Anti-War Activists Share Settlement
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Civil rights workers and anti-war activists, who were harassed more than a decade ago by the FBI, gathered Monday to divide $46,000 awarded them after an 11-year legal battle against the government.
Four individuals and a peace organization from the Washington, D.C. area split the money presented to them by the Justice Department in settlement of a suit filed in 1976 against the FBI’s Cointelpro program.
The complaints ranged from break-ins and printing of a fake student newspaper to harassment of a bi-racial couple through a government program called Cointelpro.
″We were all unrelated,″ said Richard Pollock, 35, who is sharing in the settlement. ″We were victims who discovered our commonality years later.″
Pollock was a 21-year-old editor on the campus newspaper at American University when the FBI began to follow him. Now head of his own public relations firm in Washington, Pollock said his FBI file was 248 pages thick.
He said that while he worked on the campus paper, the FBI field office in Washington printed and distributed another paper called ″The Rational Observer″ that suggested those critical of the war were unpatriotic.
The Justice Department made the payment earlier this month, but the plaintiffs waited until Monday to divide it, so they could celebrate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Among those getting money was the widow of a former District of Columbia council member who led blacks in the fight for civil rights.
Tina Hobson, 57, who is white, said after she married Julius Hobson, who was black, in 1969 the couple was harassed by the FBI which was trying to drive a wedge between the white peace activists and the black civil rights leaders.
″We represented what they were trying to stop,″ she said of her marriage. ″This money will go to our children. There was so much hostility during that period and it was the children who suffered.″
Mrs. Hobson said she had two teen-age sons from a previous marriage while Hobson had a teen-age daughter and son.
Cointelpro was a counterintelligence operation set up to disrupt anti-war and civil rights groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Its activities were discovered in the early 1970s by a special Senate committee which also investigated domestic spying by the CIA. The late Sen. Frank Church headed the committee.
The revelations led to reforms in the use of informants, undercover operations and physical and electronic surveillance, and a sharp cutback in the number of domestic internal security investigations by the FBI.
The 1981 trial of the lawsuit filed by those sharing the award Monday was the first jury verdict finding FBI agents personally liable for damages to civil rights and Vietnam War peace activists as the result of FBI surveillance and disruption under Cointelpro, said Dan Schember, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The Washington Peace Center, an anti-war organization established in 1963, is among those sharing the money. David Hostetter, coordinator of the center, said the group was broken into several times and photographs were made, though nothing was ever stolen.
Another peace activist sharing the award is Arthur Waskow, formerly associated with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, who organized campus teach-ins against the war and was member of the New Mobilization Committee to End the War, said Ann Pilsbury, another attorney for the plaintiffs.
David Eaton, pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church, is the the fifth plaintiff getting money.