What the Second Amendment is for.
In response to CORE-led protests against Jonesboro’s segregated library and swimming pool, the Klan, with the aid of local police, drove a fifty-car caravan through the midst of the town’s black quarter. Soon after, twenty black men met in a union hall to discuss the organization of community defense. Among them were Kirkpatrick’s police auxiliaries and Thomas’s sentinels. In the months that followed they adopted a formal structure, a set of aims and a name—all of which flew in the face of the code of discretion and anonymity that had governed previous efforts at armed self-defense.
With CB radios and walkie-talkies, the newly formed Deacons for Defense patrolled the black community. Numbers at the nonviolent demonstrations grew rapidly. In December, the protesters succeeded in integrating the library, the first victory for the movement in Jonesboro. When the Klan set crosses ablaze in retaliation, the Deacons issued a leaflet threatening to kill anyone burning a cross in the black community, and then arranged to have the leaflets left at white homes by black domestic workers.
In early 1965 black students picketing the local high school were confronted by hostile police who called in a firetruck to hose them down. A car pulled up, four Deacons emerged and in view of the police calmly loaded their shotguns. The police ordered the firetruck to retreat. “For the first time in the twentieth century,” Hill observes, “an armed black organization had successfully used weapons to defend a lawful protest against an attack by law enforcement.” Fearing a repetition of the widely publicized violence in Selma, Alabama, the segregationist Louisiana governor intervened; town leaders were forced to accede to the black community’s demands.
— From “By Any Means Necessary,” by Mike Marqusee, The Nation, 5 July 2004.