VIETNAMESE, ETC. v. Knights of KKK

Decision Date15 July 1981
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. H-81-895.
Citation518 F. Supp. 993
PartiesVIETNAMESE FISHERMEN'S ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs, v. The KNIGHTS OF the KU KLUX KLAN, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas






Morris Dees, Montgomery, Ala., for plaintiffs.

Sam Adamo, Adamo & Cobb, Houston, Tex., for defendants.


McDONALD, District Judge.


This is an action filed on April 16, 1981 by an organization of Vietnamese Fishermen and individual Vietnamese fishermen against the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in the State of Texas, certain unknown members of the Ku Klux Klan, the American Fishermen's Coalition, various alleged members of that coalition, and several individual American fishermen alleging violations of various federal and state statutes.

Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants have violated their rights under several civil rights statutes: 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1985(c), and 1986; the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2, 15, and 26; the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962 and 1964; and the common law torts of assault, trespass to personal property, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual relations. In addition, the plaintiffs allege in their Second Amended Complaint that defendants Louis Beam and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have violated their rights under Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann., art. 5780 § 6 (Vernon). Relief by way of preliminary and permanent injunction has been requested as well as a declaratory judgment.

The plaintiffs seek a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the defendants generally from engaging in any activity, including unlawful acts of violence or intimidation, conducted for the purpose of interfering with the rights of the Vietnamese fishermen prior to and during the shrimping season, which begins on May 15, 1981.1 In particular the plaintiffs request this Court to restrain the defendants from undertaking:

(a) activities undertaken with the purpose of interfering with the rights of the plaintiff class at issue in this case;
(b) unlawful acts of violence or intimidation against the plaintiff class;
(c) engaging, or inciting others to engage in acts of boat burning, armed boat patrols, assault and battery, or threats of such conduct;
(d) maintaining or conducting or attending military or paramilitary camps and giving or receiving military or paramilitary training except from military institutions operated by the state of Texas or United States government.

The plaintiffs also request this Court to require the conspicuous posting of all Orders as the Court may issue at all meetings and meeting places of any or all of the defendants and to appoint additional United States Magistrates and deputies to prevent the violation of any Orders of this Court.

The plaintiffs' class of Vietnamese fishermen was certified by agreement of all parties on May 8, 1981. The class is defined as "all Vietnamese fishermen in the Galveston Bay, Texas area" and may be maintained under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendants' Motion to Dismiss has previously been denied by Order of this Court on May 11, 1981. The Vietnamese Fishermen's Association and the named Vietnamese plaintiffs clearly have standing to represent the plaintiff class. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 511, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2211, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975), NAACP v. FPC, 425 U.S. 662, 96 S.Ct. 1806, 48 L.Ed. 284 (1976); NAACP v. New York, 413 U.S. 345, 93 S.Ct. 2591, 37 L.Ed.2d 648 (1973). The testimony and documentary evidence received during the hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction makes it absolutely clear that the claims are justiciable.

The defendants' Motion to Disqualify this Judge was denied after a hearing on May 7, 1981. A separate Memorandum and Order has been entered regarding that motion.

The Court conducted a hearing on the plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction on May 11-14, 1981, during which both the plaintiffs and the defendants presented evidence and oral arguments. Upon the conclusion of said hearing, the Court issues the following Memorandum Opinion and Order.

It is well settled that in order to obtain a preliminary injunction the plaintiffs must prove that:

(1) they have a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits;
(2) there exists a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted;
(3) the threatened injury to plaintiffs outweighs the threatened harm the injunction may cause the defendant; and
(4) granting the injunction will not disserve the public interest.

See Spiegel v. City of Houston, 636 F.2d 997 (5th Cir. 1981); Buchanan v. United States Postal Service, 508 F.2d 259, 266 (5th Cir. 1975); Allison v. Froehlke, 470 F.2d 1123, 1126 (5th Cir. 1972). See generally Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2948. In view of these requirements, the Court will consider each of the causes of action asserted by the plaintiffs to determine whether they have met their burden.


On or about January 24, 1981, defendant Fisher was introduced to defendant Louis Beam, Grand Dragon in the State of Texas of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (hereinafter KKK or Klan), by defendant James Stanfield a member of the Original Ku Klux Klan of America. (Stanfield Depo. at 13) The admitted purpose for this introduction was for defendant Fisher to secure support of Louis Beam and the Klan in order to further the purposes of a group of American fishermen who were ostensibly concerned about "over fishing" in the Kemah-Seabrook area of Texas. Defendant Fisher considered that the Klan was an organization that had the "courage" to stand by their convictions and would provide needed publicity to draw the attention of various governmental agencies he felt had failed to address his concerns. This meeting resulted in a rally that was held on February 14, 1981 on the property of defendant Joseph Collins that is located in Santa Fe, Texas. Defendant Joseph Collins leased this property for that purpose for a $1.00 payment from Mr. Stanfield. Defendant Fisher testified that he contacted defendant Beam to speak at the rally. Defendant Beam brought with him to the rally approximately 13 men who he refers to as his "security force" who were dressed in military garb and he gave a speech at that rally. He stated in substance that he would give the government 90 days2 to rectify the situation, (referring to the presence of the Vietnamese fishermen in the Kemah-Seabrook area) and if that was not accomplished the Klan would take action stating it "may become necessary to take laws into our own hands." He admitted stating in his speech that it was necessary to "fight fight fight" and see "blood blood blood" if this country was to survive. That rally was covered extensively by the news media. At that same rally, Beam demonstrated how to burn a boat. A cross propped with the aid of a pickup truck of defendant Joseph Collins was also burned at the rally. On that evening, defendant Beam offered to train American fishermen at one of the "military camps", later referred to as "locations" during his testimony in Court.

On March 15, 1981, a "boat ride" was held in the waters surrounding the Kemah-Seabrook area. The boat was owned by defendant Joseph Collins and was navigated by defendant David Collins. The boat was the shrimping boat used by defendant Joseph Collins in his business, and by his own admission it is hardly a "pleasure craft." Defendant David Collins denies that this boat ride was planned in advance and testified that it was essentially a spontaneous event taken because it was a beautiful day. However, Mr. Emery Waite, a seafood retailer and processor in Seabrook testified that he had heard about the impending boat ride a day or perhaps a week before the boat ride actually took place. Several persons who were on that shrimp boat on March 15, 1981 wore robes of the KKK, some also wore hoods and most were visibly armed. The boat was equipped with a small cannon and a figure hung in effigy. Defendant Stanfield was present on the boat and wore a Klan robe and hood. Other persons who through testimony were clearly identified as being members of the Klan were also on the boat. Defendant Beam testified that he was informed of this boat ride shortly before it occurred and gave his approval to a member of the Klan to wear robes and bear arms, but admonished the members to refrain from any violence. Defendant Fisher, however, testified that he considered being armed a threat of violence. Other persons who viewed, participated in or heard of this boat ride acknowledged that this display would be fearful and intimidating to Vietnamese fishermen. Indeed, Joanne Oliphant-Curren, a reporter who was invited by David Collins to join them in the boat ride testified that she was "scared." By way of explanation she stated that the presence of robed, armed Klansmen on the boat might incite others to respond in a violent way and acknowledged that if she were a Vietnamese fishermen she would be afraid by such a display. Not only did she testify to this effect, but she reported the account of the boat ride in the April 22, 1981 issue of the Santa Fe Express News (Plaintiffs' Exhibit No. 38). She reported that "Collins steered the boat out into the bay well past the mile marker and the Klansmen fired their small cannon (Plaintiff's Exhibit No. 38). Everybody else had their fingers in their ears, but I was snapping pictures and the cannon blast left me nearly deaf for a few moments." The account in the newspaper further related the following: "Let's hear it...

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