Vietnamese Fishermen's Ass'n v. KNIGHTS, ETC.

Decision Date09 June 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. H-81-895.
Citation543 F. Supp. 198
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., David Berg, Houston, Tex., for plaintiffs.

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


McDONALD, District Judge.

I. Introduction

On April 16, 1981, an organization of Vietnamese fishermen and individual Vietnamese fishermen sued the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Louis Beam, individually and as Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for the State of Texas, James Stanfield, the American Fishermen's Coalition, Eugene K. Fisher, Joseph Collins, David Collins, and certain unknown members of the Ku Klux Klan or of the American Fishermen's Coalition for injunctive relief from violations of various rights protected by federal and state statutes and the United States Constitution. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated their rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1985(3) and 1986; the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2, Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 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 and with prospective economic advantage. In its Second Amended Complaint plaintiffs charged defendants Louis Beam and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan hereinafter Ku Klux Klan or Klan with violating their rights under Tex.Rev.Civ. Stat.Ann., art. 5780 § 6 (Vernon Supp. 1982). This suit has been certified as a class action under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; plaintiff class consists of all Vietnamese fishermen in the Galveston Bay, Texas area.

A lengthy hearing on plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction was held on May 11-14, 1981. On May 14, 1981 the Court entered an Order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' Motion. The Court granted a preliminary injunction with respect to the claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(3) and 1986; 15 U.S.C. § 1; and the Texas common law tort of interference with contractual relationships. The plaintiffs' other claims were denied at that time and deferred until the full trial on the merits. On June 8, 1981 the State of Texas was allowed to intervene in the action by Order of the Court. On July 15, 1981, the Court entered its Memorandum Opinion and Order, Vietnamese Fishermen's Association v. Knights Of The Ku Klux Klan, 518 F.Supp. 993 (S.D.Tex. 1981), in further support of its May Order. On August 13, 1981, the Court entered an Order approving the Agreement of the Parties as to a Proposed Order filed August 7, 1981 to: dismiss James Stanfield, Joseph Collins and David Collins as party defendants; convert the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction against the remaining defendants; and limit the trial on the merits to plaintiffs' and the State of Texas' request for an injunction against the Ku Klux Klan's military operations.

Plaintiffs are now before this Court on the merits of the remaining issue which the parties agree is "the military operations of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, otherwise known as the Texas Emergency Reserve." The parties agreed on September 11, 1981 to submit this issue on the testimony presented at the hearing on plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and on depositions filed with the Court. On January 12, 1982 defendants advised the Court that they "specifically waived their right to file written briefs and make oral arguments" on the merits of the issue of military operations.1 On March 3, 1982 the parties and the amicus2 presented oral arguments regarding the military operations. Subsequently, at the request of the Court, plaintiffs filed post-hearing letter briefs. Defendants declined the Court's invitation to file additional briefs.

Plaintiffs assert that injunctive relief from the military operations of defendant Ku Klux Klan and its Texas Emergency Reserve is justified and proper for two distinct reasons: first, to remedy fully the profound deprivation by defendants of plaintiffs' constitutional rights; and second, to enforce the requirements of Texas law, which proscribes conduct of the sort in which defendants have engaged. In its Vietnamese Fishermen's opinion, the Court noted that plaintiffs introduced considerable evidence indicating that defendant Louis Beam and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan operate private military training3 camps, but such evidence did not demonstrate the exact location of the camps or whether they were still in operation. The parties also did not fully explore the relationship between the group called the Texas Emergency Reserve and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Following the preliminary injunction hearing, plaintiffs conducted discovery by way of depositions directed primarily to these issues. Having considered those depositions, the memoranda and arguments advanced the Court finds that the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have operated military training camps in the State of Texas in violation of Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann., art. 5780 § 6 (Vernon Supp.1982) and that Louis Beam, individually and as the Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, directed the military operations of the Texas Emergency Reserve as an arm of the Klan.

II. Statement of Facts

The Court's Vietnamese Fishermen's opinion fully sets out the facts establishing plaintiffs' right to relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and 1985. The Court found that defendant Beam identified "the group of persons who will receive his training as the `Texas Emergency Reserve.'" 518 F.Supp. at 1004. Subsequently, defendants explicitly acknowledged in the parties' agreement that "the military operations of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" are "otherwise known as the Texas Emergency Reserve," and plaintiffs' depositions further demonstrate that Beam and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, styling themselves as the Texas Emergency Reserve, have associated as a military company or organization and have paraded in public with firearms within cities or towns of this State.


The Texas Emergency Reserve (TER) is a military operation. Plaintiffs' expert witness, Mr. Walter Thomas Wilkinson, testified at the preliminary injunction hearing that the Texas Emergency Reserve had all the elements of a military organization which he defined as "... any unit with command structure, training and discipline so as to function as a combat or combat support unit" (Wilkinson trial testimony, p. 15).4 The command structure was defined by Mr. Wilkinson as the presence of a leader who takes responsibility, and delegates responsibility to subordinates. He described discipline as the ingredient which enables a military unit to function, and he defined military training as training in the "art of war, the functions of a soldier," including combat and support roles (Wilkinson Test. 11-12).

As noted in the Court's prior opinion, the Court has viewed four hours of film which includes footage of defendant Beam instructing persons dressed in military type uniforms in the art of psychological warfare, ambush and counterambush, reconnaissance patrol and other types of military movements (Plaintiffs' Exhibit No. 35). Mr. Wilkinson considered "teaching the certain aspects of an ambush" a military operation (Wilkinson Dep. 17). The intervenor's military expert, Joe W. Haralson, who also viewed the film testified that the training depicted was:

... military in nature from all the testimony that was used, the commands, the rank structure. They all tried to be uniform in their dress. The vehicles appeared to be military. I think the whole thing was military or in my opinion it was all military in nature.

(Haralson Dep. 17-18). Beam, himself a man of extensive military experience in Viet Nam, testified that he trained persons who were currently members of the United States armed forces as well as civilians (Beam Test. 51). He asserted that "we have the best training there is" (Beam Test. 44). Mr. Wilkinson testified that after viewing the videotape he considers that Beam is training a viable military organization for combat as opposed to survival (Wilkinson Test. 15).

Neal Payne testified that the Texas Emergency Reserve has a flag with `TER' on it which it uses as an emblem of its organization. The TER flag was unveiled at a 1979 Klan convention in New Orleans and is kept at the bookstore, i.e. presumably the Klan bookstore in Pasadena (Payne Dep. 31-3). The military character of the Texas Emergency Reserve is underscored by the weaponry used by its members. Defendant Beam, describing a line up of his TER troops at a Santa Fe, Texas meeting on February 14, 1981, named the weapons carried: a riot shotgun, an AR-15 semiautomatic with a 30 round clip, a M-1, and a carbine (Beam Test. 50). Trainees receive training in rifle practice, biological and chemical warfare including the use of gas masks and techniques for avoiding snipers (Peterson Dep. 6; Place Dep. 6-7).

The Texas Emergency Reserve has trained at various locations in the State of Texas. Camp Puller, Sisente's "survival school," has been a principal military training camp for the Texas Emergency Reserve. The camp is a rural tract of land, outside Anahuac, Texas, owned in separate but adjacent parcels by Sisente, Louis Beam, Beam's brother Phillip Beam, an unidentified friend of Beam's, and Dorothy Scaife. A training session was apparently held at Camp Puller as recently as April 1981. Another training site has been Camp Winnie, near Winnie, Texas (Sisente Dep. 17). Still another training...

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