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Hearing called to examine investigation of newspaper bombing

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MISSISSIPPI--At a late-May hearing organized by civil rights leaders, Jackson Advocate Publisher Charles Tisdale testified that he believes a conspiracy…

MISSISSIPPI–At a late-May hearing organized by civil rights leaders, Jackson Advocate Publisher Charles Tisdale testified that he believes a conspiracy is behind the January firebombing of his newspaper’s office.

“I believe sinister forces are at work in this community and involve members of the FBI and other agencies,” Tisdale said, according to the AP. “They are a clear and present danger to the black community.”

Tisdale calls the official investigation a “farce:” “There have been no arrests because there has been no `investigation.'”

He said that state and federal officials know the crime was racially motivated and they want to cover it up in order to protect those involved. FBI agent James Frier told the AP that Tisdale’s conspiracy theory is “totally unfounded and absolutely mistaken.”

The one-day hearing, which was organized by a task force of state and national civil rights leaders with the help of U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), was held at the state Capitol on the four-month anniversary of the fire.

More than $100,000 in damage was caused by two Molotov cocktails that were thrown through a plate glass window of the black-owned newspaper office late one night last January. The bombs gutted the newsroom but did not stop production; Advocate staff members began producing the weekly newspaper from Tisdale’s home.

The FBI said it is still conducting an investigation but so far no arrests have been made and no suspects have been named.

A week before the hearing, the AP reported that Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson sought help from the public in the investigation by announcing that rewards totaling $25,000 have been posted for information leading to arrests and convictions. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for citizens to help with this investigation,” he told the AP. “Law enforcement is not going to be able to do this alone.”

Tisdale, however, says that Johnson never made a public statement: “The local government and the FBI have done everything possible to make sure the Advocate doesn’t survive.”

Tisdale also alleges that the FBI is circulating rumors that he is responsible for the firebombing, despite the fact that U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott has issued a letter clearing Tisdale and his staff of any complicity. Tisdale said he plans to file suit over the handling of the investigation and rumors of his involvement.