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100 years ago today, Leo Frank became the only American Jew to be lynched — setting up KKK’s rebirth

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Leo Frank was murdered 100 years ago Monday in the only known lynching of an American Jew.

A group of 25 armed men broke into the Georgia State Prison in Milledgeville on Aug. 16, 1915, where they kidnapped Frank — who had been convicted on shaky evidence of murdering a teenage girl who worked at the factory he managed.

Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old who left home three years earlier to find work, was found strangled in the basement of the National Pencil Company — where she had gone on Confederate Memorial Day 1913 to pick up her paycheck.

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Frank, who was born in Texas but educated in the North, was quickly identified as a suspect and convicted despite the key witness for the prosecution — a black janitor at the factory — repeatedly changing his testimony and even admitting he made up parts of his story.

Defense attorneys also relied on prejudice to make their case, arguing that janitor John “Conley is a plain, beastly, drunken, filthy, lying n****r with a spreading nose through which probably tons of cocaine have probably been sniffed.”

But ultimately, the dynamics in the rapidly industrializing South, where workers came to resent their Northerner employers, spelled doom for Frank — who was sentenced to death.

“He was the ultimate New York Jew, living in the South, and that brought out a lot of anti-Semitism,” said Mark Moskowitz of the Anti-Defamation League. “People had pretty much convicted him before the trial even began.”

Gov. John M. Slaton later commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison after the factory foreman lost his final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1915.

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An armed mob calling itself the Knights of Mary Phagan broke into the prison and was allowed to take Frank back to Marietta, near Phagan’s hometown, and lynched him at midnight Aug. 17, 1915, before a cheering crowd in an oak grove where the city’s iconic Big Chicken now stands.

“It was a festival — almost like a Roman coliseum,” said Catherine Lewis, a history professor at Kennesaw State history professor.

The atmosphere was standard for lynchings, historians said.

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“People would show up; they would bring children to witness the lynching,” said Richard Banz, executive director of the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. “No one’s covering their face, no one’s ashamed to be a part of this. They want to be seen.”

The incident helped birth two groups fighting on opposite sides of the fight for equality.

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The Anti-Defamation League, formed just two years earlier, vaulted to national prominence speaking out against Frank’s murder. The Knights of Mary Phagan met atop Stone Mountain in the fall of 1915 and set a giant wooden cross ablaze, reforming themselves as the new Ku Klux Klan.

“Many white supremacists will actually have that etched as a tattoo on some of their bodies,” Moskowitz said. “The white supremacist movement sees Leo Frank as a win for them — even today.”

Frank was pardoned in 1986, but a Marietta rabbi has asked Gov. Nathan Deal to clear Frank’s name in the girl’s strangling.

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“How hard could it be for the governor or the Georgia House to get behind a resolution saying, ‘In the light of historical research, it is fair to assume that Leo Frank was innocent of all charges,’” said Rabbi Steven Lebow of the Temple Kol Emeth. “How hard could that be? For Leo Frank, and for all of us, justice is the day.”


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BUSTED: Trump said no one saw pandemic coming — but his own officials admitted it kept them up at night

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President Donald Trump has tried to claim that the coronavirus pandemic came out of nowhere and that his administration couldn't have possibly been better prepared for it.

However, CNN reports that past statements from his own administration's officials show that the threat of a pandemic hammering the United States was long seen as a danger that the country was not equipped to handle.

"Of course, the thing that people ask: 'What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?' Pandemic flu, of course," said Trump HHS Secretary Alex Azar nearly one year ago.

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Arkansas church vows to continue services: ‘Jesus died with COVID-19 so that you didn’t have to bear it’

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An Arkansas church intends to hold church services despite recommendations from state officials to limit gatherings as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

Awaken Church, in Jonesboro, vowed in a Facebook post to continue holding services in defiance of a Health Department directive banning gatherings of 10 or more, and after churches in other parts of the country were the source of community outbreaks, reported Newsweek.

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Trump’s path to re-election ‘smashed to splinters’ as his only achievement is swallowed up by the pandemic: report

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In a piece for Politico, Ben White writes that Donald Trump was going into November's election with only one achievement under his belt -- a healthy economy -- and now he has nothing left to run if he wants to be re-elected.

With all of the gains made in the stock market long gone due to the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices, White claims that the president's campaign strategy lies in tatters.

"The fundamental pillars of Donald Trump’s presidency — a hot economy, strong job growth and a rocking stock market — are all being smashed to splinters by the ravaging coronavirus, which has shuttered much of the nation and now officially ended a streak of 113 months of job gains dating back to the end of the Great Recession a decade ago," he wrote before noting the explosion of unemployment claims -- over ten million so far -- that has the country reeling.

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