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The Public Gathering Prohibition â€" The Bloody Legacy of the Camilla Massacre

The murderous events of a September day in 1868 continue to punish Georgians who violate the prohibition from possessing a firearm or knife at a “Public Gatheringâ€.

In 1868, a newly elected General Assembly convened. There were 186 white legislators and 26 black legislators. They ratified the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution which granted citizenship to blacks and declared that no state was to deprive them of "life, liberty, or property." This action permitted Georgia’s readmission to the Union. Once Georgia was readmitted, the white members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate expelled the black members on the grounds that the state constitution did not recognize the right of black citizens to hold office.

Following the expulsion, violence, and intimidation increased against Blacks and their Republican supporters. On September 19, 1868, several hundred blacks and Republicans marched 30 miles from Albany, Georgia to Camilla Georgia for a political rally in support of the removed black Legislators and presidential candidate Ulysses Grant. The Mitchell County Sheriff organized a heavily armed force to intercept the marchers and prevent the Republican rally from occurring. When the marchers arrived at the courthouse square in Camilla, the white residents opened fire, killing at least thirteen of the marchers and wounding nearly forty. As the retreating and wounded marchers returned to Albany, the hostile white residents pursued them with dogs and assaulted them for several days.

The historical record is contradictory about whether the blacks were armed or not. The Bureau of Freedmen claimed that the marchers were unarmed. However, the Legislature’s “official account†claimed they were. This event has become known as the Camilla Massacre. Two years later in 1870, the General Assembly prohibited the possession of guns at “public gatheringsâ€. As defined by the Law, this prohibition would only apply to the marchers, not the Sheriff and white supremacist shooters. In addition, this law would have applied to the Civil Rights Marchers of the 1960’s. Since the Police and power establishment were all white, we can be sure the only Blacks were prosecuted under this law.
 

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The Public Gathering Language

For any one interested, here is the original language of the Public Gathering law as it was passed by the racist legislature.

Act of October 1870;

No person in said state shall be permitted or allowed to carry about his or her person any dirk, Bowie-knife, pistol or revolver, or any kind of deadly weapon, to any court of justice of any election ground or precinct, or any place of public worship, or any other public gathering in this state, except militia muster grounds.
 

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State Court Cases

Here is some more state court cases.

www.guncite.com
 

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Mike from Philly,

What timing! As you know, I used your work in presenting the history of this Jim Crow legislation to the Federalist Society. Today, I had a conversation with a legislator about the Camilla massacre and the public gathering provision that is still in Georgia law and that no other state has. It was in interesting discussion.
 

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What's interesting to me is that once you get something on the books, it tends to stay there. :cry:

Mike from Philly had a handout on the history of GA's gun laws that he handed out at the meeting at Emory. It was good reading. Is it available online on the site? It was more in-depth than his post in this thread. I'm sure some people would find it interesting... it should be put up somewhere.

First entry... 1833. Georgia enacts a law that provides, "it shall not be lawful for any free person of colour in this state, to own, use, or carry firearms of any description whatever"
 

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foshizzle said:
Mike from Philly had a handout on the history of GA's gun laws that he handed out at the meeting at Emory. It was good reading. Is it available online on the site? It was more in-depth than his post in this thread. I'm sure some people would find it interesting... it should be put up somewhere.
GCO is going to have a link soon called simply "Reading," which will have articles submitted by members and edited/reviewed by the board of directors.

:soon:

Mike has more than what you have seen so far . . . :wink:
 

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Malum Prohibitum said:
Mike has more than what you have seen so far . . . :wink:
:bowdown:

I like Mike
 

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When the procession came within three to five miles of Camilla, they were met by Mitchell County Sheriff, Mumford S. Poore, who told them that he would not allow them to enter the town with firearms
Coming into town, the group met James Johns. Johns, who was drunk at the time, ordered the band to stop playing, and when they did not, he fired his gun. Though accounts vary on the intent and direction of the shots, all agree that it was Johns who fired first, and most saw Johns fire purposefully, straight into the bandwagon. After the first shots, the other white townspeople joined in firing on the crowd. The Republicans and freedmen returned fire for less than two or three minutes before fleeing the scene into the surrounding woods. The Sheriff's men spent the rest of that day and several days following systematically pursuing the freedmen through the countryside as many as five miles from town and wounding or killing them as they tried to escape.
No whites were killed or seriously wounded.
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php
 

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whilst I acknowledge the constitutional right of every citizen to bear arms for a peaceable purpose - I must insist that when a civil officer charged with the preservation of the peace - commands or requests citizens to put away arms - on the ground, that unless they do so he must inform them, that it is the duty of every good citizen to submit to the mandate of the law officer, whether he is acting from right or wrong motives, or whether his command is strictly and technically legal or not
The strongest evidence of this, is to be found in the report of Capt. Mills, in which he states, that after the riot commenced, it ended in a few minutes, by the fleeing of the ******* who composed the mass of the meeting, having their arms were utterly useless and might just as well have been left, for all the ability it [unclear text: gave them] to maintain their constitutional rights.
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/cam045.php
 

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From the Sheriff's Affidavit:

Deponent met the crowd about one mile & a half from town, and questioned two white men who he learned to be Mr Murphy & Pierce after telling them that he was the Sheriff of the County in the following manner. "Gentlemen what does all this warlike demonstration mean in time of Peace, we are not engaged in a war with any people?"

Murphy answered it did not mean anything, that they proposed to go to Camilla to have a political meeting. Deponent replied it did mean something, and that it meant war, revolution, insurrection, or riot of some sort, and that they were responsible for the actions of those armed men, Murphy, perhaps Pierce replied they had nothing to do with those armed men that the arms were their own, & that they were in the habit of carrying them wherever they went, and that they proposed to go peaceably to Camilla and hold a political meeting. Deponent then told them that the citizens were perfectly willing for them to go there and hold their meeting peaceably and unmolested, if they would leave their arms behind . . .
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/cam012.php
 

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Nobody was ever brought to justice.

I have addressed them [the blacks of the area] counselling [counseling] peace and order, I have told them that the offenders shall be punished, and that their lives should be protected, but, I have no heart for my work. I felt no assurance that my promises would ever be fulfilled.

The Mayor addressed them, as did some citizens, but the freed people scoffed at them, would not listen to them, & I had the whole burden to bear, at this hour (midnight) all is quiet.

How long I shall have the heart to deceive these freedmen by false promises, & how long I shall be able to deceive them by such promises, I cannot say
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/cam017.php
 

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the crowd of people proceeding to Camilla, on Saturday the 19'' inst. [instant] of Sept. [September], was not an organised [organized] armed body; but exhibited the usual character of such assemblages, that is a number of freedmen of which about half had walking sticks of all sizes, the other half shot guns, as is quite usual on all such occasions, that no fixed or preconcerted purpose to disturb the peace, or preperations [preparations] to attack the Citizens of Camilla, existed or had been made by them and that the carrying of arms by [deleted text: these] those people in the larger number of instances was the result of habit, in a smaller number the result of a desire to possess the means of defense in case of attack --
that the Sheriff of Mitchell County, knowing so well the spirit of James Johns and his inebriated condition, neglected his duty grossly by not adopting in time means to prevent him from perpetrating one of his accustomed outrages, instead of leaving him remaining in the crowd with a gun, as one of his posse comitatus
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/cam006.php
 

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In about one & half miles from Camilla we were met by the Sheriff of Mitchell County, Mr Poore, and several men, who represented themselves as a delegation sent out to meet us by the citizens of Camilla, to protest against our entering the town of Camilla unless the freedmen who were following the music along the road would stack their arms (From 1/3 to ½ of these freedmen had shot guns). This protest was made under the Govonors [Governor's] proclamation forbiding [forbidding] armed organizations, I tried to convince them that this was not an armed organization, that each man who had a gun was carrying it in accordance with the right he had to do so under the constitution of the State, Capt [Captain] Pierce & myself told them positively that no order had been given these freedmen to carry their guns to Camilla, that they carried them of their own will respectively, and they knew it was a custom over the whole country with freedmen to carry their guns wherever they went.
Mr Putney told the freedmen to "scatter out" along the road, not to enter town in a body for fear of alarming the people of the place. Thus we entered town in the most perfect quiet. Upon entering, to my utter astonishment I discovered two different crowds of men arranged in such position as to "cross fire" over the public square, armed with guns.

I then, and not till then, realized that
. . .
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/cam003.php
 

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Malum Prohibitum said:
GCO is going to have a link soon called simply "Reading," which will have articles submitted by members and edited/reviewed by the board of directors.

:soon:
:applause:
 

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If one takes his time and reads carefully each of the quotes posted above, it paints quite a picture.
 

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Wow, my wife is from Camilla and I'd never heard of this. Quite a story. Sad one at that, but Mitchell County has a long history of abuses by the police.
 
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