Passing through Memphis on his mission to return displaced residents of New Orleans via bus to reconstruction opportunities in their hurricane-ravaged home city, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said native Memphians were welcome to join the 200 or so “citizens, not refugees” on that pilgrimage. “There are more opportunities than there are dispossessed people. Local citizens who want to go, who want a job, should go,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. La Simba Gray, a local liaison with Jackson’s relocation effort, said that some “47 to 50” people were prepared to leave with Rev. Jackson’s hastily organized caravan on Tuesday.

The former presidential candidate and veteran of numerous civil-rights campaigns was scornful of the Bush administration’s reconstruction efforts in the hurricane-ravaged areas, saying their policies had been designed on “states’ rights’ terms,” from “the top down” rather than “from the bottom up,” with an eye toward rewarding large firms like Halliburton rather than bailing out “persons in pain, be they white, black, or brown.”

Nevertheless, Jackson said, there were numerous opportunities for employment as reconstruction efforts get under way, and “We intend to get workers back to that market.”

During and after a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum, Jackson also echoed suspicions raised of late, notably by Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, that purposeful damage may have been wreaked on one of the retaining walls that, when breached, caused catastrophic flooding in low-lying, mainly impoverished portions of New Orleans.

Recalling a similar breach during a tropical storm in September 1965, when a wall was ruptured by a barge, Jackson said, “The residents there are quite clear. There was a great flood, they feel, to stop water from going downtown….The barge is still there, the barge that hit the retaining wall.” Jackson cautioned, “I cannot say it was intentional,” but stressed that the barge “shouldn’t have been there.”

While at the museum, Jackson made a point of returning to the second-story balcony outside room 306, where Dr. Martin Luther King, staying at what was then the Lorraine Motel, was gunned down in April 1968. Jackson had been among those with Dr. King on that day.

He commented afterward, “The thing that struck me –I’ll never forget it – about the news media. I recall their giving out his room number.” Jackson said that if "the crucifixion" had occurred in Memphis, so had much of "the resurrection," through the efforts of those local citizens, like the Rev. Billy Kyles and the Rev. La Simba Gray, who had worked to advance the cause of civil and economic justice since then.

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