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In order to obtain a preliminary injunction the plaintiffs must prove that: (1) they have a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits; (2) there exists a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted; (3) the threatened injury to plaintiffs outweighs the threatened harm the injunction may cause the defendant; and (4) granting the injunction will not disserve the public interest.
On or about January 24, 1981, defendant Fisher was introduced to defendant Louis Beam, Grand Dragon in the State of Texas of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (hereinafter KKK or Klan), by defendant James Stanfield a member of the Original Ku Klux Klan of America. The admitted purpose for this introduction was for defendant Fisher to secure support of Louis Beam and the Klan in order to further the purposes of a group of American fishermen who were ostensibly concerned about "over fishing" in the Kemah-Seabrook area of Texas. This meeting resulted in a rally that was held on February 14, 1981 on the property of defendant Joseph Collins that is located in Santa Fe, Texas. Defendant Fisher testified that he contacted defendant Beam to speak at the rally. Defendant Beam brought with him to the rally approximately 13 men who he refers to as his "security force" who were dressed in military garb and he gave a speech at that rally. He stated in substance that he would give the government 90 days to rectify the situation, (referring to the presence of the Vietnamese fishermen in the Kemah-Seabrook area) and if that was not accomplished the Klan would take action stating it "may become necessary to take laws into our own hands." At that same rally, Beam demonstrated how to burn a boat. On March 15, 1981, a "boat ride" was held in the waters surrounding the Kemah-Seabrook area. The boat was owned by defendant Joseph Collins and was navigated by defendant David Collins. The boat was the shrimping boat used by defendant Joseph Collins in his business. Defendant David Collins tried to say that it was a spontaneous event, but a witness from Seabrook testified that he had heard about the impending boat ride a day or a week before it took place. Several persons who were on that shrimp boat on March 15, 1981 wore robes of the KKK, some also wore hoods and most were visibly armed. The boat was equipped with a small cannon and a figure hung in effigy. Defendant Stanfield was present on the boat and wore a Klan robe and hood. Other persons who through testimony were clearly identified as being members of the Klan were also on the boat. Defendant Beam testified that he was informed of this boat ride shortly before it occurred and gave his approval to a member of the Klan to wear robes and bear arms, but admonished the members to refrain from any violence. Defendant Fisher, however, testified that he considered being armed a threat of violence. Other persons who viewed, participated in or heard of this boat ride acknowledged that this display would be fearful and intimidating to Vietnamese fishermen. Joanne Oliphant-Curren, a reporter who was invited by David Collins to join them in the boat ride, reported that "Collins steered the boat out into the bay well past the mile marker and the Klansmen fired their small cannon” which made her “nearly deaf for a few moments.” Members of the class of plaintiffs testified that they were terrified of the Klansmen, the weapons that they carried, and the hanging effigy. Chief Kerber of the Police of the City of Seabrook testified further that the tension between Vietnamese and American fishermen did not stem solely from fishing conflicts. According to Chief Kerber, some American fishermen believe there are just too many Vietnamese people in Kemah-Seabrook and therefore these individuals will only be satisfied when some of the Vietnamese leave the area. The record was also replete with provocative statements made by various defendants in this action, such as threatening burning the Vietnamese boats and sending threats to people who extend help towards the Vietnamese fishermen. Thus, the association of Vietnamese Fishermen as well as individual Vietnamese fishermen filed a class action alleging violations of several civil rights statutes, as well as the common law torts of assault, trespass to personal property, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual relations. The plaintiffs seek a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the defendants generally from engaging in any activity, including unlawful acts of violence or intimidation, conducted for the purpose of interfering with the rights of the Vietnamese fishermen prior to and during the shrimping season, which begins on May 15, 1981.
Should the plaintiff class’s prayer for injunction be granted?
The defendants, Eugene Fisher, Louis Beam, and David Collins have admitted making statements which this Court considers to be intimidating. These uncontroverted provocative statements, coupled with such overt acts as the burning of a shrimp boat and cross at the February 14, 1981 rally, the March, 1981 "boat ride", other cross burnings, the burning of Vietnamese owned and/or operated shrimp boats, and pointing pistols at members of the plaintiff class and/or their family members convince this Court that the predictable and intended result of the defendants' actions was to interfere with the rights of the plaintiff class. Moreover, as previously noted, the statements themselves constitute intimidation and have a substantial possibility of inciting others to engage in acts of violence and intimidation directed at the Vietnamese fishermen.Upon consideration of all the evidence adduced at the hearing, the Court found that the plaintiffs have met their burden of proving a substantial likelihood of success on the merits with respect to the following causes of action: 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(3) and 1986 [civil rights violations]; 15 U.S.C. § 1 [Sherman Anti-Trust Act]; and the Texas common law tort of tortious interference with contractual relationships. The Court also found that there was an existence of a substantial threat that the plaintiff class will suffer an irreparable injury, if the injunction is not granted. Moreover, the threatened injury to the plaintiff class outweighs the threatened harm that the injunction will cause the defendants, and the granting of the injunction will not disserve the public interest. It is well established that victims of discrimination suffer an irreparable injury regardless of actual pecuniary damage. Moreover, here the very ability of the plaintiff class to earn a living is being severely jeopardized by the defendants' alleged unlawful actions. Clearly it is in the public interest to enjoin self help tactics of threats of violence and intimidation and permit individuals to pursue their chosen occupation free of racial animus.