By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
Working closely with law enforcement professionals in several states, the FBI announced the arrest of former pizza delivery driver, Cesar Sayoc. Sayoc, a White American male from Aventura, Florida, has been charged with five Federal crimes, including mailing an incendiary device and threatening a former president. Sayoc was arrested at an auto parts store in the nearby city of Plantation.
Charges stem from Sayoc’s alleged construction and mailing of 14 explosive devices to prominent Democrats, CNN and others who have been vocal in their opposition to President Donald Trump, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Federal investigators confirm that Sayoc is a staunch supporter and defender of President Trump and the policies of his administration. In a statement following the arrest, Sessions described Sayoc’s crimes as “political violence or the threat of violence,” saying that such crimes are “antithetical to our vigorous system of self-government.” A nationwide manhunt for the bomber was initiated as former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed the list of those who were sent pipe bombs and other suspicious packages through the mail. Though not among Sayoc’s list of intended victims, the members of the Black Press of America have a long history of direct experience with both successful and unsuccessful attempts at political violence. In recent weeks, there has been a significant increase in the number of threats received from misguided callers claiming to be supporters of the Trump administration’s policies. National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., issued a National Alert on Friday, to more the than 220 NNPA member newspapers and media companies that make up the Black Press of America and BlackPressUSA.com. “Please be advised that NNPA’s national office has recently received several threats in the wake of our presenting the 2018 NNPA National Leadership Award to The Honorable Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) last month in Washington, DC,” Chavis revealed. Congresswoman Waters, an avid critic of the Trump administration, has been identified as one of 14 packages allegedly mailed by Sayoc. NNPA National Chairman Dorothy Leavell emphasized, “I am deeply disturbed by the recent bomb threats that have been sent to many of our national leaders and now includes The Black Press of America. Our freedoms and peace of mind that we have enjoyed for so long seem to now be threatened and, if it continues, will be a thing of the past.” “What is most troubling is that the highest national leader, the President of the United States, has not addressed this growing problem or provided any leadership in unifying our country in the manner that we have been accustomed to by past presidents.” Police intercepted packages similar to those mailed to Obama and the Clintons addressed to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), billionaire Democratic Donor George Soros and actor and well-known Trump critic Robert DeNiro, among others. Court records show that the 56-year old Sayoc has a long history of arrests, including charges for theft, stolen property and traffic charges and, in 2002, with threatening to “throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device.” According to the arrest record obtained by ABC News dated Aug. 20, 2002, Sayoc called Florida Power & Light and “threatened to blow up FPL,” saying “that ‘it would be worse than September 11th.’” Ronald Lowy, an attorney representing the Florida Power & Light employee who received the threat, told The Associated Press that Sayoc, “made a verbal threat when he was frustrated at a lack of service.” Sayoc, whose vehicle reportedly had photos of Trump on it and other pro-Republican banners and fliers, didn’t give a comment publicly. Many in the media, as well as many leading Democrats and some Republicans, have cited the administration’s failure to publicly denounce both the threats and acts of violence that have been committed against the President’s detractors. They point to the President’s willingness to condone physical attacks against members of the media as one example and fear that such language is a call to arms for some of his supporters. Last month, avid Trump supporter and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, blasted the NNPA on Twitter for presenting Congresswoman Maxine Waters with the Association’s National Leadership Award. Gov. Huckabee’s comments were echoed by thousands of others from his Twitter base of 1 million followers. “Memo to media: If you wonder why so many Americans don’t trust you, this might be a clue,” Huckabee Tweeted in response to a Tweet from RedState.com. “Did you give Maxine Waters her award because she called for public harassment of Republicans?” Huckabee, whose daughter is White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not return several requests from the NNPA’s BlackPressUSA.com for further comment, including an invitation to contribute an Op-Ed. The “slippery slope” that exists between the free expression of contrasting political views, lawful protests and aggressive but legal action and a “call to arms to protect our freedoms” takes on a completely different meaning in the context and memories of people that have endured centuries of violent persecution. Jan-Michelle Kearney, the publisher of the Cincinnati Herald recalled when that NNPA member newspaper was firebombed in 1994. At that time, the Porter Publishing Company owned the paper and Marjorie Parham, a former NNPA treasurer, was publisher. Kearney stated that the bomber of the newspaper was never caught or identified. “Fortunately, the incident happened when the office was closed so even though there was extensive property damage, including the burning of many historical photos, no one was hurt,” Kearney said. “Mrs. Parham continued to move forward fearlessly, and she made sure that The Cincinnati Herald hit newsstands on schedule.” “During the past 191 years, the Black Press of America has had to keep publishing even in the face of lynching, fire bombings and dynamite,” Chavis said, noting that the NNPA also is comprised of many well-known freedom fighters, some who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle. “The point here is that given the increasing daily threats to the free press from the White House, and the sending of packages containing explosives and bombs to former U.S. presidents, other government officials, current members of the U.S. Congress, the press and media companies, we are alerting and encouraging each of you to be more careful and vigilant in your daily operations with respect to receiving packages and parcels at your offices,” Chavis said in his alarm to publishers and NNPA personnel. NNPA National Chairman Dorothy Leavell emphasized, “I am deeply disturbed by the recent bomb threats that have been sent to many of our national leaders and now includes The Black Press of America. Our freedoms and peace of mind that we have enjoyed for so long seems to now be threatened and if it continues will be a thing of the past.” “What is most troubling is that the highest national leader, the President of the United States, has not addressed this growing problem or provided any leadership in unifying our country in the manner that we have been accustomed to by past presidents.” Leavell, who publishes the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Indiana, continued: “His harsh rhetoric, name-calling and outrageous behavior gives comfort to those who have deep seated racial prejudices and ideologies that should not be prevalent today. To threaten our national association because of our identified leaders and those we admire and salute is truly a new low. “Above all, the Black Press of America will stand vigilant as we have for 191 years in opposition to this most dangerous precedent being set. However, it is my belief that this is another diversionary tactic of the President to take our attention away from the most dangerous actions he and his allies have obviously engaged in that threaten our constitutional rights.” NNPA Board Member and Westside Gazette Publisher Bobby R. Henry, said he’s ready to continue fighting for freedom, justice and equality. “This type of action perpetrated against black folk was carried out to the fullest and is not new. Now, it’s being used as a scare tactic and what this is doing, however, is motivating them who have become complacent,” Henry said. “Those of us who are deeply-rooted, shall not be moved,” Henry continued. Chavis noted that that “These are trying times, yet we have always lived through and overcome numerous trials and tribulations throughout our long constant struggle for freedom, equal justice and empowerment. “The Black Press will not be intimidated by threats or acts of violence. We will be careful, but we are determined to continue to be the audacious voice of Black America,” Chavis said. “The Midterm Elections are just a few days away and we will continue to mobilize a historic massive Black voter turnout on November 6, 2018 across the nation.”