The Chattanooga violence

Once again, violence by urban blacks -- this time in Chattanooga, Tenn. -- signals simmering discontent that needs only a spark to ignite it. The spark on this occasion was the acquittal July 22 by an all-white jury of two admitted members of the Ku Klux Klan for the shooting and wounding of four black women in Chattanooga.

The Klansmen were charged with assault with intent to kill. A third man was convicted of a lesser charge.

The US Department of Justice has ordered an investigation by the FBI into possible violation of the civil rights of the victims.

But the trial result was only "the straw that broke the camel's back," says George Key, president of the Chattanooga branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Poor living conditions in public housing projects in black neighborhoods loom large as a major, simmering cause of discontent, he told the Monitor.

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