PLATTSBURG, Mo. -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson, saying the nation needed more farms not arms, Monday led several hundred people in a peaceful march to protest the foreclosure sale of an elderly northwest Missouri farmer's land.
Despite a 2-hour pre-sale rally, the Kearney Trust Co. purchased the farm of Perry Wilson Sr. in an auction outside the Clinton County Courthouse, where a month ago the sale of Wilson's other farm land turned violent.
About 1,000 people, including farmers from a six-state region, union labor members, ministers and urban blacks from the Kansas City area, attended the sale and an earlier rally Monday.
'I just can't believe all this support,' Wilson, 73, said. 'I know I deserve some support 'cause I have fed a world of people in 52 years.
'And it's not bad management that put me here today. It's the Washington policy and Washington. Reagan said let's export the farmer and keep the grain. That's the most ignorant statement I've ever heard a man make.'
Looking to the racially mixed rally, Jackson, dressed in bib overalls, linked the plight of the farmers to that of poor blacks and others in the cities.
'This is a rainbow coalition for economic justice,' Jackson said. 'When a baby goes to bed supperless ... the baby doesn't cry race. The hungry cannot eat without the farmer, and the farmer cannot be saved without the hungry.
'We need more farms, not more arms. We want more grains in our silos, not more missiles in our silos.'
Jackson also talked by telephone to Gov. John Ashcroft and Kenneth Doss, president of Kearney Trust, in an attempt to stop the sale. Both said the situation was already beyond their control, Jackson said.
During the sale, a few in the crowd attempted to outbid Kearney Trust, which holds a note on the Wilson property and made the first bid of $75,000. But because no one came forward with the cash to buy the property, which includes more than 120 acres and a farm house, the bank trustee declared the auction over and sold the property to Kearney's last bid of $95,000.
Chants of 'no sale' a few times overpowered the voice of the trustee taking the bids on the property but the auction went on without incident.
About 150 law enforcement officers from the Highway Patrol, Clinton County Sheriff's Department and sheriff's officers from adjoining counties stood by during the rally and sale.
Following the sale, Jackson, flanked by Wilson and his wife, Jeanne, led hundreds of people, arm-in-arm and singing, through downtown streets of the tiny community to protest the sale and symbolize urban and rural unity.
Jackson, an unsuccessful candidate for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, spent Sunday night with the Wilsons and addressed more than 2,000 in Kansas City at the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, calling for urban blacks and farmers to unite to thwart the rising number of federal farm foreclosures.
On March 15, nearly a thousand people gathered at the same courthouse steps in an attempt to stop the scheduled sale of Wilson's 700 acres. At that protest, which involved mostly farmers, officers used billy clubs to fight off the crowd. Eight people were taken into custody but no one was injured.
That protest also failed to stop the sale of the land.