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1,000 Negroes Arrested in Birmingham

May 6, 1963 - About 1,000 Negroes were arrested today in Birmingham, Ala., as wave after wave of marchers chanted challenges to segregation. The arrest total was the highest for a single day in the five-week racial crisis in the Southern steel center. Forty percent of those arrested were juveniles. Roughly 100 policemen and firemen held a crowd of more than 2,000 Negroes in check at the 16th Street Baptist Church, the departure point for the marchers. These officials were assisted by ministers who emerged from the church to plead against violence. A Negro woman (pictured) who resisted a policeman’s attempt to force her off a sidewalk was wrestled to the pavement by five patrolmen, one of whom pinned her down with a knee on her neck. A Negro man ripped a policeman’s shirt and sought to grab his revolver. Both Negroes were carried to jail in patrol wagons. Policemen drove motorcycles down sidewalks in the vicinity of the church to clear away bystanders. Although firemen stood by with high-pressure nozzles and hoses at the ready, the order to use them never came. Dick Gregory, 35-year-old Chicago comedian, led the first group of marchers from the church. All were quickly arrested. The last wave followed Barbara Deming, a white woman, an hour later. Miss Deming, who identified herself as a writer for The Nation magazine, also was arrested. Many of the marchers carried toothbrushes in their pockets in anticipation of their arrest. Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor, in shirtsleeves with a straw hat cocked over one eye, watched the marchers, some of whom ran to the waiting patrol wagons. “Boy, if that’s religion, I don’t want any,” he remarked. “We got plenty of room in jail. If they think we ain’t, they got another think coming. We can put ‘em in any jail in Alabama.” “Freedom! Freedom!” chanted the Negro girls and boys as the school buses swept by Mr. Connor on the way to jail. “If you’d ask half of ‘em what freedom means, they couldn’t tell you,” asserted Mr. Connor.


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