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RFK Sends Burke Marshall to Birmingham

May 5, 1963 - The Justice Department sent two high officials to Birmingham, Alabama today in an attempt to bring about a truce in the tense racial situation. The two officials are Burke Marshall (pictured), assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division, and Joseph F. Dolan, assistant deputy attorney general. Demonstrations by Negroes seeking the lowering of racial barriers continued with fierce intensity. Firemen again used fire hoses, turning them on groups of Negro spectators who disregarded police orders to disperse. When the water was turned on, rocks and broken bottles were thrown at the firemen. At the height of the disturbance, one of the demonstration’s leaders, the Rev. James Bevel, borrowed a bullhorn from the police and called on the crowds at 17th Street and 5th Avenue to leave. “Everybody get off this corner,” he said. “If you’re not going to demonstrate in a non-violent way, then leave.” His plea and the high-pressure streams of water drove the crowds from the intersection. The police then moved in and also cleared a park nearby. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Bevel called off further demonstrations today. He said he had seen several pistols and knives being carried by spectators and was afraid of more serious trouble. The demonstrations will be renewed at 9 a.m. Monday, he said.

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