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Violence at Civil Rights “Lie-In” in Nashville

Apr. 27, 1964 - Club-swinging policemen broke up antisegregation demonstrations by Negro teenagers, including a street “lie-in” that blocked traffic, and arrested 10 of the students today in Nashville, Tenn.

About 150 students took part in Nashville’s first sizable demonstrations since May 1963, when most restaurants, hotels, theaters, and other public facilities were desegregated.

Eight adults arrested on charges of conspiring to obstruct trade were released on bond late in the day, and two juveniles were released to their parents.

Lester McKinnie, chairman of the Nashville Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, his head bloodied when he was arrested, said the students were demonstrating for more job opportunities, a local public accommodations ordinance, and complete desegregation of schools.

Most of the demonstrators were of high school age. They picketed three segregated downtown sandwich shops and blocked the entrance to one for a few minutes before the police broke up the crowd.

The arrests came at Morrison’s restaurant, about 10 blocks from the downtown area, after the students ignored police warnings to stop sitting in the streets and blocking entrances to the restaurant. Four Negroes gained entrance to the cafeteria, but the service line was closed when they reached it.

Policemen moved in with billy clubs and arrested the leaders after West End Avenue, one of Nashville’s busiest, was blocked for a second time.

The demonstrators scuffled with the police while being booked and lay on the jail floor, chanting: “This is America. Who’s going to prosecute us?”

City School Superintendent W.H. Oliver told principals of three Negro high schools to warn the adult demonstration leaders that they could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor for recruiting marchers at the schools.

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