Here's an article that caught our attention. Exceptional. Gregory Orr remembers fifty years ago on June 14, 1965, when he marched in a protest in Jackson, Mississippi, one of fifty exceptional states.
IT was 50 years ago tomorrow, on June 14, 1965, that I was arrested in Jackson, Miss., for parading without a permit. I’d driven south alone, at 18, from my home in upstate New York, as a volunteer in the civil rights movement on break from college.
I was part of a group of some 500 men, women and children, ranging in age from 6 or 7 to 80. Those arrested were mostly black Mississippians, but also white movement volunteers like me. ..
We walked two abreast on the sidewalk, a long line headed toward the Capitol. When each pair was told to disperse by a uniformed city police officer, we either did so or were arrested and then ushered onto closed trucks — all under the eyes of reporters, all calm and as civilized as such things can be. The 30 or so of us packed into our designated truck whizzed through town with a motorcycle escort, ignoring all stoplights, heading (we assumed) to the city jail.
We were wrong. When the doors opened, we faced a gathering of Mississippi highway patrolmen, each gripping a billy club. They wore blue motorcycle cop helmets, mirrored sunglasses, badges whose identifying numbers (I’d soon see) were covered with black tape. They were grinning. We were dragged from the truck and beaten — shoved and clubbed, and kicked when we fell. After about 20 minutes, the beating stopped.
If you were a woman or a child, once your paperwork was done, you were directed to the far end of this building, but each male was pointed to a small side door and told to exit. Out again, into the glare and a new discovery: I was facing a double line of about 30 troopers, and told to walk slowly between them, hat in hands. They clubbed me from both sides. The humiliation felt worse than the actual pain of wooden club against defenseless body.
Then we entered another barn. For two hours, we were clumped in a bunch, surrounded by guards who’d periodically run toward us and swing randomly with their clubs.
Hours later, we sat on the floor in the sweltering heat, waiting for mattresses, deep into the night. Sitting in rows five feet apart, bolt upright. The officers patrolled the rows. Any slouch or effort to stretch met with a swift blow or two.
Then it happened. A patrolman stopped and loomed over a black kid next to me, who couldn’t have been older than 12. The kid was wearing a movement pin — a small, round tin thing, with one of our mottoes on it: either “Freedom Now” or “One Man One Vote,” I can’t remember.
“Swallow the thing,” he ordered again. A silent minute passed. Was the kid resisting, or was his throat so dry and clenched with terror he couldn’t swallow even if he tried? I’ll never know. By then, other officers had noticed the commotion and come over. They calmed down their comrade, who by now was shouting. They persuaded him away from his lethal insistence.
Maybe we are an exceptional country. But we are exceptional because of men like Gregory Orr and the men and women and children he marched with. It's not the exceptionalism that republican presidential candidates are preaching to Billy-Bob and Mary-Sue in the South Carolina primary. But nonetheless, we have some exceptional citizens.
See You In Court.