3000 CRCC Marchers Defy Ordinance, Commemorate 1954 Integration Ruling
An enthusiastic crowd ranging in age from two to 60 spent a sunny Sunday afternoon celebrating the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1954 desegregation decision.
Organized by the Civil Rights Coordinating Committee and almost prevented from marching by Cambridge Police Chief Daniel J. Brennan, over 300 demonstrators walked from the Cambridge Common to the Central Square post office. They mailed letters and postcards to President Johnson, asking that he provide federal protection for student civil rights workers in Mississippi this summer.
Though City Solicitor Richard D. Gerould '24 finally decided not to advise Brennan to give the group a parade permit, which a Cambridge ordinance requires, CRCC decided after a Friday meeting with city officials and legal advisers to go ahead with its plans. The city apparently ignored the ordinance.
The marchers kept their promise to be orderly and walked double file on the sidewalk, singing "We Shall Overcome" and "We Shall Not Be Moved" all the way to the post office. CRCC had described their route to the Cambridge Police ahead of time, and it was dotted with policemen, in and out of their cars.
An officer in charge commented afterwards that "if the rest of the country had as little trouble, we'd be all right." The only problem came when an intoxicated spectator snatched the marchers' 48-star flag and demanded "a dollar if you want to pass." But there were plenty of law enforcement officers to handle him.
A teenage Negro girl at Western Ave. and Howard St., when she saw the crowd approaching, shouted to her friends, "A parade, a parade. Why aren't they in the street?" When policemen explained to them what was happening, one protested, "I wouldn't send a letter to President Johnson. I don't like him."
A post office employee came out with two huge mail bags and waited as demonstration leaders held the mailbox open for the letters to the President. An elderly woman stepped out of line and wrote a postcard as her friend dictated from hers: "Dear President Johnson, Support federal force in Mississippi. Congratulations on your stand thus far."
Before the march CRCC held a rally in the Common, attended by a disappointingly small crowd of about 250. Thomas Pettigrew, associate professor of Social Relations and honorary chairman of the march (introduced as "the Harvard civil rights professor"), attacked the "delay and deceit" in enforcing the 1954 Court decision.
Howard Zinn, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee adviser and former teacher at Spelman College, a Southern Negro school, pleaded, "all we're asking is that the most powerful government on earth give protection on its own territory to its own people."