Montgomery Police Halt Tuesday March; Beatings Nearly Provoke Riot by Negroes

It was hard to believe that people had been on this block only the night before by possemen. Negro youngsters coming a rally at the Jackson St. Baptist Church, Tuesday morning (March 16), told the story without anger, impassively. "They rode right through the people, beating 'em with clubs. I they rode up on that porch near the corner knocked a baby from a women's arms, though I didn't see it myself." But now the wns looked green, the porches clean and whitewashed. The sun was warm, and happy came from the church--it didn't seem if there could have been a beating here. This as Montgomery, not Selma.

At 11 a.m., an hour after the meeting started, white and Negro students began to filter out of church; small groups drifted off towards Capitol building, while most of the students went in the opposite direction, towards campus of Alabama State, a Negro college, five blocks away.

The plan was simple: Those who had gone the Capitol would meet in a church two blocks from the building and sing freedom songs to attract the attention of the police . Meanwhile marchers from Alabama State would sneak up from another direction and a ring of pickets around the building police could stop them.

But the plan didn't work. At 11:15 a.m. a motorcycle policemen roared past the their white helmets shining in the sun. deafening beat of the engines suddenly the street, changing the tempo from to tension, almost fear. An onlooker gaped, God, here they come." For a few minutes police watched the line of pickets snake the Alabama campus. Then they rode off again toward the Capitol and finally grouped themselves at an intersection in the line of march, just two blocks from the immense white building.

For 15 minutes motorcycle engines growled on a corner of Decatur St. The crackle of police radios could be heard as Southern voices drawled, "Ten niggers comin' down this way, and 20 whites. Can't tell what they mean to do."

Finally the line of whites and blacks came into view. There were over 500 of them--at least half were Northern college students. Some wore yellow plastic riveters' helmets to protect their heads.

D. H. Lackey, assistant chief of police, deployed his 25 helmeted officers on the corner to halt the line and along the curb to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the street. At noon the marchers met the police. Police Captain Jones read a short announcement explaining that parading without a permit was illegal. And Willie Ricks, a SNCC staff member at the head of the line, explained that they were picketing on the sidewalk, not parading, and therefore did not need a permit. After a brief debate, the marchers simply sat down, filling a block of Decatur St. They stayed there an hour, while reporters gathered at the head of the line, interviewing Lackey and SNCC's James Forman, who was with the marches.

Shortly before 1 p.m. more students began to filter into the area, a few at a time, until the opposite side of the street was spotted with about 40 whites and Negroes.

Suddenly, the large group of marches surged forward against the police, and 30 people, led by Forman, slipped past the officers to their friends across the street. For a few tense moments demonstrators and police shoved each other at the curb, while Forman and others shouted, "C'mon, you can make it, c'mon across." But the police, holding their clubs at both ends and thrusting them against the crowd, managed to hold their lines.


Then the horsemen appeared. Sheriff Mac Sim Butler, with a cane in his hand, led the dozen riders into the intersection. At least two of the mounted men were state troopers; others were not in uniform.

The demonstrators met them with loud cheers and hysterical angry shouts of "C'mon, beat us again" and "Why don't you bring out your machine guns and kill us all?"

Within seconds, the quiet streets were filled with screams. The horses rode straight into the crowds on both sides of the street. At first the people attempted to hold their ground, but the horses trampled them and battered them against the buildings that lined the street. Lackey tried to stop it, but the Sheriff wouldn't listen.

One boy, Steven K. Kuromiya, an architectural student at the University of Pennsylvania, held his ground. Four horsemen converged on him, clubbed him to the ground, and rode over him. Curled in a fetal position, Kuromiy tried to cover his head with his arms as unmounted deputies clubbed him, and kicked him in stomach and groin. Finally they left him, as blood streamed in glistening lines across his face and formed a scarlet pool on the sidewalk.

For half a dozen blocks the horsemen chased the crowd of demonstrators. The mounted men charged into the group, flaying at people with clubs and whips. Then they singled out one or two people for special treatment, herding them like calves, banging them between the horses, and finally beating them to the ground.

Three horses converged on a middle-aged white man who was dressed in shirt and tie with his suit jacket slung over his arms. The man ducked and dodged the clubs, seeking a way out. Fear showed in his fce and he looked as if he was about to scream or cry or even bleat. The suit jacket was dropped and forgotten. Still the horses came, battering him. At last he plunged to freedom, and the laughing riders let him flee.

"Kill the bastards!" screamed posseman. "Go get that one!" another cried. A posseman in a blue denim jacket and cowboy hat yelled "Whooopee!" and lashed his horse to a gallop to catch and whip a fleeing Negro.

It was all over in ten minutes. Shoes, jackets, pools of blood, torn picket signs, plastic helmets--all these remained in the wake of the people. Grass lawns were torn up and the excited horses left dung on porches and in the streets. Now the people walked back to the Jackson St. Church. A Negro man clutched his head and moaned repeatedly while his friends helped him walk. Two white boys clutched handkerchiefs to stem the flow of blood from their faces. Two people remained behind, unconscious; the police put them in ambulances.

On Decatur St., where the beatings had begun, Lackey's policemen sat down on the grass by the curb and began to eat sandwich lunches. Other officers cleaned up. Picket signs, shoes, a braid torn from a girl's head, and other articles were carried away. Kuromiya's blood was washed into the gutter.

On Jackson St., in front of the church, the fleeing marches regrouped. Angry cries could be heard from the crowd that blocked the street. But these cries were soon drowned in the roar of motorcycle engines as Lackey's men poured in from both sides. Now the students refused to give ground to the police and dozens began to sit and lie down in the path of the cycles.