How Civil Disobedience Helps Overcome Oppression: Part 10
“The Man Who Outsmarted Dr. King”
Following the long fight of the 1961 Freedom Rides — on Nov 1, 1961, the Interstate Commerce Company (ICC) finally enforced the desegregation of interstate buses and facilities.
On that very day, SNCC members in Albany, Georgia told local Black students to go to the Albany Greyhound bus station to “test” the ruling by going to White waiting rooms. The local authorities kicked them out for trying to desegregate it.
After another bus station desegregation attempt a few weeks later — this time bringing arrests — students from Albany State College began to protest. What soon followed was the “Albany Movement”.
When he found out a movement was forming in his city, Albany’s police chief Laurie Pritchett studied Dr. King’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s “non-violence” methods. He decided on a unique counter-strategy: “Fight non-violence with non-violence”.
Pritchett knew the media was a big part of exposing the police and mob violence of non-violent Black people in the fight for justice. He didn’t want that negative attention, so he told his police force to *not* use their clubs when making arrests, and all arrests should be done with no brutality involved, even if protesters spit on them.
He also knew that Dr King (like Gandhi) wanted to fill the locals jails until they became full, which would force to city to give into the activist’s desegregation demands. To counter, Pritchett contacted cities in a 75-mile radius outside Albany and made deals with them to use their jails. If a protester got arrested, they would go to a jail outside of the city, but the jails inside of the city wouldn’t have a single protester inside.
With this plan in place, police Chief Laurie Pritchett was able to elude negative press from national media. Eventually, Dr. King got arrested himself to bring national attention, but Pritchett got “a special donor” to bail him out after just a few days (rumors say it was Rev. Billy Graham).
After the federal courts ordered Dr. King and the marchers to stop protesting (the first time that happened since the 1955 bus boycotts), Dr. King and SCLC (his organization) were forced to retreat…delivering a rare loss for the movement.
But he would recover in his next protest. Big time!
View Part 11 here.
View Part 9 here.
**About this series:
We’re showing a multi-part series on how CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE has been the main catalyst that has overcome oppression in the U.S.