Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #52: Unlawful Picketing

“That same day [July 16, 1964] the police had arrested 111 civil rights pickets on charges of violating the state law against picketing. This was the third so-called ‘freedom day’ held that year, and this one was made up of local Negroes and the college students who had come to Greenwood.

“About a block away from the Court House, near the Leflore Theater, someone had a raccoon in the back of a pickup truck, and it ran into the street right in the middle of one p.m. traffic. The coon was grazed by an automobile before he scrambled onto the top of a car parked at a nearby service station. The local passers-by made impromptu plans to construct a sign for the coon so that he could join the picket line, but the animal never did appear at the Court House.

“While police were attempting to get the pickets to the police bus a Negro girl jumped forward and shouted, ‘take your hands off my sister.’ She flung herself at one of the police officers and slapped him. A scuffle ensued and Louis Post, Jr., an auxiliary police officer, was bitten on the hand and another had his night stick taken away by a Negro and was hit on the head. The stick struck his helmet and he was not injured.

“On July 21, trials were held in City Court for 98 of the civil rights workers, part of the 111 arrested for unlawful picketing at the Court House. The small courtroom was hot and packed with people. City Judge Orman Kimbrough presided, and I sat there all afternoon as they called out every name. Defense attorneys failed to show up for the trial. City Prosecuting Attorney Gray Evans said notice of the time and place of the trial had been given to the defendants’ attorney. All defendants stood mute when asked how they would plead to the charge of unlawful picketing. One Negro woman said she ‘stood brute’ and several said they ‘stood mutual.’

“They were each given a $100 fine and 30 days in jail except for one white girl from Virginia and one local Negro man who were fined $100 each. No bond was set.”

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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