Tuesday, 3 April 2018

US politician "Bull" Connor and "Attack Dogs" against blacks in 1963 Birmingham Campaign!!

"I am  more  concerned  with  the untouchables in England.  There  is  a  large  class  of  working   people  who   are  treated  as  untouchables. We have millionaires  and  capitalists  in  England  who  do  not  inter-marry  with  British  workers.  The un- touchability   problem  is  very  acute  in  England. The  English  touchable  will not probably  object  to   the shadow of  the  untouchable falling on  him or her  as  you  do  in  India...." ....George  Bernard Shaw (while on tour in India in January 1933).

The American blacks in the 1950s and 1960s faced relentless racial discrimination in the Southern US states, in particular, Alabama, Louisiana  and Texas. American civil rights leaders like Malcolm X,  James  Baldwin, F. Lou Hammer, Ella Baker, Jesse Jackson and others under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, a young Baptist Minister decided to get the equal rights for the blacks and other people not through violent demonstrations and threats, but by following non violence  as showcased by Gandhiji against the British. In the 1960s, the southern states were facing a sort of pressure-cooker like situation as the civil rights movements had gained huge popularity and more and more joined the public protests, etc as days went by.
American racist Eugene "Bull" Connor Famous Biographies
In the Southern states, the "White Lynch Mobs"  could torture and even kill blacks  without fear of the laws. The Jim crow laws were in force in these states. The blacks had no voting rights and had to sit separately on buses and trains. Even, they had to use separate eating place and toilets. Racial segregation in schools, public transport  for the non-whites, etc., besides unemployment problems for the blacks  became  serious issues  to be sorted out and the rage among the non-white population was way high. Unlike the northern states, the Southern states like Alabama, etc had separate "Racial Separation" laws that were historical in nature.  During this period, equally biased were the police force and when the Lynch Mob was on rampage in the black area, they would keep their eyes closed . So, the American blacks in the southern US states were in a precarious position, living in costant fear and intimidation. Mind you,  many white supporters did not like the state government's racial policies.

In a tumultuous situation pertaining to race relationship in the city of Birmingham, Alabama, which was once the most racially separated city in the US, one man hogged the lime light for the wrong reason.  He became an international symbol of institutional racism. Perhaps, you may put him on par with English racist Enoch Powell and Winston Churchill, well-known racist and the greatest Briton who saved the British Empire and the world from the fury of German fuhrer Hitler.  His name is Theophilus Eugene Connor (July 11, 1897 – March 10, 1973) to whom the Black race was an anathema.

Winston Churchill, British Racist. World War 2 Facts
British politician and racist. Powell in 1987 en.wikipedia.org/
"Bull" Connor, as he was nick named,  was an American politician  who was dead against the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. when he  served as an elected Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, for more than two decades, he behaved much worse than a dictator and abused his administrative power as  the Birmingham Fire Department and the Birmingham Police Department were under his  control.  He never bothered about the powers vested on chiefs of both  departments when it came to taking decision. It was quite arbitrary and ulra vires.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Birmingham campaign of 1963 decided to protest against several issues including racial separation on buses, schools, voting rights, etc. Later the famous Selma March  (5 day march in 1964) was held to secure voting rights for the blacks under Dr. King.  The campaign had other plans under the able leadership of Dr. King.  Understanding campaign's ever-gaining popularity and its impact on the American  white society, Connor enforced strict  legal racial segregation and denied civil rights to black citizens, during this period. 

Bull Connor, Alabama politicianTobyToons
Bull Connor and dog www.huffingtonpost.com/j
 'Bull' Connor, agitated as he was, with a view to protecting the supremacy of the White race and to put down the Black race,  took one daring step not taken by any civilized person before against the civil protesters.  He had the firemen  direct the high pressure water (fire) hoses  against the blacks. Not happy  with this painful torture, he had the local police set the specially trained "Attack Dogs" on the civil rights activists. The pathetic aspect is he did not spare the children and women protesters. either. The US national media was quick to show the audience what was going on in Birmingham against the blacks who demanded equal rights within the US constitution. The entire US audience was aghast  at the horrible and disgusting police brutality against the civilians.  By May 7, Connor and the police department had jailed more than 3,000 demonstrators. Later the blacks' economic boycott of businesses had a severe impact on the small business establishments and it finally led to the relaxation of racial separation regulations. 

1963 Birmingham Police Chief Eugene “Bull” ConnerPinterest
Though atrocious, what Bull Connor did to the black  civil rights activists, was a blessing in disguise. The outrage  grabbed the attention of the world media as well and accelerated the much needed  major social and legal changes in the Southern United States and contributed to passage by the United States Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending racial separation in public places and accommodations.
Ever since his entry into politics in the state of Alabama, Bull Connor  had held many important posts.  In 1936, Connor was elected to the office of Commissioner of Public Safety of Birmingham, beginning the first of two stretches that spanned a total of 26 years. His first term ended in 1952, but he was re-elected in 1956, serving up to 1963. Though a democrat, he was a sworn racist and was particular about continence of emotional issues like racial discrimination, racial separation, etc. He was one among the prominent politicians who made Birmingham become the most segregated city 
in the US.  Perhaps, it may counted as his 'star' achievement.
Birmingham civil rights demostration SlidePlayer
 He would throw his hat in the ring whenever the Birmingham's racial separation laws were violated and was particular about guarding the social order at any cost.  If senators or any politicians from other states attended the conferences held by the blacks and supported them, Connor's officers would pounce on them and arrest them. Once in 1948 when U.S. Senator from Idaho, Glen H. Taylor  wanted to speak  to the Southern Negro Youth Congress, he was arrested for violating Birmingham's racial segregation laws by Connor's officers.

Connor's brutal approach with respect to race relationship never declined, rather it reached the crescendo in 1956  when his loyal officers  raided the a meeting at the house of African-American activist, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, where three Montgomery ministers were attending. Fearing the Montgomery Bus Boycott might impact  Birmingham  he had the three ministers arrested and did not allow bail.
Shuttlesworth had led civil rights activities, despite threats.  Later, his  church was bombed twice. A racist mob attacked him, a white minister and his wife after attempting to use "white" restrooms at the local bus station, which had segregated facilities.

In 1962 the city's form of government was changed and the city of Birmingham was to be administered by a Mayor assisted by the elected council members. Since Bull Connor, with out any shame or scruples  had let the racist Klan members have a free run on the blacks activists  using extreme violence and intimidation during the Freedom Rides in 1961, a section of the society was sick with his  racial hatred. Though he was endorsed by Gov. George C. Wallace, yet another hardcore racist (in the 1970s, I believe, he twice ran for the US Presidential election on Democratic Party ticket; Wallace has the third longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history, at 16 years and four days.). He in the 1960s protested against the university of Alabama, enrolling black students.  Connor attempted to run for mayor, but lost on April 2, 1963. Between  June 1964 and Feb. 1973 he was elected twice the head of the Alabama Commission and remained in politics despite poor health.  He died in March 1973. Through out his life never had he regretted his repulsion for the black people of the southern states. His brutality against the blacks and his open collusion with the racist group KKK show him in bad light and his political leadership in the racial history of Birmingham is the darkest and dreaded one.