Reporter: Thomas, Jim.
In this WSB newsfilm clip from June 22, 1978, demonstrators protest arrests made at Atlanta Junior College graduation ceremonies by marching in front of the State Court of Fulton County; Atlanta Junior College students protest against the denial of summer teaching contracts for five instructors at the school; and an attorney representing the graduation ceremony protestors speaks about the circumstances surrounding their arrest.
The clip, which is about sixteen minutes long, begins with several shots of a multiracial group of demonstrators greeting each other as they prepare to organize outside of the State Court of Fulton County. The group of demonstrators congregates, and a placard reads "Drop the charges against the 9 AJC student (sic)! It's right to fight the capitalist system!!! The source of all oppression!!" This is followed by a closeup shot of a student opening up a newspaper, then a shot of the facade of the State Court of Fulton County. Next, protesters continue to accumulate outside of the Fulton county courthouse; the camera then zooms in closely on a protest leaflet, legible text reads "Fight Discrimination." This is followed by more shots of protesters gathering around the courthouse facility.
Next, two African American students carrying a red, black and green Pan-African flag lead a procession of multiracial protesters in a picket in front of the State Court of Fulton County. Some demonstrators have brought their children; one woman pickets with her baby in a harness carrier, and a man carries a little girl on his shoulders. The protesters engage in chants that include "Drop the charges, and we'll go home," "Police attack, we fight back," "Police attack, the people fight back," "One, two, three, four, we ain't going to take this shit no more, five six, seven, eight,we ain't going to live in a racist state" "One, two, three, four, we ain't going to take this shit no more, five, six, seven, eight, we ain't going to live in this fascist state," and "The people united can never be defeated." There are several chants that are unclear. Some of the protesters raise their fists while chanting; some carry protest placards, legible signs include the messages "Drop the charges,"Self determination for the Afro-American nation," "Wallace-Selma Busbee-AJC no more police brutality"(directed towards Georgia governor George Busbee and Georgia state patrolmen), "Busbee call off your goons stop police brutality," "Busbee's goons equal KKK cops and Klan work hand in hand," "Black and white unite fight racism," "Wallace and Selma Busbee and AJC," and "Drop the charges against the AJC 26."
The audio drops out momentarily; next, the picketers are observed by a small group of bystanders, there is also a steady stream of pedestrian traffic continuing along the sidewalk, unperturbed by the picket line. A Georgia state patrol car is parked directly across the street from the gathering of picketers. There is a shot of an African American woman standing outside of the Fulton County parks and recreation department observing the protest, and several shots of people, including uniformed officers, looking at the demonstration from the windows in their office buildings. The number of picketers continues to grow, and the chants increase in volume as one of the protesters begins using a bullhorn. Two Georgia state patrolmen cross through the group of picketers to enter the Fulton county courthouse building, and the chant "Police attack, the people fight back" intensifies. Next, inside of the building on 160 Pryor Street, a Georgia state trooper, in silhouette, speaks to people in the building's front lobby. There are several aerial shots of the demonstration, filmed from several floors above. Next, the demonstration on the sidewalk ceases, the picketers drop their signs into a pile, and protesters enter the State Court of Fulton County building.
The clip jumps to a segment filmed at the campus of Atlanta Junior College, where another protest is taking place. Demonstrators hold up placards, those that are legible read "Fight for the rights of black and other third world students" and "Four hundred years of oppression we demand (text illegible)." Next, several young African American men, all protesters, have gathered along a paved walkway; they discuss student support of the protests. Several of the men are holding protest signs. The camera closes in on two signs, one of which is partially legible "No Moureo No Ron No Charlayn, No Jabari, No Beverly (text illegible)."
At another location on campus, three more young African American men carry placards as they walk down a paved walkway past a series of benches. One of the men shouts "Be a man" to someone off camera. The camera closes in on the shouting man, and, speaking to the camera, he says "Get back on the job." The clip breaks and cuts him off. When the clip resumes, he explains that he and other students are striking because the president of the school has not issued summer contracts to five instructors. He remarks that students support the five teachers, that the president of the school refuses to address racism at the school, and that they (the students) stand against the action taken against, in his opinion, the best instructors at the school. He is carrying a sign that reads "This time Thompson (text illegible) in the unemployment line," a reference to Atlanta Junior College president Edwin Thompson. There are several more scenes of students discussing events at the school, making protest signs, and picketing at different locations on campus; one protester carries a sign that reads "Dare to struggle dare to win."
The clip returns to the protest outside of the State Court of Fulton County, where protesters chant "Free the nine, put the state on trial." An unidentified attorney defending the students remarks to African American WSB reporter Jim Thomas that, despite having being issued a continuance, they were ready to present their case that day, with all of their witnesses subpoenaed and lawyers present. Thomas asks the attorney what the defense case will be when he returns to court; the attorney responds that the students had the right to be on the facilities of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, and that the charges of trespassing and disrupting activities on property brought by the state do not apply to the students, because they were on private, not state property. He notes that Reverend Ralph David Abernathy, pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, gave permission to Atlanta Junior College to hold commencement exercises at the church facilities. He specifies that this permission did not include giving the college, the Georgia Board of Regents or the state of Georgia complete control of the facilities. He explains that Abernathy also welcomed peaceful demonstrations, and, as agreed upon, those had been conducted in a common area on the church property. The attorney conveys Abernathy's displeasure and embarrassment caused by the state authorities' claim of possession of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church grounds, enacted so that they could invoke the authority to call in state troopers and arrest student demonstrators.
When asked by Thomas if he thought the state troopers "had any business" at the commencement exercises, the attorney responds that he did not think so, noting that the presence of the troopers in the parking lot of the church discouraged guests of the commencement services from attending, and emphasizes that it was the state troopers, not the demonstrators, that were feared. He adds that service attendees confirm that the demonstration was peaceful and not disruptive. Thomas asks the attorney about his reaction to the trial continuance; the attorney responds that he thinks "the state is confused about how to relate to this particular situation." After a break in the clip, the attorney notes that he is "pleased by the response of other attorneys" who have offered to donate their time to the case.
During the spring of 1978, Atlanta Junior College (AJC) president Edwin Thompson denied summer teaching contracts for five AJC instructors who engaged in activities protesting racial discrimination and insufficient desegregation plans at Georgia state colleges and universities. In response to this decision, student-organized demonstrations were held regularly on the AJC campus, and on the grounds of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church on June 8, 1978 during AJC graduation ceremonies. The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy, pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, had granted AJC use of the church's facilities on June 8 to house commencement exercises that were too large to be accommodated on campus; he had also granted permission for peaceful demonstration to take place on church property. The protest was held concurrently with the graduation events, and during the ceremony, nine demonstrators were arrested by Georgia state troopers. Abernathy spoke out against the arrests. Following the commencement day demonstration, another protest was held the following week at a Georgia Board of Regents meeting; seventeen protesters were arrested at this gathering. Demonstrators declared police brutality at both the West Hunter Street Baptist Church and the Board of Regents meeting protests.
On Friday, June 22, 1978, a multiracial crowd of approximately eighty-five demonstrators marched in front of the Fulton County Courthouse to protest the arrests of demonstrators supporting the AJC instructors; the use of force by state troopers in the arrests of the aforementioned demonstrators; and to attend a preliminary court hearing for the nine protesters who were arrested on the grounds of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church on June 8.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.