In this WSB newsfilm clip from December 10, 1961 police chief Laurie Pritchett speaks to reporters following the arrest of Freedom Riders in Albany, Georgia.
The clip begins with a reporter introducing chief Pritchett and asking him to explain what happened when the Freedom Riders arrived in Albany the day before. Chief Pritchett begins by explaining that the police department had learned about the Freedom Ride through the Southwest Georgian, the local African American weekly newspaper as well as through the local office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Pritchett reports that while the train station is usually quiet on Sunday afternoons, on the day the Freedom Riders arrived, a crowd started gathering around the train station about three p.m. Policemen were stationed around the station both in uniforms and in plain clothes. According to Pritchett, after the interracial group of nine riders arrived at the train station they moved into the waiting room. Pritchett then ordered the police officers to block off the doors to protect the Freedom Riders. He then says that he asked the Freedom Riders if they were planning to stay in town or move on. When the Freedom Riders said they were going to stay in town, Pritchett says he asked them to "proceed on to where they were going to avoid causing trouble." Pritchett explains that the Freedom Riders left the waiting room and were greeted outside by a large group of African Americans who blocked the street. Pritchett indicates that he had the policemen protect the Freedom Riders and that he asked them to leave the street and go on their way.
In portions of the interview not recorded in this clip, Pritchett states that he ordered the riders arrested as a last resort after deciding that things with the waiting crowd "could get out of hand at any time." After their arrest, the Freedom Riders were brought to police headquarters in a paddy wagon. Albany's traffic division officers restored normal traffic flow within fifteen to twenty minutes after the arrest.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized the December 10 ride from Atlanta to Albany with four black and four white riders and a white observer, Casey Hayden, who monitored the group's interactions with the police and others. Black riders were SNCC executive secretary James Forman, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) member Bernard Lee, SNCC office manager Norma Collins, and recent Atlanta University graduate, Lenora Taitt. White riders included Danish journalist Per Laursen, and three more SNCC members: Bob Zellner, Joan Browning, and Tom Hayden. A group of local African Americans had gathered to meet the riders at the train station, but only reporter A. C. Searles, SNCC member Charles Jones, and former Albany State College student Bertha Gober were allowed in the station. Freedom ride participants attempted to use the white waiting room; they were asked to leave by the police. Shortly after moving outside, all eight freedom riders were arrested, as were Jones, Gober, and another student from Albany State College, Willa Mae Henderson. All were charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of the flow of traffic, and failure to obey an officer.
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.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of police chief Laurie Pritchett speaking to reporters about the arrest of Freedom Riders in Albany, Georgia, 1961 December 10, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1056, 55:29/59:53, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.