In this WSB newsfilm clip from Monday, June 21, 1971, U.S. representative from Georgia Jack Brinkley blames civil rights activist Hosea Williams for inciting civil unrest that ensued after a protest march in Columbus on June 19th, 1971.
The clip begins with Representative Brinkley calling the participation of non-local civil rights activists "wrong," stating his objections to black or white community members engaging nonlocal residents as part of a protest strategy. Describing Columbus as a place where people were "getting along," he asserts that it is wrong for someone to "come out and create and precipitate trouble." A reporter asks Brinkley if he is "putting the finger" on Williams as the reason for the "weekend trouble in Columbus;" the official then acknowledges that he "very specifically" implicates Hosea Williams as the cause of trouble, and refers to Williams as "chief racist of them all." The reporter follows up by asking Brinkley if he thinks that laws should be enacted to prevent non-local activists from entering a community and "inflaming" it; he responds by stating that he thinks that there is already a "good" federal law in place that "deals with people who cross state lines in order to inspire riots," presumably referring to the federal anti-riot act of 1968. Brinkley says he is unsure where Hosea Williams is from, guesses that he is from Atlanta, then adds "but he travels all across the United States." He expresses hope that Williams' recent activity in Columbus could be "looked into." The clip ends.
Violence broke out in Columbus, Georgia during the spring and summer of 1971 following a series of racially motivated suspensions and firings in the Columbus police department. On Saturday, June 19, 1971, Hosea Williams, regional vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), helped organize a protest march in support of demands made in a class-action lawsuit against the city, and to protest the city's failure to address grievances of the Afro-American Police League. The lawsuit's plaintiffs sought to eliminate longstanding discriminatory practices in the department, and to reinstate officers who had protested against said practices. Although the protest march was peaceful, racial tensions were high in Columbus, and violence escalated dramatically after the demonstration. Rioting reached a height on June 21, 1971, when a white officer, L. A. Jacks, shot and killed a twenty-year old African American youth named Willie J. Osborne after an alleged armed robbery. Riots, arson attacks, police violence, and further protests impacted the city for several months, prompting the Columbus City Council to invoke an emergency ordinance, and Columbus mayor J. R. Allen to declare a state of emergency. Williams, a prominent figure who demanded accountability from white officials in a vigorous and sustained manner, was vilified as an outside agitator and a racist by politicians who sought a swift return to the status quo.
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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.