Reporter: Whipkey, Jim.
In this WSB newsfilm clip from July 31, 1971, reporter Jim Whipkey comments on a civil rights demonstration during a summer of racial unrest in Columbus, Georgia.
Part one begins with the camera focused on an intersection where cars wait for a street light to change. Reporter Jim Whipkey begins commenting on the racial unrest in Columbus as the camera pulls back to focus on him. According to Whipkey, city officials in Columbus believe the months of racial unrest in the city may be over. Whipkey explains that unrest in the community began in earlier in the year; in May, seven African American police officers were fired for removing the United States flag from their uniforms. The climax of the conflict, Whipkey continues, came July 30, 1971, when nearly one hundred African Americans who tried to hold a march to city hall were met with "a show of force that left no doubts" and were "immediately arrested." The clip jumps to scenes from the day before. State patrolmen in helmets walk two-by-two down the street. An off-screen voice identifies himself as the director of public safety. The voice also announces he has a restraining order against the demonstration. City officials had obtained a restraining order from a local judge preventing one of the march's leaders from participating in any civil rights demonstrations. The camera then shows a line of African American demonstrators singing and clapping. The demonstrators sing "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me round." A patrolman with a helmet, face visor, and bullhorn announces that the demonstrators are under arrest and instructs the other officers to load the buses. The patrolmen begin leading African American demonstrators toward waiting buses. The arrested African Americans hold their hands in the air as they walk to the buses. White patrolmen frisk people as they get on the bus. In the background, a patrolman with a rifle guards those who are being put on the bus.
The b-roll begins with Jim Whipkey with a microphone around his neck standing in front of the county jail. Singing and clapping demonstrators are heard from the jail. Whipkey indicates that white and African American leaders were worried about more violence the night before, after the demonstrators at city hall had been arrested. However, there was no violence. Whipkey reports that the racial unrest in Columbus has been expensive. He counts that cost of feeding and housing prisoners, state patrolmen, and overtime pay for police officers as nearly two million dollars. According to Whipkey, Columbus city officials are trying to get funding help from the United States government. Whipkey comments that the ninety-one demonstrators arrested the previous day are still in jail. They have been denied bond because one of the charges against the demonstrators is contempt of court for violating the restraining order against demonstrating. He recounts that the arrested demonstrator sang and chanted most of the night and are still doing so.
Racial unrest flared in Columbus, Georgia in the spring of 1971. The Afro-American Police League, a local organization of Black police officers, filed a lawsuit against the county and began holding demonstrations at city hall after patrolman John L. Brooks was suspended from the force for failing to appear at a court hearing for a traffic case he made. Brooks alleged he had not attended the hearing because he was ill. On May 31, seven African American police officers protesting the lack of justice in the department ripped the American flag off of their uniforms. Charges of discrimination made by the police league included the segregation of patrol cars, the the department's choice to only assign African American officers to beats in African American neighborhoods, and the use of discriminatory tests and written and oral exams for employment and promotion. They also pointed to the disparity in racial representation in the department's force; less than eleven percent of the officers were African American while thirty-five percent of Columbus was African American.
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 reporter Jim Whipkey commenting on a civil rights demonstration in Columbus, Georgia, 1971 July 31, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1750, 30:49/32:40, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.