Monday, June 1, 2020

Words Reveal the Man

Bill Hudson's image of Parker High School student Walter Gadsden being attacked by dogs was published in The New York Times on May 4, 1963. (Associated Press)

It is 29 May 2020 and the President of the United States is cowering in the White House basement bunker, guarded by a bevy of Secret Service Officers. Outside the White House, more Secret Service stood guard along with D.C. Metropolitan Police Officers, and U.S. Park Police Officers. Additionally, all 1,200 D.C. National Guardsmen were waiting in readiness to defend the cowering leader of our nation, who was hiding from unarmed citizen protesters, located across the street from the White House.

Like thousands around the nation, the Lafayette Park protesters were demanding that something be done to protect Americans from unbridled police brutality, the likes of which stole George Floyd’s life from him.

Floyd was murdered a few days earlier by a Minneapolis officer while fellow officers stood by, bystanders pleading for the murderer to take his knee off Floyd’s neck, and cellphones recording it all. Floyd, pleaded for his life, desperately calling out that he could not breathe, until he had no breath at all, a full eight minutes later.

When the cellphone video of the murder surfaced on the Internet, people throughout the nation took to the streets, demanding, in effect, protection from those sworn to protect them – not murder them in cold blood.

Mr. Trump labeled them thugs and tweeted that, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” “It was the same language a Miami police chief used in 1967 when threatening violence against Black males.” Twitter veiled Trump’s message for “glorifying violence.” Still, Mr. Trump’s fingers could not resist spewing out even more violence inciting rhetoric. Protesters at the White House Friday night, he tweeted, “would have been met with the “most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” if they had managed to breach the fence.”

Now we have it, Mr. Trump, President of the United States. Your words - not one person can misunderstand - words of racial hatred and your call for mayhem and racial war.

Instantly, your call for the dogs, brought to mind a vision I have tried to hideaway for nearly 57 years. One that not only frightened me then, but the man then occupying the White House, too, along with millions of others.

I vividly remember the Birmingham police dogs ferociously tearing at a black boy. It was May then, too, 3 May 1963.

Associated Press (AP) photographer, Bill Hudson, captured the photo of Parker High School student Walter Gadsden, an innocent bystander, who had been grabbed by the sunglasses-wearing police officer, while a German Shepherd lunged and ripped at his chest.

“The photo appeared above the fold, covering three columns in the next day's issue of The New York Times, as well as in other newspapers nationwide. Author Diane McWhorter wrote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 book, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, that Hudson's photo that day drove "international opinion to the side of the civil rights revolution."

Hudson’s photo became seared into my memory. I have never forgotten it. Another person saw the photo, too. President Kennedy told a group of people at the White House that The New York Times photo made him "sick." Kennedy called the scenes "shameful".”

What you say matters, Mr. Trump, not just to me, but to millions of people around the world.

This November, I know many American voters will remember your words.

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