Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spirit of Selma reborn in N.Y.: Occupy Wall St. protests echo roots of 1965 civil rights movement

Jimmy Breslin

Sunday, October 9th 2011, 4:00 AM

Protesters hold banners while shouting slogans during a late afternoon march through downtown Los Angeles on October 3 in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City.
Frederic J. Brown/Getty
Protesters hold banners while shouting slogans during a late afternoon march through downtown Los Angeles on October 3 in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City.

First in the morning, I climb the steps out of the subway and onto lower Broadway, whose new history is starting. The outcry today is from the 99% who start this day of work against the 1% whose rich comforts include acceptable theft.

The future of today's Broadway inherits the past that suddenly is living so fully in memory. I am on Broadway, abuzz with buses and cabs and chauffeurs driving people to work. For the unemployed, the jobs are nonexistent.

The contrast comes at a time of rising emotional opposition to Wall Street. The politicians have not recognized that the gathering against the government of the rich and uncaring is only the start of a national outcry.

They all cannot see the start of a future that will make history. The crowds today at a small park on Broadway and Liberty are perhaps the most pleasant, uplifting scene that we've had around this city for so long.

They set up life in a park on Broadway and then had a march of great democratic health. The marchers, so young, were joined by what appears to be the permanent large old-time labor unions that once wanted to kill the young.

They march here because jobs go to China and houses are foreclosed on. The banks keep taking a point here, or another over there, and the public finally lets out the first scream.

The small place where all this started is Selma, Ala., the place historians call the basis for all the rallies and marches that those in New York now have recognized as the same outcry for change.

In Selma, voting once consisted of five or six blacks and more than 1,000 whites. Marches and rallies brought federal authorities to the Selma polls, and in the next election, 7,500 blacks voted and out the whites went.

The white man's most fierce anti-black sheriff, Jim Clark, ran a full attack on March 7, 1965, called "Bloody Sunday," that injured 600 civil-rights marchers in Selma. Clark was not only voted out of office, but was later found selling drugs, and his next bed was in a prison.

I now go to a notepad stored in a closet and take out this half a century later. I get pained thinking of how long I have been out on the streets in this business. But I was there in 1965, and this is something I found. This little Selma woman's past is our future:

Patricia Anne Dossiage, 10, stood in the red dirt and twitched her toes to brush away the ants crawling over her feet. She put her head between the strands of cattle wire and looked at the people walking on the road.

"I know why you marchin'," she said. "I know it good."

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