Friday, December 10, 2010

Civil Rights Activists

Throughout the civil rights movements, many black activists have been arrested and charged with miscellaneous crimes during their protests and sit-ins. Although most people currently now disagree with the manner in which law enforcement treated these situations, many African-Americans who were subject to this treatment still have not been exonerated of their crimes and to this day do not have clean legal records. Recently in Tallahassee, Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist and his cabinet formally asked law enforcement to expunge the records of a group of protesters arrested throughout their movement during the 1960’s. The St. Petersburg Times stated, “aging marchers, who called themselves the ‘Freedom Fighters’, recalled being spat on and assaulted with water hoses, cattle prods and police dogs for trying to integrate America's oldest city in 1963 and 1964 with the aid of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was invited in to lead the protest, which was timed to coincide with the rigidly segregated city's 400th anniversary celebration.” These arrests did not serve solely as a disrespectful inconvenience but also affected these individuals in the long run. The St. Petersburg Times also stated, “Some said the arrests blocked their efforts to find work, or made them afraid to apply for jobs, mistakenly thinking they had felony convictions.” Although very progressive, Florida is not alone in this idea. Memphis recently honored 30 civil rights activists for their efforts by expunging their records.

This situation also leads one to question whether the time has come for America to address this issue nationwide. Also, with the first African-American president in the history of the United States, this situation begs the public the ask themselves if American culture has made it to the point where the government and the people can understand its faults and are willing to correct them honorably. In my opinion, I think it is wrong for protesters similar to the ones in Florida to be plagued with a criminal record for a cause that has widely been regarded as a revolutionary cultural renaissance and movement. Although I do not feel that any restitution should be given, I do think that this situation should be addressed for with regards to other “criminal” protesters nationally.

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