-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth is ranked alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy as one of the nation’s civil rights leaders. He was 89 when he died on Oct. 5 in Birmingham, Alabama. Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings, and the business end of a fire hose that left him chest injuries. Shuttlesworth was often on the front lines of civil rights protests.
On Christmas night 1956, 16 sticks of dynamite exploded outside his bedroom as he slept. Shuttlesworth was unhurt. In 1957, he was beaten by a mob when he tried to enroll two of his children in an all-white school. In the spring of 1963, Shuttlesworth and fellow marchers were attacked by police dogs and fire hoses. The televised scenes horrified a nation unaware of the depth of hatred in the Deep South.
Shuttlesworth is also known for the Supreme Court case Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham (1969) which centered on a small march in Birmingham. Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor arrested the marchers and charged them with violating “an ordinance that required individuals to obtain a permit before engaging in a parade or procession on public streets.”
Reversing the conviction, Justice Potter Stewart, writing for a unanimous court, held:
A law subjecting the right of free expression in publicly owned places to the prior restraint of a license, without narrow, objective, and definite standards is unconstitutional, and a person faced with such a law may ignore it and exercise his First Amendment rights.
A couple of days before Shuttlesworth died, the right wing media went into full race-baiting mode parroting a story about how President Obama marched with a group of New Black Panther Party members during a 2007 event in Selma, Alabama. The event was to commemorate the 42nd anniversary when marchers were attacked by law enforcement at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As shown below, Obama was not marching with NBPP members but rather pushing Shuttlesworth in a wheelchair across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the event.
Due to the courage of Shuttlesworth, America is a freer nation.