Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Selma, Pittsburgh Freedom Has More Bridges to Cross

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Selma, Pittsburgh Freedom Has More Bridges to Cross

Article excerpt

March 7, 1965 will always be remembered as "Bloody Sunday," the day that civil-rights marchers were attacked by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. We now approach the 50th anniversary of the Selma march as a Hollywood production plays in theaters to commemorate the event.

Pittsburgh also has a bridge that played a role in the civil- rights movement.

The Manchester Bridge no longer spans the Allegheny River, and the stadium that was the focus of the march there has been replaced. But in 1969, the Black Coalition, led by attorney Byrd Brown and Nate Smith, a black member of the operating engineers union, led protesters onto the bridge seeking jobs for blacks in the construction of Three Rivers Stadium.

Thousands had gathered Downtown, and the marchers were about three-quarters of the way across the bridge when Pittsburgh police officers wearing riot gear charged from the North Side into the crowd. Those at the front were sprayed with Mace and beaten, then the police plowed ahead with batons swinging. Those toward the back were able to retreat safely into Downtown.

One hundred-fifty-one people were arrested on the bridge for disorderly conduct and other misdemeanors, such as resisting arrest. Seven of us (six black and one white) were charged with inciting a riot, with bail set at $20,000 each. I was 20 years old, and that was a great deal of money in 1969.

The Manchester Bridge was not my first arrest nor would it be my last. For those of us involved in the civil-rights movement, we look back at how far we have come. We have a black president, clearly a measure of great progress, but the recent spate of police killings of black men - and a boy - demonstrates how much further there is to go.

It is important to remember what each march was about. …

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