Birmingham pleas for peace at “World is Watching Rally” ignored by a few

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Birmingham City Councilman John Hilliard with members of the city council. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

Earlier today, Birmingham held an emotional rally for justice and peace in response to nationwide riots and the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. The event was held at Kelly Ingram Park, site of the Children’s Crusade, a turning point in the Civil Rights movement 57 years ago.

This story was initially published about the peaceful rally on Sunday afternoon. The story is developing.

The rally, called “Birmingham, the World is Watching,” was coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

“Birmingham, the World is Watching” Rally, May 31, 2020. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

The nearly two-hour rally included foot soldiers from the 1963 Children’s Crusade, local ministers, students, representatives from a multitude of faiths, community leaders and public officials. 

Despite public pleas calling for peaceful protests by both Mayor Randall Woodfin and Senator Doug Jones, the Confederate Monument in Linn Park was vandalized around 7:30pm. The Charles Linn statue, also in Linn Park was taken down this evening by protesters. When we published this story at 10:45pm,

Here are some of the comments from the rally:

Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

“Follow the blueprint that Birmingham has established. Lift your voices. Fight forcefully. Fight peacefully. Strategize. Organize. See the world through the eyes of neighbors, even if you can’t walk in or understand their pain. Lock arms and be the support they need as we travel this walk and world together. Realize the enemy is not each other. What we fight together is injustice. This is not a time for lawlessness.” ~ Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Alabama Senator Doug Jones. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

“That’s what we’ve seen the last six days since George Floyd was killed. We’ve seen the smoldering of racism. We’ve seen the voices that are not being heard. Voices that are crying out for the same opportunities for everyone in America. The voices are going unanswered.  We face challenges folks. Dangers and fears that are not simply days old, but have existed for centuries.” ~ Alabama Senator Doug Jones

“My great grandfather was lynched about 20 minutes from here in 1892. From recent events in 2020, I cannot help but look at a modern-day lynching. It’s 2020, right. We in Birmingham, we wrote the playbook on this, our history serves as a beacon for how peaceful protest can bring about positive change.” ~ Joi Brown, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Foot Soldier Gwendolyn Webb. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

“I’m here to tell you freedom ain’t free. We paid a price. You will pay a price…..we did a peaceful protest, when dogs were after us. When men were after us with dogs and billy clubs…we can do all things through Christ.” ~Rev. Gwendolyn Webb and Foot Soldier in 1963 and the 2nd female Birmingham Police officer

Birmingham City Councilman John Hilliard. Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

“It is awesome to see a rainbow of people here.” ~ City Council member John Hilliard speaking to the crowd on behalf of the Birmingham City Council. He then described his own story of police abuse when he was a college student at Alabama State University.

“We must lift our voice! Our voice matters.” ~ Recent high school graduate of Wenonah High School, who led the crowd with the call to action – “Our voice matters!”

“We must watch over one another. We can’t fix the law by breaking the law. We are Birmingham Strong.” ~ Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church 

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This story is fast moving. We will update this story when news breaks.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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