Interview with James Bevel

OK, now somebody's speaking in from the kitchen. John, is that in your shot? OK, I have seen a photograph of you, Reverend Bevel where you were using a policeman's bull horn to talk to some children because I think they started to misbehave one day, I think—wonder if you could tell us that story.


Yeah, that was the time I was referring to. That we were coming off a demonstration and the police was using, was driving the students back with water and dogs, and when we got back to the church a lot of their dogs had come out of the community was watching. Now the students was being playful and jovial and mocking the police, but the adults upon seeing a lot of the students knocked down by the water, and the clothes torn off by dogs began to organize their guns and knives and bricks. And what I did, actually was tell the students that they had to respect police officers, and that their job was to help police, and that to keep order. And that the police was there to keep order and that the people who was there probably throwing was probably paid as instigators, and therefore we had to watch them. And it was like, it was very effective. It started all the students to pointing at adults who had rocks and knives and guns, and then the adults had to start dropping them, and because it would've started a riot, and a riot would've gotten off the issue. And I think the students was very aware of that, and the adults weren't aware of that. So what we did, we got the adults that day say, maybe nearly a thousand to go into the church, to go through the reasons why you don't use violence. And the fact that we were in control and that we were gaining because we were not using violence because the issues were being made clear. But that, that was like one of the spectacular events that you got this policeman with a bull horn not knowing what to do with it and I said, "Well, where's Bull Connor?" And it was like, he said, "Well." He started looking for him, I said, "Well let me use your bull horn." So he just gave it to me, so when I took the bull horn I said, "OK, get off the streets now. We're not going to have violence. If you're not going to respect policeman, you're not going to be in the movement," and you know, it's strange I guess for them. I'm with the police talking through the bull horn and giving orders and everybody was obeying the orders. It was like, it was wow. But what was at stake was the possibility of a riot and that, once in a movement, once a riot break out, you have to stop, takes you four, five more days to get re-established, and I was trying to avoid that kind of situation.**