When citizens were heroes and cops were villains

“Go back home, you n***** lovers.”

Those were the first words Steve Marlo, now 87 and living in Marysville, heard when he arrived at the Birmingham airport in March 1965. They were spoken by a burly sheriff’s deputy and would be repeated many times by other men wearing police uniforms in the days that followed.

Seattle Times writer Nicole Brodeur recounts Marlo’s experiences. The first day of what is now known as the Selma March went down in history as “Bloody Sunday” because the cops violently attacked the peaceful marchers. Two days later James Reeb, 38, a white minister from Boston, was beaten to death by a segregationist mob. Within days, thousands of Army and National Guard troops were deployed to protect the marchers from the white mobs — and police.

“We were all scared,” Marlo told Brodeur.

A year later, when I was attending the University of Missouri, one of my fellow journalism students told me he’d gone to Selma to report on events there, and he told me that he’d never been so scared in his life. Few things are as terrifying as a mob. Especially when the mob is the police.

Hero:  Steve Marlo (Seattle Times photo)

Villains: Police thugs (Time Magazine photo)


Your Comment