Published Monday, August 27, 2001
Protesters to echo civil rights ride of '60s
BY NATALIE P. McNEAL <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forty years after the Freedom Riders exposed illegal segregation in the
South, a group of South Florida residents is organizing a "Ride Against
On Wednesday, about 50 people plan to ride a bus from Fort Lauderdale to
Miami Beach to air their concerns about racial discrimination at a hearing
of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
"It's in memory and honor of the Freedom Riders," said Elgin Jones, an
organizer. "These hearings are historic."
Organizers said they expected 200 to 300 people, including the bus riders,
to picket at the Fontainebleau Hilton in Miami Beach, where the meeting
will be held.
About two dozen civic leaders are expected to speak at the hearing.
Activist Dick Gregory and the Rev. Al Sharpton are expected to attend,
organizers say. Bobby Doctor, the regional director of the U.S. Commission
on Civil Rights, also plans to bring two members of his staff and his
Florida advisory committee.
"This meeting is designed to give the community leadership an opportunity
to air their grievances and concerns," Doctor said.
The main issues on the agenda are alleged instances of racial
discrimination in Fort Lauderdale city government and accusations of
excessive force used by police in Miami-Dade.
During the past four years, dozens of discrimination complaints have been
filed with Fort Lauderdale's equal opportunity office.
"As an employee of the city, I've suffered through the discrimination,
retaliation, harassment and the threats carried by its employees," said
Jones, a city engineering inspector who has filed a complaint with the U.S.
Justice Department. "It's escalating."
The charges of excessive force by police include the case of Alphaeus
"Duke" Dailey, a 30-year-old man with a history of criminal activity whom a
North Miami Beach police officer fatally shot in the back while he was in
Ray Fauntroy, president of the African-American National United Foundation,
which he founded two years ago, will speak at the hearing.
"We are still being denied the equal access to the economic growth in this
county," Fauntroy said of Miami-Dade. "The civil rights movement never got
But he said he did not expect the hearing to provide solutions to South
"It's what we do that's going to make the difference," Fauntroy said.
After the hearing, Doctor plans to hold meetings with the elected officials
in Broward and Miami-Dade to talk about the concerns voiced at the
hearings. If the situation does not improve, the final step could be to hit
Miami and Fort Lauderdale in the pocketbook, Doctor said.
"Ultimately, a city that's not in compliance with civil rights laws and
regulations, could conceivably lose federal funding," Doctor said.
Organizers hope the Ride Against Racism will inspire the community to
action, as the Freedom Riders did in 1961.
The Freedom Riders, a group of black and white college students, set out
from Washington to New Orleans to test a Supreme Court ruling banning
racial segregation on interstate public transportation.
At segregated bus stations, black riders attempted to use white waiting
rooms and restrooms, while whites tried to use facilities marked for
blacks. As the riders were beaten and arrested along the way, national
attention rose and hundreds joined the campaign.
While Wednesday's "Ride Against Racism" will not be as large a project, the
concerns are the same.
"It's not a renaissance, it's a reality," Jones said. "It's a reality that
we're still being oppressed."
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