Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Everyday heroes: sit-ins 50 years apart show the power of ordinary people to take action against injustice

"You don't have to be a big name to make a difference and impact change. Small things can make ripples that make a big difference"
Joan Trumpauer Mullholland

Today in a Perth court 11 Christian leaders were fined $50 each for trespass after they held a prayer vigil and sit-in at the office of the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as a protest against the plight of 1100 children imprisoned in Australia's onshore and offshore immigration detention camps.

There was some concern that the Christian leaders faced a jail sentence for their protest.

The protest in the Foreign Minister's office was followed by subsequent prayer vigils and sit-in by other Christians and Church leaders on the east coast, this time in the offices of the Immigration Minister, The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

The Christian leaders are part of a long tradition in which ordinary people use sit-ins as a form of direct action protest against injustice and domination,

This iconic photo was taken on May 28th 1963 in Jackson Mississippi and shows 3 people- 2 white people and one black woman- participating in a sit- in protest at a Woolworths lunch counter. They are surrounded by angry and aggressive white men who are pouring sugar, liquid and ketchup over the 3 protesters.

The protesters were three students- John Salter, Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody- who were protesting against racial segregation of lunch counters in Woolworths stores throughout the American south.

Initially the protesters were jeered and taunted and then doused in sugar and ketchup. They were then beaten and kicked.  

It was one of the most violent attacks on protesters involved in a sit-in the history of the civil rights movement.

The attack went on for 3 hours as the Police stood by and watched

 The Woolworths store manager eventually had to close the store and the protesters were escorted away by Police.
The story of the Woolworths sit in, the events that lead up to the protest and the fall out from it (including the murder two weeks later of civil rights leader Medger Evers) and the stories of the protesters involved are told in Mike O'Brien's book We Shall Not Be Moved.

The Jackson sit-in was one of a long line of sit-ins used during the civil rights movement to protest against racial segregation in the South during the early 1960's.

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