For the last few weeks, House Bill 445, the so-called “anti-riot bill,” has drawn the ire of Democrats in the state because of its absurdly broad language that would inevitably leave peaceful protesters arrested and facing felony charges. But for Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, it’s personal.
Moore appeared on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast to discuss her passionate opposition to the bill and her history in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning when she marched in the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham in 1963.
“Bull Connor turned the hoses on us. They had the dogs out there. I’ll never forget those dogs — they all had the same name and it started with N,” Moore said. “But their goal then was to arrest as many people as possible, put them in jail and they’d lose their jobs and be unable to protest again. That was the plan.
“This (anti-riot) bill is very similar.”
HB445, sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, a retired police captain in Birmingham, would essentially make blocking traffic a crime equitable to domestic violence, and would result in up to a 48-hour jail stay. A conviction could prevent someone from owning a firearm.
“It’s plain to see what they’re doing — they want to charge people with serious crimes for protesting peacefully because they don’t like what they’re protesting,” Moore said. “It’s a real shame we’re back to this.”
Moore also spoke at length about the experience of marching in the Children’s Crusade as a 13-year-old and being in the 16th Street Baptist Church when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked the children to participate.
“We were all seated in the balcony because the children sat in the back in those days,” Moore said. “And Dr. King asked all of the parents to take a step back and allow the children to come forward. And he talked about how he needed us, and he drilled into us what we needed to do and how we couldn’t take these things personal and let them stay with us. He wanted us to be peaceful — that’s the only way it would work.”
The children marched into a police line that day, and Connor used fire hoses and dogs on them. The police rounded up dozens of minors and took them to jail. The photos and video of the violent attack by police were some of the most shocking and revolting of the Civil Rights Movement.
Moore’s interview can be heard in its entirety by listening at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can hear the episode by subscribing to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.