Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weighs in on Ferguson protests - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weighs in on Ferguson protests

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Some people say the images coming out of Ferguson Missouri are reminiscent of civil rights protests right here in Alabama more than 50 years ago.

Dogs and hoses is what protestors had unleashed on them in 1963 in Birmingham; Today, in a town more than 500 miles from here, an eerily familiar scene.

Ahmad Ward, Head Educator at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weighed in on the discussion.

"I know that it looks similar, I understand it looks similar, but I think people are rushing to make it seem like it's the same kind of thing," said Ward.

Ward said what Ferguson is lacking is the planning that went into the Civil Rights Movement.

"Everything with the Civil Rights Movement was strategy. These things were thought about, the kids were trained. You're going to do this at this time. When you get arrested you're going to say ‘no comment,' Ward said.

"You're going to stay there for as long as it takes until they bail you out. You're not going to give your name. You're not going to give your address. You went through this intense training before you were allowed to get out there and march," Ward said.

Another big difference, people committed to the movement in the ‘60s made a non-negotiable commitment to non-violence.

And Ward says one critical thing missing in Ferguson is a leader like Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, who told non-peaceful protestors: "Whatever you're doing you're not going to help the movement this way. We need you to go home because this has to remain peaceful," said Ward.

Ward can't say if what's happening in Ferguson will be a historical moment 20-30 years from now. But if this brings about change then it could be.

"In Birmingham the law had to be changed and that's what solidified it."

Ward said what's happening in Ferguson has fueled the discussion about demilitarizing police, that's one change we could see.

But he says more importantly than anything else there has to be open dialogue about systematic discrimination. He said it's a conversation most people don't want to have.

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