Monday, January 19, 2009

You Have to Follow Your Conscience

by Jack Reeves

Martin Luther King Jr Day recalls the integration of Atlanta, January 1964. Led by comedian/activist Dick Gregory, we marched on Peachtree St. to Leb's Restaurant. The Ku Klux Klan confronted us.

A statement in Challenging U.S. Apartheid describes why I, a theology school student, was there: "...student activists recognized that it was necessary to confront the force of custom supporting segregation with the force of protest affirming rights."

I recollect through the window the surreal motion of police, pedestrians, media, the KKK.

Dick Gregory peeked under a Klansman's hood, "Is dat you, Lawd?"

He was not amused; Gregory was arrested.

I compare this to 45 years later. I sued New Smyrna Beach for refusing to disclose when I bought a home that 22 flight schools use the airport. The traffic approximates San Diego.

Frank Bird Gummey, New Smyrna Beach city attorney, is vengeful for "affirming rights." Last week he sued for suing. In court Thursday, he repeated demand for thousands of dollars in fees.

I suspect that the New Smyrna Beach City Commission is pleased.

The city attorney seems of an alien world, where affirming rights is to be punished.

Speaking as one who practiced law and majored in theology, I cannot imagine him marching on Peachtree Street.

Six year later I met Gregory at the Douglas, AZ, airport, and we went to his motel. I interviewed him for TV and radio. Sitting beside him on a sofa, I asked, "You know what happened to Jesus, to Gandhi, to Martin Luther King. This could happen to you."

"I know," he replied. "But you have to follow your conscience."

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