DANVILLE, Va. (AP) - Danville is preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the most violent of all days in the civil rights movement in Virginia.
Known as Bloody Monday, that June day in 1963 started with a group walking to the Municipal Building to protest segregation and ended with 60 arrested and nearly 50 injured. The conflict gained national attention and sparked two visits from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The trials of those arrested were so unfairly handled that the U.S. Justice Department criticized Judge Archibald M. Aiken Jr. for his courtroom procedures.
People will again march to the Municipal Building on June 10 to commemorate the event, the Danville Register & Bee reported Monday. A brief ceremony will be held at the marker that memorializes the day.
The marker was dedicated in 2007 at the request of Thurman Echols Jr., one of those arrested during the protests who later became active in the community.
Echols, a 16-year-old black high school student at the time, gathered up about 60 fellow students that Monday in 1963 and walked to the Municipal Building in one of a series of peaceful protest marches that had occurred the week leading up to June 10.
The students were protesting segregation in all aspects of public life, from schools to lunch counters and the jobs that were denied to black citizens.
Echols and others were arrested, and others who attempted to run off were chased by police into an alley, where fire hoses and clubs were turned on them.
Later in the day, a second group of black people walked to the Municipal Building to hold a prayer vigil for the people arrested earlier, only to be met with the same fate. Different accounts of the day recall seeing people hurled down the street from the force of the water coming from the fire hoses, some being sprayed so hard their clothes came off and men and women being dragged through the streets, blood running from their heads, to the jail.
Echols was released from jail three days later and remained active in the civil rights movement. He later became pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton and took an active role in the communities of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Martinsville.
Echols proposed the marker in 2007 and said he was pleased when the state approved it and paid for it to be placed in town.
Randall Jones, spokesman for the state's Department of Historic Resources, said the application for the Bloody Monday marker was approved at the first meeting after it was received in 2007.
"The 'Bloody Monday' marker reminds us of the movement and that the success of the Civil Rights protesters rested not only on the actions of a visible leader such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who inspired the nation, but also upon the everyday heroism of the people in local communities, such as Danville, who refused to accept the status quo," Jones said in a statement.
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