Freedom Rider Bus Attacked
The United States Supreme Court ruled that public buses travelling across state lines were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. As a result, operating a bus that mandated racial segregation was illegal. However, operators of busses in the Southern states ignored this ruling and the Federal Government was doing nothing to enforce the law. As a result, hundreds of white and black activists decided that they would highlight this illegal behavior and test the willingness of local, state, and federal officials to enforce the law by integrating busses. On May 4, 1961, the first group of Freedom Riders bought tickets and boarded a Greyhound bus headed for New Orleans. They did not reach their destination, as an angry mob ambushed the bus at this location. The mob tires slashed tires and followed the bus until it was forced to stop. The mob then attacked the bus while it was parked on the side of the road. The mob set the bus on fire and attempted to block the doors to prevent any of the occupants from escaping. When the passengers finally escaped the burning bus, the mob beat the passengers, causing serious injuries.
Backstory and Context
Birmingham, Alabama was setting up to a very dangerous stop for the Freedom Riders the police Commissioner himself and a police sergeant themselves were conspiring with the Klu Klux Klan. The original idea was to end the freedom ride in Alabama with by whatever means necessary. The klan had the police in their back pocket they had assurance that no police would intervene for 15 minuets. A well place FBI informant is responsible for this inside information that would be known about the police. Birmingham was too be the final spot for the attacks with them starting in Anniston.
On May 14 while the greyhound bus was attempting to leave the bus depot in Anniston the Klan blocked the exit and ended up slashing the tires on the bus. The mob that had gathered followed the bus to where it had to stop just outside of town in order to change the tire that had been slashed. When the mob had caught up to the bus they firebombed the bus and intended to burn all the people on the bus alive. What stopped the live burning of the freedom riders there has been debate whether a potential explosion prevented this from happening or an undercover agent with a gun prevented it. The highway patrol only fired warning shots in the air which prevented the members of the bus ride from being severely lynched.