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300-Year-Old Shoe Behind Wall of English College Was Meant As Protection From Malicious Spirits

300-Year-Old Shoe Behind Wall of English College Was Meant As Protection From Malicious Spirits


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Workers discovered a shoe this month behind a wall at a Cambridge University college in England that was probably meant to protect inhabitants of the building from mischievous or malicious spirits. The shoe is about 300 years old, and the workers found it in St. John’s College behind a wall in the Senior Common Room, a historic spot.

The Senior Common Room was originally the residence of the college’s master and was built between 1598 and 1602. However, a press release from Cambridge News, the university’s news service, state that the shoe was probably placed behind the wall panels during renovations in the 17 th or 18 th centuries.

Shoes and other items were considered amulets against evil and malevolent spirits in more superstitious times, the press release says. Discoveries of similar items have been made at Hampton Court Palace and Ely Cathedral.

An aerial shot of St. John’s College (Photo by St. John’s College)

Workers laying cables made the find August 1, the birthday of an academic and ghost story writer at Cambridge by the name of M.R. James. He often began his eerie tales by having characters discover antique objects, releasing spirits with ill-intent from the realm of the dead.

“No such misfortune has befallen St John's since the shoe was uncovered, however, which is welcome news for the college, since these days the Senior Combination Room is where many of its academic staff have their lunch,” the press release states.

The worn-out shoe is a size 6 in today’s measurements and it has a hole in the left heel. The most common type of amulet was the shoe, the press release states, but many other types of objects were placed in wall as protective charms. Other objects known to have been embedded behind walls include horses’ skulls, dead cats and “witch bottles” with human matter such urine and hair.

Another shot of the shoe (St. John’s College photo)

Amulets were not just embedded in walls. People of the times also placed them in roofs and beneath floors.

The Cambridge Archaeological Unit is analyzing the shot. Richard Newman of the unit is quoted in the press as saying:

“It was positioned between the chimney breast and the window, which is exactly the sort of location where you would expect to find a shoe being used in this way. Given its location, it is very likely that it was there to play a protective role for the master of the college. It may even have been one of his old shoes."

“This is one area where archaeological finds are quite important. There is not a lot of documentary evidence about people's beliefs in ritual magic in the past, and often the sources that we have are very negative and disparaging about such practices. These discoveries are important because they give us a material record of what people may have believed at the time.”

The press release says the shoe may have played a role in auspicious events that happened in the room, including, in the 1620s the betrothal of English King Charles I to his intended bride, Henrietta Maria. Also, in World War II, the allies planned part of the D-Day landings on the coast of Normandy region of France in the room, the press release states.


    7 signs you’re a Blue Falcon

    Everyone knows being a Blue Falcon is bad, but no one believes that they’re the blue falcon. Here are 7 indicators that maybe you should start shopping for nests.

    1. When someone asks for volunteers, you immediately start thinking of who isn’t doing anything.

    Look, it’s the platoon sergeant’s or the chief’s job to figure out who is doing what. If they don’t have a grip on their troop-to-task, that doesn’t make it O.K. for you to start naming who’s free for a tasking.

    2. You find yourself saying, “Well, so-and-so did it earlier, first sergeant.”

    Blue falcons have their own barracks.

    Keep your mouth shut, snitch. First sergeant doesn’t need to know who snuck to the barracks first during those engrossing Powerpoint presentations battalion put together. Let him yell at you until he runs out of steam, then go back to the stupid briefings and suck it up.

    3. You make the kind of mistakes that trigger company recalls.

    Everyone screws up a few times a year, which is normal. Not everyone screws up so badly that the entire rest of their unit has to come in Saturday morning. Maybe keep your infractions a little more discreet in the future.

    Or, make your mistakes epic enough that the unit will enjoy the recall just because they get to hear the story. “Wait, we’re here because Schmuckatelli crashed the general’s car with the installation command sergeant major’s daughter in the front seat? Can I make popcorn before you start, first sergeant?”

    4. You frequently hear bus sounds or the words, “Caw! Caw!”

    Yeah, your friends are trying to give you a hint, dude. You’re throwing people under the bus and then buddy f-cking them as they crawl out.

    5. You take too much credit — especially for stuff you didn’t do with your own hands.

    Always share credit. When you’re praised for rifle marksmanship, mention who helped you train. If you perform superbly at the board, mention the guys in your squad who quizzed you.

    But, when you weren’t there, you shouldn’t take any credit. Say who actually did the work. Do not take the recognition, do not take the coin, do not tell stories about it later.

    6. You’re always the guy that the team or squad leader has to pull aside.

    Look, sucking at your job is a version of being the blue falcon. It’s not as malicious or direct as being a credit hog or a snitch, but not learning how to fulfill your position in the squad screws everyone else over. Read the manuals, practice the drills, watch the other guys in the squad. Learn your role.

    7. Someone sent you this list or tagged you on Facebook in the comments.

    Yeah, there’s a reason someone thought you, specifically, should read this list. Go back through it with a comb. Read each entry and keep a tally of which apply to you. Then, stop being a blue falcon. Caw caw.

    NOW: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US military history

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    God From the Machine-Deus ex Machina

    • The “Way of the Future” church will have its own gospel called “The Manual,” public worship ceremonies, and probably a physical place of worship.
    • The idea behind his religion is that one day — “not next week or next year” — sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence will be smarter than humans, and will effectively become a god.
    • “Part of it being smarter than us means it will decide how it evolves, but at least we can decide how we act around it,” Levandowski told Wired. “I would love for the machine to see us as its beloved elders that it respects and takes care of. We would want this intelligence to say, ‘Humans should still have rights, even though I’m in charge.’”
    • Levandowski is not the only tech luminary to worry about an super-intelligent AI, which others refer to as “strong AI” or the Singularity, although he prefers the term “Transition.”

    Are we doomed as a species? Will A.I. declare itself to be not a god, but “the” god? This is not just a concept, or a Hollywood movie plot…this is the REAL DEAL!

    So, we’re a train wreck in slow motion. Everyone knows the crash is coming…few will get out of the way, but most refuse to jump off but instead, will ride that train until the bitter end!

    Aristotle was the first to use the Greek term equivalent to the Latin phrase deus ex machina as a term to describe the technique as a device to resolve the plot of tragedies. Such a device has been referred to down through history on many occasions. Often plays were set in which the theatrical mode revealed this term, meaning to give the audience a sense of awe and wonder.

    The term has evolved, whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and…

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    I Went Undercover With a Border Militia. Here’s What I Saw.

    I crawl out of the back of the pickup with my rifle in hand. “Keep your weapons nice and tight,” Captain Pain orders. I am traveling light. Unlike the others, I don’t view southern Arizona as a war zone, so I didn’t put steel plates in my chest rig. Next to everyone else’s commando-style AR-15s, my Ruger Mini-14 with a wood stock is slightly out of place. But everything else is square—I’m wearing a MultiCam uniform, desert tan combat boots, and a radio on my shoulder. I fit in just fine.

    We are in a Walmart parking lot in Nogales. Captain Pain and a couple of others go into the store to get supplies. In Pain’s absence, Showtime is our commanding officer. He is a Marine special­-ops veteran who did three tours in Afghan­istan. He has camo paint on his face and a yeti beard. He gets in the cab to check Facebook on his phone while Destroyer, Jaeger, Spartan, and I stand with our backs to the truck, rifles in hand, keeping watch for anything suspicious. The Mexican border is three miles away.

    “There you go,” Jaeger says, looking across the lot. “Camaro with rims.” His hands rest casually on the butt of his camouflage AR-15, which hangs over his chest from a three-point tactical sling.

    “You know every other Mexican has chrome rims on his car,” Destroyer says in a reasoned tone, suggesting that this particular ride might not belong to a drug cartel. He’s clutching the pistol grip of his AK-47, his trigger finger responsibly pointed down the receiver.

    “Last time we were here, [there was] a blacked-out car,” Spartan adds. “Big-ass rims on it. Bumping Mexican music. It cruised us twice. Slowly, too.” He spits out a sunflower seed.

    Destroyer nods toward the parking lot entrance. “Here comes the sheriff,” he says. A cop car is pulling into the lot.

    “He’s looking at us,” Jaeger says.

    “Of course he is,” Destroyer says.

    “Keep your hands out!” a man in a dress shirt suddenly yells from the row of cars across from us. “Police!” His hand is hovering over his sidearm. The guys I’m with hold their hands out at their sides. Their rifles dangle over their chests. I don’t have a tactical sling, so my rifle is still in my hand.

    “Put your weapon down!” another plainclothes cop shouts at me. I bend down slowly and put my rifle on the ground.

    The police approach us. “You guys hunters or what?”

    “You guys have IDs?” I reach for mine. “Keep your hands out of your pocket, please!” one barks.

    Two cop cars pull up and three uniformed officers from the Nogales Police Department get out. “What are you guys doing down here exactly?” a cop asks. Her name tag reads “Hernandez” and she has short, spiky black hair.

    “We’re just being the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol, basically,” Jaeger says.

    “Somebody probably saw guys with long rifles and camouflage and thought, ‘Holy crap!'” another officer says.

    “Scary-lookin’ bunch,” Destroyer says as he picks at his teeth in a slightly forced pose of calm.

    “Nah, you guys aren’t scary,” Officer Hernandez says. “I guess people just aren’t really used to seeing a group out practicing their right to bear their arms, and they freak out if they do. No worries.” She radios in our IDs and then asks how we ended up in Arizona.

    “Well, back in Colorado we are part of a patriot organization,” Jaeger says. “Three Percent United Patriots.”

    “So do you guys get like deployed and come for days at a time, or…?”

    “Yeah,” Jaeger says. “Our CO has the final say in who comes and who doesn’t.”

    “It takes balls to do what you guys do out there,” Hernandez says. “Thank you.” She gives us back our IDs. The cops get in their cars and leave.

    Destroyer looks at me. “Is your camera rolling?” I am wearing a body cam on my chest rig.

    “Smart man,” he says approvingly.

    “You’re gonna have to post that,” Jaeger says.

    Ready for the Worst

    Captain Pain takes us back to the FOB—forward operating base—a one-hour drive down a rugged dirt road that winds over the Patagonia Mountains. Destroyer says that was the best interaction he’s ever had with cops. “Moral of the story: Come fully armed to a police encounter,” he says. Jaeger is surprised how friendly Officer Hernandez was, given her name. He points out that her hair was shorter than all of ours Destroyer refers to her as “it.” “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” he asks. “Twenty. One to screw it in and 19 to whine about how men should do it.”

    “How do you tell a Jew from a Slav?” Jaeger says. “You can’t. They’re both ashes. Hahaha!” Jaeger’s parents are German immigrants. He has dual citizenship, and he’s conspicuously proud of his heritage. Some guys call him a Nazi, neither approvingly nor disapprovingly, but in a boys-will-be-boys sort of way.

    Spartan, who is a Transportation Security Administration agent, laughs along with the stream of jokes but doesn’t say much. Whatever emotions he has are stowed away behind wraparound shades, a thick red beard, and the Middle Eastern keffiyeh that’s often draped over his head. Stoicism is expected here, so the fact that I rarely speak doesn’t draw attention. I don’t lie to the guys, but I don’t tell them I’m a journalist either. I can tell them about my background in the militia movement: Before joining the Three Percent United Patriots (3UP) for this border operation, I trained with the California State Militia and the 31st Defense Legion across northern and central California. I learned marksmanship, land navigation, patrolling skills, rappelling, radio communication, code language, how to set up an FOB in a hostile situation, and how to hold defensive positions. Like the other guys, I adopt a call sign to protect my identity. In California, some knew me as Rattlesnake. Here, they call me Cali.

    Becoming a militia member began with opening a new Facebook account. I used my real name, but the only personal information I divulged on my profile was that I was married and that I had held jobs as a welder and a prison guard for the Corrections Corporation of America. A “Don’t Tread on Me” flag was my avatar. I found and “liked” militia pages: Three Percenter Nation, Patriotic Warriors, Arizona State Militia. Then Facebook generated endless suggestions of other militia pages, and I “liked” those too. To keep my page active, I shared other people’s posts: blogs about President Barack Obama trying to declare martial law, and threats of Syrians crossing the border. I posted memes about American flags and police lives mattering. Then I sent dozens of friend requests to people who belonged to militia-related Facebook groups. Some were suspicious of me: “Kinda have a veg profile, so I got to ask why you want to be my friend. ” one messaged. Many, however, accepted my friend requests automatically. Within a couple of days, I had more than 100 friends, and virtually any militia member who looked at my page would likely find that we had at least one friend in common.

    Then I came across the Three Percent United Patriots’ private “Operation Spring Break” Facebook group. I requested access, and when it was granted I saw a post asking who was coming to the operation in April. I replied, “Yes.” The purpose of the operation wasn’t posted anywhere because it was understood implicitly—to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Eventually, the coordinates for the forward operating base inside Arizona’s San Rafael Ranch State Park were posted. No one asked me anything about myself. All I had to do was show up. The list of required equipment was extensive, including weapons, medical supplies, and body cameras. The idea was that video footage would disprove anyone making false accusations against the militiamen. I used my body cam to capture what I saw and heard. No one raised an eyebrow.

    Members of 3UP view their border operations as an opportunity to serve the nation while putting their training to the test and honing their skills for the battle to come. Like most militiamen, they believe societal collapse is imminent. There are many theories about what will make the “Shit Hit The Fan.” Some believe it will be economic collapse. It could be civil unrest provoked by Black Lives Matter. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a government attempt to disarm gun owners and impose martial law. While many in the broader “patriot” movement prepare for that day to arrive, members of 3UP see themselves as men of action, sheepdogs in a nation of blind, ignorant sheep.

    As we approach the FOB on our way back from Walmart, Captain Pain radios in our arrival. This is protocol for anyone coming or going. Two men are patrolling the perimeter with AR-15s, and if we don’t announce ourselves, they might mistake us for bad guys. These are not the only security measures: I’m told there are motion sensors in the dry riverbed that flanks the base, men sometimes take positions on surrounding hilltops, and most meals are prepared with bacon grease or pork to keep would-be Muslim infiltrators at bay.

    The best way to understand America’s paramilitary movement is to go deep inside it. Help fund investigations like this with a tax-deductible donation to MoJo.

    It’s midday and men are sitting around playing cards, staring at empty fire pits, and napping in their tents. More than 40 people have come here from Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and other states. Almost all are white, but there are one or two Latinos. They are roofers, electricians, heavy-equipment operators, welders, a prison nurse, and a bounty hunter. Most of the men are militia infantry like me, but others have more specialized roles. Blackfin controls shortwave radio communications from a camper with a tall antenna sticking out of its roof and a generator humming at its side. A man from Oregon cooks breakfast and dinner under a large kitchen tent. The camp medic, Rogue, sits under the medical tent, staring into his cellphone. Some of the men grumble about a local TV news crew from Alabama that’s filming around the base and nearly foiled one of the nighttime ops by switching on a light near the border fence.

    A modified American flag hangs motionless from a gnarled mesquite tree, its canton of 50 stars replaced with a Roman numeral III surrounded by 13 stars. It’s the standard of the three percenters, symbolizing their foundational belief that just 3 percent of American colonists were responsible for overthrowing the British in the Revolutionary War, and that it will take 3 percent of today’s Americans to bring about the “restoration of the Founders’ Republic.” The idea originated in 2008 with Mike Vanderboegh, a former militia member and far-right-wing blogger who died in August. Vanderboegh said three percenters were “willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill” to defend the Constitution.

    The three percenter philosophy has quickly grown into a grassroots, national movement, part of a resurgence of right-wing militia activity following Obama’s election in 2008. An Amazon search turns up more than 4,000 results, ranging from baby clothes to iPhone cases with the three percenter logo. There are more than 300 three-­percenter Facebook pages, websites, and discussion forums. The main 3UP Facebook group has more than 15,000 members, though the actual number of people who belong to active real-life “threeper” groups is difficult to estimate.

    A Marine veteran and IT manager from Colorado named Mike Morris, known here as Fifty Cal, felt that if threepers were going to restore the Constitution, they needed to be organized and well trained. In 2013, he founded 3UP and became its commanding officer. Membership “exploded” after the Ferguson protests, he says. He boasts that the 3UP’s Colorado branch, its largest, now has 3,400 members.

    We don’t see Fifty Cal much mostly he stays holed up in a Kodiak trailer at the far end of camp, planning day and nighttime operations, consulting with officers, and watching war movies. This is the eighth and largest national border op he’s organized since 2014. He doesn’t think 3UP is going to stop drug smuggling or illegal immigration with these operations, but he feels they are a chance for patriots to serve their country. He doesn’t even think immigration is the main concern. The real problem is that America has become unrecognizable: The federal government has become tyrannical and the country’s customs and culture are being destroyed. “We lose more and more rights, more and more freedom, every day,” Fifty Cal told me when I called him after the border op. (I attempted to contact all the militia members mentioned in this article. A few agreed to talk on the record.) He said 3UP isn’t “all about guns and camo.” It has done relief work in response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and floods in Louisiana and South Carolina. It has donated food and clothes to veterans. 𔄛UP itself is not necessarily a militia,” Fifty Cal told the site AmmoLand.com. “We are more like the close cousin of the militia, maybe militia evolved.”

    Fifty Cal steps out of his trailer and hacks a phlegmy smoker’s cough. A green and white Border Patrol SUV rolls into camp and a portly, smiling white man in a green uniform steps out. Fifty Cal is not smiling, and I am nervous. Most of the men sitting around the base aren’t carrying their rifles, but they are wearing sidearms. Fifty Cal runs his hand down his long, red goatee. His belly bulges through a black T-shirt that says “ISIS Hunting Permit” over an image of a skull. He drags on his cigarette, revealing his tattoo-sleeved arms.

    “What’s up, my friend?” the agent says. Fifty Cal opens his arms and the two embrace, slapping each other’s backs. Fifty Cal grins.

    “Good to see you, man,” he says. “How you been?”

    “Just trying to get by, man. You know how it is.” The agent’s name is Mike. Guys stand around and chat with him like old buddies. Mike tells us stories about drunk teenagers who have been overturning vehicles, and about Border Patrol motion sensors capturing pictures of an old man who hikes naked. Mike has worked in this area for 10 years, and the guys try to glean tips from him on how to spot Mexicans sneaking through the desert. Mike says he likes his job. “This is a combat deployment that I get to go home every day and sleep in my own bed. I get all the action, but I don’t have to go packing bags.”

    Fifty Cal and his executive officer, Ghost, walk with Mike over to his vehicle, where they talk for a while. After Mike leaves, Ghost marches through the camp. He walks like a drill sergeant and looks like a construction worker, his build sinewy and his skin deeply tanned. “Who took a picture of the Border Patrol agent?” he asks. People shake their heads. Someone says Sandstone had a camera out. Ghost goes to find him. “We don’t take photo ops with the Border Patrol,” one man says.

    Ghost comes off as an enforcer, but really he is a man of the people. While Fifty Cal sequesters himself in his trailer, Ghost sits around the fire with his men. He doesn’t say much about politics, but on his Facebook page he writes that Hillary Clinton is a “bitch” who “needs to hang from a tall tree until dead dead dead.” A lot of the guys don’t like either party. “Each of ’em is as corrupt as the other nowadays,” Fifty Cal says. Jaeger says he’ll be voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Ghost, however, supports Donald Trump. He tells us he’s worried about the day when ISIS integrates with the cartels and starts hopping over the four-foot border fence just south of here. Until Trump is president, Ghost says, we are the wall.

    The guys just can’t believe how many Muslims there are in the country today. “Saudi fucking Aurora is what it is,” Captain Pain says of his hometown in Colorado. “We need to kill more of those motherfuckers. I never seen so many fucking towelheads stateside.”

    “I remember when the part of Aurora I lived in was just white people,” Jaeger says.

    Like Fifty Cal, Ghost laments how much the country is changing. People like him with an honest trade used to be comfortable. And he didn’t hear people complaining about white men all the time like they do now. Everyone’s become so uptight. It wasn’t like that when he was young, living in Los Angeles, cruising up Hollywood Boulevard with his buddies. “We’d fuck with the hookers,” hanging a $20 bill out the window and watching them chase the car. “Actually, there were some damn good-looking hookers compared to East Aurora. Big old fat nigger wandering around: ‘Come here, baby!'” he shouts mockingly. “No! Get the fuck back! There ain’t enough booze in the world, woman.” He lets the N-word slip sometimes, even though it seems to make some of the guys a little uncomfortable. Fifty Cal later told me that racism isn’t tolerated and that “We have removed and blocked folks that didn’t align with our ideals.” In its official communications, 3UP insists it is not a white supremacist organization. No one ever speaks up at this kind of language, though. To show offense would be to give in to political correctness, which is a step toward Big Brother mind control.

    Ghost says America’s sense of history has gone down an “Orwellian memory hole.” Who remembers Randy Weaver anymore? Ghost was 25 years old in 1991, when Weaver, a member of the white supremacist Christian Identity movement who’d been charged with selling sawed-off shotguns, holed up with his family in their cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, for 18 months. A shootout ensued, and a federal deputy and Weaver’s 13-year-old son were killed. During the 10-day siege that followed, an FBI sniper killed Weaver’s wife as she held their baby. Ghost is convinced that Weaver’s real crime was distrusting the government.

    To Ghost and other patriots, Ruby Ridge remains a sign that the government is willing to go to war against its citizens. A year after Ruby Ridge came the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, where cultists had been stockpiling weapons and more than 1 million rounds of ammunition. The FBI eventually assaulted the compound, resulting in a blaze that killed more than 70 men, women, and children. The rumor that the feds intentionally set the fire persists among far-right groups and conspiracy peddlers like Alex Jones. The 1994 federal assault weapons ban solidified patriots’ belief that Washington was making final preparations to turn America into a totalitarian state. By the mid-󈨞s, hundreds of paramilitary groups had formed across the country, styling themselves as “militias” to invoke the volunteers who’d fought in the American Revolution.

    The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing sparked a backlash against the anti-government extremism that had spawned Timothy McVeigh. The militia movement effectively went dormant following the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Then came the first black president. In the three years after Obama took office, the number of active militias in the United States increased eightfold, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. By 2015, there were more than 275 groups in at least 41 states.

    The movement is bound together by a shared disdain for the federal government, but individual members’ motivations for joining can vary widely. “We all have different reasons to be here,” Captain Clyde Massengale of the Californ­ia State Militia’s Delta Company told the new recruits at my first training. “Some might believe what is happening is something biblical right now. Some might believe it’s the New World Order. Some might believe the New World Order is making what is happening follow the Bible. Who the fuck knows? Who the fuck cares?” Come what may, the militia would be ready. When shit hit the fan, it would have a secret, fortified bugout location where we could bring our families. A new community might someday need to be built there. Massengale said that under his command, life in the bugout would be modeled after ancient Rome. Active, patched members of the California State Militia would be considered citizens, while lapsed members and outsiders would not. “We need worker bees,” he said. “You wanna come in? We’ll bring you in. You’ll be down in the field growing food, gathering wood. We’ll be the ones standing watch,” he said. Then he added in a loud whisper, “In the houses, not in the tents. Hahahaha!”

    I looked to the one black man in the group, a recruit who had family near the mass shooting in San Bernardino a week earlier. “I hate to tell you, but I’m in for the long count,” he told the captain. “So you’ll be seeing my black ass here every time.”

    The captain responded that in his experience, black people were always the best at learning and executing orders. “We need to see some more black asses, is what we need,” he said. Another man added, “We need diversity.”

    Walking the Line

    For the afternoon op, Ghost pairs me with Doc, a deep-voiced 55-year-old welder from North Carolina. We climb into Ghost’s truck, The Moose, and he asks me how much ammo I have on me. About 50 rounds, I tell him. He has 200. “I’ll probably never need all that,” he says. “However, we get out there, say we catch a group of about six or seven going south—” He suddenly stiffens to strike a pose. Sandstone is taking a picture of us. Doc tells him to send it to him on Facebook.

    We drive in a three-truck convoy for about 45 minutes, down long dirt roads flanked by expanses of tall, dry grass and scattered mesquite trees. “Three hundred twenty-three dollars for a flight to Tucson and back,” Doc shouts to me as the wind whips our faces. “One hundred forty dollars for meals. The feeling that you’re doing something for everybody else in the country: priceless.” The mountains that shelter the base grow small in the distance. “Yee-haw!” Doc shouts. “Rock and roll!”

    When we pass through a near-empty border town, Doc points out a ranch. “These fuckers are in bed with the cartel if they don’t belong to it. You can kinda tell by just how trashy it is. It’s not well maintained. If they’re ranching, where’s all the fucking cattle?”

    The family is Latino. “They don’t like us at all,” Doc tells me. “You catch on fire, don’t expect us to piss on you to put you out.” I’ve heard mention of this ranch several times. Fifty Cal said that every time they come to Arizona, they sit on top of a nearby hill and watch the people coming and going from it.

    I ask Doc whether any of them have ever spoken to the rancher.

    “Nah, I never even seen him out myself.”

    Ghost drops Doc and me off on the road and tells us to patrol the ravine and look out from the ridge above for the next several hours. Doc says he’s glad I have a body camera, just in case.

    “What made you sign up?” I ask Doc as we walk along the high slope of the ravine.

    “I saw the way this country was headed,” he says. “I started giving up on the sheep. Sheep don’t wake up. They’re sheep. You ain’t gonna turn a sheep into a sheepdog. You can only find the sheepdogs that are out there.”

    He says everything changed for him after Obama was elected. “I see a time comin’ when there will be blue hats patrolling our streets.” He is referring to blue-helmeted UN troops. “‘Cuz he wants to make the world government. He wants to subject the US to international law and submissiveness. UN control. World government control. Just to make the US another satellite nation. Do away with sovereignty.”

    We sit in the shade of a tree. Doc leans against his backpack and rests the muzzle of his AR-15 on his knee, pointing straight ahead. He says he bought his first semi-automatic rifle once he realized what Obama was doing. “My goal was, as soon as the blue helmets hit the shore, to kiss my wife goodbye and do the best I can. I’d find the blue helmets and start killin’ ’em as fast as I can until they get me.”

    Lots of militiamen worry about a UN invasion, but Doc worries the invaders won’t actually be wearing blue helmets: They might be undercover. Take the standoff earlier this year, when a bunch of armed patriots occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon to protest the federal government’s claim over public lands. Doc says there were police there with tactical gear and M4 rifles who wouldn’t tell people what agency they were with. “That ain’t the way this country works,” Doc says. “A law enforcement officer has to identify himself to you.” They might have been UN troops. Or they could have been cartel.

    When he first heard of the 3UP border operation, “I thought to myself, if I get a little bit of training, I might get more of them”—the blue helmets—”before they get me. Instead of getting 5 or 6, I might get 10 or 12. Or 20. Who knows? I’ve learned enough now that I might even get a couple dozen.”

    The militia movement walks a delicate line between stoking its members’ paranoid fears and fantasies of rebellion and holding them in check. I remember the probing looks of militia recruiters in California when they asked why I wanted to join them. At a hushed meeting in a San Rafael Starbucks, an officer from the 31st Defense Legion simply told me, “No crazies and no anarchists.” It didn’t seem that they were testing my politics so much as wondering, “How close are you to snapping? Can you keep it under control?”

    After the San Bernardino shootings, the California State Militia expelled a man because he was posting the prayer times of a mosque. One of its officers warned me they’d told the FBI about a prospective recruit who said he wanted to assassinate Gov. Jerry Brown. I later asked Massengale if he worried that one of his men could snap. He replied, “I worry every day that people who come into the militia will go out and do something.”

    It’s as if many militia leaders know they are dealing with a pool of volatile white men, some of whom are convinced that society has screwed them and are at risk of exploding. For some, like Doc, the militia seems to rein them in by giving them a sense of purpose.

    For others, the militia provides a justification for violent fantasies of insurrection. In 2010, a man in Idaho trained members of his militia to build bombs to fight off a communist invasion. The following year, the head of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia conspired to kill a judge and police officers. Also in 2011, members of a militia in Georgia planned to attack government buildings and random people with the deadly poison ricin, all to save the Constitution. In 2014, another group of Georgia militiamen planned to bomb federal facilities because they believed it would spark martial law and provoke a militia uprising. David Burgert, a Montana militia leader, shot at police officers shortly after being released from prison, where he’d served time for possessing illegal weapons as part of a conspiracy to assassinate cops and criminal justice officials to trigger a patriot revolution. He disappeared into the woods and remains at large. This October, three men belonging to a Kansas militia called the Crusaders were charged with domestic terrorism for allegedly plotting to bomb Somali immigrants on the day after the election.

    And there was Forever Enduring, Always Ready (FEAR), a small Georgia militia consisting of active-duty soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, its leader, Isaac Aguigui, asphyxiated his pregnant wife to get her life insurance money. He then spent nearly $90,000 on guns and ammo for the militia. He intended to buy land for training militias in Washington state and to further fanciful plots such as poisoning the state’s apple supply, bombing a park, assassinating Obama, and ultimately overthrowing the government. When a teenage friend of Aguigui who was not a FEAR member heard about some of its plans, two militia members shot him and his girlfriend. Aguigui is now serving life in prison.

    Doc walks down into the ravine and I walk along the ridge above it so that one of us can maintain radio contact with Ghost. When we meet back up, Doc looks at the yellow­ing horizon. “That’s a purty sunset,” he says. He suggests we trudge up the hill to get a good view. On the way, he points out a white desert flower, the distant mountains. The bottoms of the scattered clouds become a deep, fiery purple. “Oooooh baby!” Doc says. “Please can I get a shot of that?” He pulls out his flip phone and photographs the sunset, and we find a tree to sit under for the next couple of hours. We sit on opposite sides, taking turns scanning the horizon and the ravine with binoculars.

    It becomes cold and dark. Doc offers me a piece of an apple-cinnamon-flavored survival bar as a treat. He bites into his chunk. “You ain’t got to eat that if you don’t want to, now,” he says bashfully. “Drier than mama’s pound cake.” I eat the rest out of politeness, though it tastes like stale flour.

    A group of coyotes yips in the distance. “I got a little baby I want to bring out here and hold by the firelight,” Doc says. “I just don’t want all these other fuckers around while I’m doin’ it.” He says he wants to bring his daughter, too. “She’s a sweetheart of a girl.” He remembers that she once posted on Facebook that she would just like to lie in the back of a pickup and look at the stars. We sit there silently, staring up at the sky.

    Two hours later, Ghost picks us up. On the way back, our convoy stops suddenly. There is a stack of stones by the side of the road that Bull, a thick-necked bounty hunter from Alabama, is certain wasn’t there before. We pile out of the trucks. Rogue tells us this is how the cartels mark their drop-off points. Doc thinks he sees a light, but it turns out it’s his own flashlight reflecting off a road sign.

    Late one night in August 2014, heavily armed 3UP members came upon three men on a ridge near this spot. The militiamen shouted to them in Spanish, ordering them to sit and wait. The men hid behind rocks and announced they were American citizens. They made their way back to their campsite and the militiamen followed. The Border Patrol showed up and found that the men were scientists who had been counting bats in a nearby cave.

    Back at the base, Captain Yota, a former Marine sniper with a long, sculpted beard, is amped up, and so is Rogue. They say the cartel rolled up on them while we were out. After they’d dropped us off, a teenage boy and girl, both Latino-looking with American accents, pulled up in a Honda and asked them for directions. “Are you boys the Minutemen?” Rogue recalls the boy asking.

    “Isn’t this area run by such-and-such cartel?” Rogue recalls the boy saying.

    “We’re like, ‘We’re hoping we run into some of those fucks,'” Yota recounts. “‘We’re gonna shoot ’em in the face.'”

    “You really see them out here?” the boy said. “That’s crazy! You boys got rifles? Can I take a picture?”

    Everyone agrees the boy was a cartel scout making a “soft contact.”

    The situation reminds Yota of getting pulled over by a Mexican American cop earlier today because his license plate was obscured with mud.

    “Who you with?” Yota says the officer asked him.

    “What are you doing down here?” the officer asked.

    In the morning, I pour some coffee into a tin cup and wander over to the fire pit. Rogue and Iceman are having a lively discussion. “My favorite is the one where the first stab goes under the clavicle,” Rogue is saying, “then in one of the lobes of the lungs so they can’t scream.”

    “My favorite is where you come up and grab ’em by the throat and insert the knife right there,” Iceman says. He points to the hollow at the bottom of his throat. “Then rip from the left and to the right.”

    “This one is two motions,” Rogue says. “A down stab and a side stab. You go down and puncture the lung, so they can’t build any compression to scream, and when you come across, you’re shooting behind the throat.” He demonstrates the quick two-step motion in the air—”Then you just hold ’em till they quit kicking.”

    “Another good one is just frickin’ reach up and just stab ’em in the back of the frickin’ brain stem,” Iceman says.

    “Eh, that’s harder than people think,” Rogue says skeptically. “You got a helmet on. It’s dark. You’re movin’.”

    Everyone sitting around the fire but me is from Colorado. I’ve been noticing that the Arizona guys huddle around a separate fire pit by the kitchen tent. They hold their own meetings and their own ops. Captain Yota says that when he was taking a piss in the woods, he heard one of the Arizona guys whining about how the Colorado guys don’t leave the base with battle buddies like they are supposed to. “I’m holding my dick, and I’m like, ‘What, mother­fucker?'” Yota says. “Chickenshit bastards.”

    “Asshole,” Ghost says. “Pretty sure this will be the last op that we see the Arizona boys.” Ghost says some of the men from Arizona recently refused to follow his leadership.

    “Fuck no,” Yota says. “They’re ostracized. They want to do that bullshit? Fuck ’em.”

    Arizona and Colorado are by far the most represented states on the base. The Arizona guys, who run border ops year-round, feel that this is their turf. The 3UP leadership, however, is from Colorado. There might be a coup brewing. Why should Arizona report to Colorado? Should there even be a national leadership? Then there is the bigger question: how to unify the militia movement more broadly. 3UP has previously coordinated with Arizona Border Recon but does not currently do so. In these ever-tenuous militia alliances, leadership inevitably becomes a point of contention.

    A ranking officer of the California State Militia told me that breakaway factions could become foes. “They are a possible threat. We don’t know what their intentions are, but they know all of our strengths and weaknesses.” He was in the process of reaching out to the state’s myriad breakaway groups because someday his men might find themselves traipsing through another militia’s territory and he wanted to make sure they were recognized as allies, not enemies.

    Homegrown Soldiers

    Forty-one states have laws that prohibit or limit paramilitary training and unofficial military forces.* Arizona bans the keeping of “private troops.” Colorado’s anti-terrorism law prohibits training people to use guns to promote “civil disorder.” California explicitly forbids two or more people from practicing with weapons as part of a group that teaches “guerrilla warfare or sabotage.” Yet, according to Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, there isn’t a known case of these laws ever being enforced against private militias.

    It’s not as if evidence of paramilitary training is hard to find. A man in West Virginia posts videos on Facebook of strafing exercises he does with his militia using an actual combat helicopter. I emailed a militia in Texas that told me it practices ambush tactics, shooting blanks at each other. Pitcavage says anti-paramilitary laws are difficult to enforce because typically prosecutors need to prove that the training is intended to cause civil unrest. And there is an added concern among law enforcement that going after a group simply for training “could backfire and make them feel persecuted or victimized,” further radicalizing them.

    By calling themselves militias, paramilitary groups claim to be protected by the Constitution. “America has a rich history of the militia,” a California State Militia member told us at a training. “Men would get together in their local community and organize and say, ‘Hey, I’m here for you. You’re here for me. If something happens over at your farm, we ring the bell in town. Everybody comes. And we protect each other.'”

    Militias and the Law
    Forty-one states have laws that limit or prohibit private military groups or paramilitary training. However, there is no record of these laws being invoked against patriot militias. Read more on how law enforcement turns a blind eye to militia activity.

    Yet this historical depiction is a “fantasy,” says Pitcavage. While today’s militia movement is made up of grassroots groups with the self-proclaimed mission of protecting the country against a tyrannical federal government, the militias enshrined in the Constitution were heavily regulated, top-down organizations.

    Militias were originally a creation of the colonial leadership, and participation was mandatory. They were tasked with defending the colonies from hostile French and Spanish forces and their Native American allies. In the South, militias also patrolled for runaway slaves. After 1775, the militias were deployed to help defend the colonies against the British army, though George Washington lamented their “behavior and want of discipline.” After independence, participation in what the Second Amendment enshrined as the “well-regulated Militia” was mandated by federal and state law. Forced militia enrollment became so unpopular that by the middle of the 19th century, states found a way to get around it. All able-bodied men were still technically required to belong to a militia, but those who wished to participate could join the “organized” militia, which was trained by the state and eventually evolved into the National Guard. All other men were lumped into the “unorganized” militia, which had no responsibilities and essentially faded into obscurity.

    Yet the stipulation that every able-bodied man between 17 and 45 is an automatic member of the militia is still on the books. Modern militias cite these arcane provisions as their legal justification. But Pitcavage points out that these laws make no allowance for privately organized militias. “It’s like saying the fact you are registered for the draft means you can organize an Army battalion,” he says. Patriot militias overlook that detail, just as they overlook the historic age limit on militia service. “When they wrote that, when you were 45 you were ancient,” said the executive officer of the California State Militia’s Delta Company, who looked to be in his late 40s. “I mean, come on.”

    I am assigned to Bravo team for an afternoon op. There are three of us. “I’ll take the lead,” Iceman says. “I want you in the middle,” he says, pointing to Sandstone. “You’re gonna cover our six,” he says, indicating that I should watch the rear.

    We pile into The Moose. Iceman tells me to rack my rifle’s chamber. I usually leave it open for added safety, but I don’t want to seem like a wimp, so I load it without hesitation—chk-chk.

    Iceman is a lanky 28-year-old with a thick black beard and a short mohawk hidden under his boonie hat. A transparent, coiled wire in his ear is attached to a Chinese Baofeng radio. An AR-15 hangs in front of him and a long combat knife is strapped to his waist. He has eight 30-round magazines attached to his chest rig as well as some clips for the sidearm strapped to his leg. He wears head-to-toe MultiCam, hard-knuckled combat gloves, kneepads, and a patch specifying his blood type. Another patch says, “Colorado 3UP RRT,” denoting him as a member of the Rapid Response Team, the group’s special-forces unit.

    Sandstone is similarly dressed, except instead of carrying a rifle, a long sword is strapped to his back, the handle wrapped in Army-green paracord. A sheathed machete is attached to his chest. Slender, with a shaved head, a pink face, and a wispy red goatee, he often grimaces dramatically, as if in pain. Unlike Iceman, who jokes on occasion, Sandstone is always serious, even when he spritzes himself with the MistyMate strapped to his back.

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    During the long, bumpy drive over the mountain, Sandstone barely speaks, but Iceman tells me about himself. Seven years ago, shortly after high school, he wound up homeless, living out of his car. He joined the Marine Corps and was sent to Afghanistan. There, he searched cars entering his base for bombs and drugs. He was glad to leave, but it didn’t take long before he felt that he was “scratching at the walls” of the hole he’d escaped by joining the military. Life still seemed stacked against him. He was working at a Subway and had a baby with heart problems. Sometimes he found himself hungry and penniless.

    Iceman lay awake at night and wondered about the way of things. Why don’t veterans get the recognition they deserve? Why is the country so divided? He had a sinking suspicion that the government was behind it all. Racism had been nearly extinct—he didn’t care about race—but then Obama stoked the flames and now black people were marching in the streets. Was the government trying to start a race war to make it easier to enact martial law so that Obama could secure a third term, bring in UN troops, and launch the New World Order like George Soros and the big bankers want?

    There were clear signs of government overreach—the National Security Agency, everyone knew, was spying on us. Then there were the other things Iceman had read about on the internet, like FEMA’s construction of internment camps for American citizens. He revered people like Edward Snowden who took action against the government. Iceman started to believe it might be necessary to take up arms someday, not as a soldier, but as a citizen. After joining 3UP, he felt like the hole inside him began to fill. “This is therapy, I guess,” he says as we careen down the dirt road. This is his third or fourth border operation. The first time, he was jumpy. “This is all too familiar,” he says. It reminds him of Afghanistan. “It’s hard to believe, right? We got a war zone in our own backyard.” None of the 3UPers have ever actually been shot at in Arizona, but that seems to be of no consequence.

    Iceman and Sandstone discuss intimacies and betrayals back home. They are clearly good friends, but their friendship exists within a hierarchy and Iceman has higher rank. Sandstone sometimes calls him “sir” and salutes him, even in casual conversation.

    As we drive, our convoy stops on occasion to drop two-man squads along the road, each executing a different mission. We drive far into the desert, until we’re within sight of the border fence. Ghost gets out of the truck, points to a saddle on a distant mountain, and tells us to walk toward it until we hit Duquesne Road several miles away. My squad, Bravo, and the other squad, Alpha, are to spread apart, sweeping the area. “This is not a race,” Ghost says. “You’re whitetail huntin’. You’re stalkin’. You got from now until dark to make it back to Duquesne Road, okay? You got plenty of time. Heads up: These guys will probably see you before you see them. If that’s the case, the fuckers will get down on the grass. So take your time.”

    He drives away and we all check our weapons to make sure they are locked and loaded. If we see someone who looks like an immigrant, my understanding is that we are to radio the base and it will alert Border Patrol. But no commanding officer has ever made the protocol clear to me. How do we detain the person? At gunpoint? What happens if we see someone jump from behind a bush and run? (Fifty Cal later told me he had briefed members on what to do, instructing them, “Our job is very close to a mall cop. Observe and report. You cannot chase anybody down. You cannot handcuff anybody. We’re not an offensive group.”)

    “I suggest blousing your boots,” Iceman says to me. “Keeps critters from getting up your leg. You don’t want a bug biting your cock.”

    “No,” I say. “I don’t.” I bend down and cinch the bottoms of my pant legs.

    It’s windy and the sun is blazing in the cloudless sky. At the top of a small hill, Iceman takes a knee and Sandstone and I do the same. For several minutes, we look out over the valley, mottled with creosote bushes, sotol, and grass. I sense that for them, there is a romance to this—the open land, the distant mountains, the belief that they are defending the frontier in service of the nation. I, too, relish this moment. Like them, I have a rationale for my attraction to danger and violence. I, too, am here.

    We walk down the hill and enter a narrow, sandy wash. Iceman bends over a patch of sand and points to the ground. “That’s a footprint, isn’t it?” Sandstone says.

    “Carpet shoe?” Sandstone says.

    “Yep,” Iceman says. “Straight-up carpet shoe.” I look closely at where he is pointing and I see nothing but dull waves of sand identical to those throughout the wash.

    “Should we follow them?” Sandstone says.

    The Resurgence of Militias
    The number of militia and anti-government “patriot” groups spiked in the 󈨞s during the Clinton administration and then quickly declined during the Bush years, only to surge again after the election of President Barack Obama. Read more on the history of American militias.

    This dynamic continues for a good while. Sandstone points out new moccasin prints that I cannot see, Iceman says “yep” without hesitation, and we head off in a new direction. At one point, Sandstone finds a piece of cellophane that he determines to be the wrapper of a phone battery. He crumples it in his hand and confidently leads us on yet another course.

    Sandstone is observant. He takes photographs of airplane contrails and altocumulus cloud patterns and posts them on Facebook as evidence that the government is spraying us with chemicals and conducting surveillance. He reads up on things: the Bilderberg Group, the Rothschilds, and what really happened on 9/11. He does not consider himself left or right, though he does support Trump as a matter of practicality. He swings a sledgehammer and breaks concrete all day and has little to show for it. Why should he have to compete with anyone who will work for less?

    I hear a voice over the radio. It’s Bull. He and Geezer are near the top of the mountain, and they have intel to relay: There is an all-terrain vehicle at the border fence, and another ATV and a white minivan are driving toward it. Captain Yota chimes in over the radio, reminding Bull that people do use this area for recreation and it is the weekend. The ATV at the fence, Bull replies, is playing Mexican music.

    We walk for 20 minutes until we come to the edge of a 10-foot ravine. At the bottom, there’s a backpack, a blanket, a couple of jugs of water, and a pair of blue jeans, supplies likely left for, or by, migrants. There is another backpack nearby. Iceman and Sandstone become tense. As if on cue, a coyote yips, startling all of us. For a few seconds, I raise my weapon and point it off in the distance, scanning the horizon to defend against an ambush. “Cali, I want you to cover our six,” Iceman says.

    They climb down into the ravine. Iceman nudges the backpack with his foot. He orders Sandstone not to open it and speaks into his lapel mic: “Relay is that we have found several backpacks, along with a duffel bag, that have significant weight to them.” Captain Yota tells him to see what is inside. “Solid copy.”

    Sandstone opens a backpack and pulls out anchovy and tuna packets, Snickers, suckers. He and Iceman open the other one, pulling out shoes, fresh clothes, and more food and candy. There are full water jugs at 20-foot intervals up the ravine. In a crevice, Sandstone spots a Mexican blanket, tightly wound with a rope. He unsheathes his sword, cuts the rope, and unfurls the blanket. Nothing inside.

    They start to climb out of the ravine, but Iceman stops. “You know what?” he says, pulling out his long combat knife and marching back to where he came from. He swings and jabs a jug, spilling the water onto the sand. He marches over to the next one and stabs it passionately. I almost ask him to stop—this water could be someone’s lifeline—but it does not seem wise. He stabs each item meticulously—the candy bars, the tuna packets. Sandstone follows behind, stomping the food into the dirt.

    When they are done, Sandstone sheathes his sword and we continue our journey north. A hundred yards from the ravine, Iceman stops. “Y’alls didn’t see me stab those water jugs,” he says.

    “What water jugs?” Sandstone quips.

    We continue on quietly for a while.

    “I tell you what, it felt good stabbing them fuckin’ water bottles,” Iceman says, “knowing they ain’t gettin’ no water.”

    “It felt good stomping all that shit into the dirt,” Sandstone says. “They’ll be expecting a change of clothes, a change of fucking shoes, three gallons of water, and some tuna fish.”

    “And some fuckin’ candy,” Iceman says. “And what are they gonna get? Nothin’!”

    We walk down another wash, where the shadows have become long and the light golden. We stop, drop our bags and rifles, and sit. Sandstone eats some crackers and gives a Slim Jim to Iceman, who is scraping burrs off his boot with a knife. Nearby, a gnarled, sunbaked shirt is lying in the sand. Sandstone gets up, walks over, and pisses on it.

    “Anything Can Happen”

    By the time we are picked up, it’s dark. I pull my tube mask over my face to protect against the freezing air in the back of The Moose. There is a flurry of alarmed radio chatter about a heart attack on the base. Ghost races back over the mountain. A helicopter blocks us, sitting in the road with Border Patrol vehicles scattered around. “Go ahead and pull security,” Captain Pain tells me and the other men in the bed of the truck. We stand at the edge of the road, our weapons at the ready, and stare out into the black desert. With the patient inside, the helicopter lifts off, fades into a dot of light, and vanishes over the mountains.

    The base is tense. During the medical evacuation, the Colorado leadership was in the field. The Arizona guys took charge and refused to stand down once Colorado tried to assert control from afar. Now the Arizona guys gather around their fire pit while Blackfin lectures some of the Colorado crew. “Pride will get you killed,” he says, a slight against Arizona’s refusal to relinquish control. “Pride will get everyone else killed.”

    Bad decisions were made, Blackfin says. Instead of standing around, men should have staked out the perimeter immediately. “Your enemy will kill you at your weakest point. Suicide bombers? They’re gonna get you at your weakest time. It’s easy and it’s effective. As soon as something chaotic happens, you still need to pull security.” We shouldn’t wait for someone to tell us to do things like this—it should be automatic. “That’s what we do here. We’re alpha leaders. Even if you don’t want to be. You have to be—or you will die.”

    I listen to this talking-to with Iceman and Sandstone, but since we were out on an op, we are comfortably not implicated in any of this. Then Captain Yota starts to speak. He is furious. He asks who was using a cellphone to navigate out in the field. I raise my hand. After following Iceman and Sandstone for more than two hours, I had checked my phone’s map to see how much farther we had to go.

    “People get so used to fucking technology,” Yota says. “You know what I had in the Marine Corps? I had a fucking protractor, a fucking 1-by-50,000 grid fuckin’ map, and a compass. Holy shit! I mean, we’re out here to do a mission and catch bad guys, right? To find drugs, catch illegals? How the fuck are we gonna do that if we can’t do our simple-ass job?”

    “Shit, man, I got left for dead in fucking Iraq,” Yota continues. He was a sniper for eight years and claims his lieutenant abandoned him and his spotter near Ramadi. “My FOB was seven miles away. I had to go through fuckin’, a goddamn town that’s full of bad guys to get home.” He says he got back by “offin’ motherfuckers.” “Guess what, I’m here, right?” He throws up his hands in frustration.

    He is also angry about how my team handled the backpacks. Iceman should have taken control of the situation and searched the bags without calling it in. “If it’s fuckin’ drugs, back the fuck away from it. Take pictures and secure the shit. Don’t touch it! But if it’s fucking food and water? Destroy the shit. Okay? ‘Cuz there’s a lot of humanitarian groups that drop off food, water, and everything to these fucking bastards who come into our country illegally.” Fifty Cal later told me, “We would never deny food and water to an immigrant.” He said this cache was clearly meant for a drug cartel, given the “high-dollar items” in the backpacks.

    I bolt awake to my alarm at 3:15 a.m. I’ve been appointed to stand the late-night watch. I walk to the fire, where Bull is sitting, his baseball hat pulled low over his eyes. There always seems to be something simmering inside him. His shoulders are tight and when he speaks, it’s usually in a low, angry drawl. He is with the Borderkeepers of Alabama. I ask him what they do, given that there is no border there. “Companies have had to close their doors because they can’t compete with some fucking illegal taking cash under the table. Nobody can compete with that. They fuck up everything.”

    One time, Bull was at a gas station and a Mexican man was trying to buy alcohol, he tells me. The cashier asked for his driver’s license, but all he had was a Mexican ID. Bull came up behind him. “You don’t have a driver’s license?” he asked the man. He says the man pushed past and got into his car. “So I’m like, this is easy as fuck,” Bull recalls. He called the cops and reported the man for driving without a license. But when the cops showed up, Bull says, they focused their attention on him rather than the Mexican. “What’s your interest in asking him if he’s driving without a license?” a cop asked him. Bull tried to school the police on his power to make a citizen’s arrest and then he left, outraged.

    When he came to Arizona for his last border operation, he scooped up some dirt near the border fence, put it in a bag with some flowers, and brought it back to Alabama. He tracked down the cop he’d argued with and gave him the bag. “He was fuckin’ pissed,” Bull says. “That’s when I figured his old lady was an illegal or something.”

    The news crew, from a CBS affiliate in Alabama, has been following the Borderkeepers. They ride along in the back of the militiamen’s trucks, shoot interviews, and spend a lot of time in their air-conditioned car, which is seen as a sign of softness. Guys talk with them readily, but I am careful to avoid them, so as not to appear in their footage.

    In her segment on her time here, reporter Brittany Bivins tells viewers that the Borderkeepers are “people who really live in our neighborhoods” and who “spend their vacation time, they spend their money, to go down to the border, and they’re very passionate about what they’re doing.” Bivins links the border op to the heroin epidemic back in Birmingham. She says cartel spotters watch the base and the drug smugglers are “fighting back,” though she doesn’t go into detail. “Anything can happen on the border,” she says. One of her main sources is Bull. Bivins tells viewers they can find the Borderkeepers on Facebook if they want to get involved.

    Bull tells me that when he was sitting up on top of that hill watching the ATV near the border fence, he saw “Mexican males” coming and going from a vehicle playing Mexican music. It was obvious what was going on. “I had my sight on ’em,” he says. “I wish I coulda picked those motherfuckers off. If only we didn’t have our hands so fucking tied.”

    Spirits are high as we stand around the fire at night. Ghost regales us with stories from past ops and tells us about the tradition of no-pants Mondays on the base. Too Tall talks about a trip he took to the hospital with Cornbread, who’d gotten dehydrated. “You want to see cartel? Go to the hospital,” Too Tall says. “Cadillacs, Malibus. Every motherfucker up there was stopping by my truck.” Cornbread says he wanted to throat-punch the Mexican man in the hospital bed next to him. “That motherfucker didn’t have to pay shit. And they charging me out the damn ass for it. And somebody’s getting the same treatment for nothing. It’s bullshit.”

    Denver comes up behind Ghost and hands a cigar over his shoulder. Ghost is very pleased. “Did you get you some Cubans now that the nigger opened up the border?” he asks Denver. Ghost lights his, flaring out his lips and biting down on it with his front teeth. Someone makes a joke about how cigars are like horse cocks.

    Staring at me across the fire, Sarge, a large twentysomething man in a keffiyeh, declares he’s saving his cock for me, and everyone looks in my direction. “‘Cuz California’s got that tight little socialist butthole,” Sarge says. “I’m about to bring some democracy up in that motherfucker.” Everyone laughs. “I’m gonna bring some free trade up in that ass.” I laugh uncomfortably until the attention fades. Most of the harassment in the camp is directed at the lone woman from Arizona, a blond, tattooed prison nurse who works in a solitary confinement unit. Guys thrust their pelvises at her when she’s not looking. “I got the cure for what ails you,” Sarge tells her. He also calls me “baby girl” and tells me I have a pretty mouth. I consider sleeping with my rifle in my tent.

    Sarge falls into a side conversation that moves from sex to the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Imagine me talking to a psych evaluator at the VA? Noooooo. They tried to give me a lot of pills. I said nope.”

    “They told me I was already nuts,” Rosco says. “I was like, ‘Yeah.'”

    “That’s what they do at the VA.” Sarge says. “They just throw a shitload of pills at you.”

    “You’re basically a lab rat,” Too Tall says. “They just pump as much shit in you as possible.”

    I get up from my stump and stand with Jaeger and Destroyer. Jaeger is insisting that the Mexican military sometimes drives its Humvees over the border and shoots at the Border Patrol.

    “Time to put some Apaches on the border,” Destroyer says.

    “Last year in June, a Mexican Apache flew from their base down in Mexico all the way into Phoenix,” Jaeger says matter-of-factly.

    “Yeah, over military bases and whatnot,” Jaeger says. “The sad part is the Air Force base that’s down there. They went to scramble jets and they were ordered to stand down.”

    “Wouldn’t you know?” Destroyer says. “They fucking invaded! Holy shit!”

    “Yeah, it’s almost like they are testing our borders for military purposes.”

    Campfire smoke suddenly wafts in our direction. “Stop attracting the smoke, Jaeger!” Destroyer says. “Dammit!”

    “Just because I like to burn people,” Jaeger says mock-defensively. Destroyer laughs. It’s a “homemade Auschwitz,” Jaeger says. “It just takes a lot longer. Hahaha!”

    Jaeger tries to speak to Destroyer in German, but it’s often too rudimentary for Destroyer to understand. Destroyer is fluent he was born and raised in Switzerland and served in the Swiss military. It strikes me as strange that someone raised in Europe would get involved in the patriot movement. He says he was home-schooled by his American mother. “I was taught the right stuff,” he says.

    Destroyer recalls a time he came to the United States through Canada with his family. They had to wait two hours at the border because his dad did not have a US passport. “Dude, they took my dad out, fingerprinted him, basically treated him like a common criminal. Spent two hours on the Canadian border. It’s fucking bullshit. It’s like, does he look like a criminal? We’re a family of seven, you know?”

    Someone asks where a guy called Wolfman is. Rogue says he left today. “He had to go home and take care of some bullshit,” Yota says. “Bullshit with an ex and a kid, I’ll tell you that. Some drama shit he’s gotta go to court on Monday for.”

    “Most of ’em usually are,” Jaeger says.

    “And they wonder why bitches get killed,” Yota says.

    “Seriously. They push and push and push till you can’t take it no more. Then the dude ends up fuckin’ offing ’em. Then the dude looks like a fuckin’ evil-ass person and it’s like, dude, you were pushed.”

    “You want to know what the No. 1 reason listed for men committing suicide is?” Jaeger says.

    “Exes taking away their kids,” Jaeger says.

    “I haven’t seen my boy since he was four,” Yota says. “I know where they live and everything. You know how tempting it is to just go see my kid?”

    “Snatch and grab,” Destroyer says.

    “But I know if I go I’ll end up in fucking jail.”

    “Women are fucked,” Jaeger says.

    “They always win in court,” Destroyer says.

    “I’ve won every court case,” Yota says. “Every court case. And what she does is she moves to another state ‘cuz the case follows the kid and then I’ve got to file in that state.”

    “And that just costs you a lot,” Destroyer says.

    “I’ve gone through almost $22,000. Then I just gave up—well, I ran out of money. Used all my deployment money fighting on this shit. Didn’t get nowhere. I figure if he’s anything like me, I’ll get a knock on my door when he’s 13. That’s when I turned into a little bastard.”

    “Did you ever outgrow it?” another guy says.

    “No, I’m still an asshole. I just went to the Marine Corps and that made me an even bigger asshole.”

    “They paid you for it, right?”

    “But I’m a true motherfucker.”

    “Are you really an asshole if you speak the truth?” Jaeger says.

    Survival and Evasion

    One day, I ride into town to resupply with Captain Pain, Showtime, Destroyer, and Jaeger. We stop at Pizza Hut. Everyone takes advantage of the cell reception to check Facebook. Captain Pain has an online business selling threeper holsters, shirts, and decals. He shows us a picture of a big-breasted woman in a bikini on Instagram.

    “So who’s in charge of waterboarding this time?” Captain Pain asks.

    “Mostly me,” Showtime says, barely looking up from his phone.

    “You’re waterboarding people?” I ask.

    “Yeah,” Showtime says with a jolly half-smile.

    “You probably can’t even call it waterboarding,” Captain Pain says. His tone is very reasonable. “You know those little water bottles we have at camp? I’ll pour it around their nose and around their mouths, but not a lot of it gets in there.”

    “That’s ‘cuz they’re upside-down,” Showtime says. “Then they try to hold their breath, so we tase ’em in the armpit. Hahaha!” He makes like he’s tasing himself in the side.

    Showtime explains that the waterboarding and tasing are part of their SERE school—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—for recruits to the Rapid Response Team, 3UP’s special forces. “I think it’s a really vital course,” Captain Pain says. “If they snatch you up out here, it’s really gonna be fucked up.” The course starts in the middle of the night, when the recruits arrive at Captain Yota’s house in the mountains. They sleep in their cars, and early in the morning they’re woken up and made to do physical training until they “fall out.” Then they get “captured.” “We’ll put a bag on their head, cuff ’em, strip ’em down,” Showtime says. “They just got a big-ass T-shirt on. So it gets pretty cold in January. Hahaha!”

    The recruits are told to imagine they are out in Arizona and have been captured by a drug cartel. They’re put in a stall in a horse barn and subjected to sleep deprivation. “We keep ’em up. Keep ’em hungry,” Showtime says. The mock detainees are cuffed to a table sloped at an angle and asked questions like how many people are in their group and what radio frequency they use. Their task is to resist giving any information. “We got a stress box,” Showtime says. “We put ’em in there. Stick a cattle prod through the holes. One guy, he tried to turn around and we got him right between his legs in the ball sack.”

    “Yeah, too much fun,” Destroyer says.

    “How long were they sitting there?” I ask, trying not to sound alarmed.

    “Couple hours,” Showtime says.

    “I don’t think we’ve kept anybody in the stress box that long,” Captain Pain interjects.

    “It gets cold, but they get warm right away if you put three of ’em in there,” Showtime says.

    Sometimes when Showtime interrogates people, he cuffs them to a metal chair. “I’ll take battery charger cables and hook it up to the chair,” he says. “The cord is broke, but they don’t know that.” Showtime will occasionally stand a habanero-covered dildo on the table in front of them and tell them to suck it. If they resist, he shoves it into their faces.

    One time, he says, they tied a man upside-down on the tilt-table with his arms stretched over his head. Fifty Cal filled a syringe with hot sauce, dripped some hot sauce on the man’s lips, and said, “This is going in your dick hole.” Then Fifty Cal took a syringe full of water and dripped some on the man’s penis. The man, thinking it was hot sauce, shouted, “I quit! I quit! I quit!”

    Captain Pain stresses that the recruits can drop out anytime they want during the roughly 40-hour training, and many do. They’re also recorded on camera consenting ahead of time.

    “You ever get people flipping out?” I ask.

    One guy “was ready to pound my ass,” Captain Pain said. “He was ready to just fuckin’ destroy me.”

    “What put him over the line?”

    A female member of 3UP was in the room, he says. “I fucking had her by the neck with a Taser. I told him if he didn’t tell me something I was gonna light her up. He just looked at me, so I lit her up. That’s not working, so I get a cattle prod. Lit her up. Hit her in the calf.”

    They’ve gotten some complaints. “People were like, ‘What the hell, you’re running a torture class?'” Showtime says in a high-pitched, mock-weakling voice. He laughs.

    When I asked Fifty Cal to comment on the training, he wrote back, “Stories of SERE are greatly exaggerated. Yes, we have a version of SERE it’s more of a gauge of mental awareness than anything to do with torture.”

    “Everybody that went through it said it was awesome,” Ghost told me. “Nobody got hurt. Nobody died.”

    Our reporters can go after stories that are hard to get but need to be told, thanks to support by our readers. Join us by making a tax-deductible donation to help fund MoJo‘s investigations.

    Fifty Cal comes out of his trailer and tells us to rally up. “Let me see hands of everybody that’s got night vision out here. Who’s got the good shit?” A bunch of people raise their hands. Fifty Cal appoints some of them as squad leaders and tells them to each pick two men for their team. He tells us we are going back to the area where Sandstone, Iceman, and I found the water and backpacks. We’ll sweep through in five teams. Someone points out there is no way to cross that area without going through private property. “It’s gonna be dark,” Ghost says. “As long as you guys aren’t shooting, yelling, and screaming, I don’t think anyone’s going to know we’re even going across it.”

    At 7:30 p.m., I get into the back of a truck with Yota, Bull, Jaeger, and Destroyer. “Fuck yeah,” Yota says. “Let’s go play, boys.” Yota gives instructions to his squad. If they run into anyone, he will make contact, Destroyer will take pictures, and Bull will be the “trigger man.” “Don’t let them fuckers smoke my ass,” Yota says.

    “Does anyone here know Spanish?” Jaeger asks.

    “I know a little bit of Spanish. ‘Stop,’ ‘sit down.’ Alto! Siéntate!” Yota says.

    “I know ‘chupa mi verga,'” Spanish for “suck my dick,” Jaeger says.

    “If they don’t speak English, they’re fucked,” Destroyer says.

    “You’d think if we were out here hunting Mexicans, somebody would speak goddamned Spanish,” Yota says.

    “Yeah, but do you know how to freakin’ talk to a damn deer when you go deer huntin’?” Bull says.

    “Yeah, you just shoot the motherfuckers.”

    My blood feels like an electrical current. Is this, ultimately, why they do this? Maybe what drives them is not just the fear of illegal immigration or the New World Order, but this feeling I am having right now—nerves exploding, blood coursing: alive.

    Five squads of three get dropped off at 300-yard intervals along the fence. I am with Showtime and Jaeger. Showtime, whose face, as always, is painted green, tells me to take point and navigate directly north. Flashlights are out of the question, so I let my eyes adjust to the light of the crescent moon, pull out my compass, and lead the way. Every few hundred yards, Showtime stops, takes out his night vision goggles, and scans the terrain.

    We make our way slowly for two hours. From time to time, I bump into spiky bushes, scratching my face. Then I hear voices ahead of us. It’s Bravo team, talking with three Border Patrol officers. Minutes ago, an officer had approached Yota, Destroyer, and Bull, shouting to them in Spanish. Yota yelled back, “Alto! Siéntate!” and aimed his rifle at the officer. After a tense moment, they all put down their weapons.

    The six of us follow the agents quietly back to the road. Fifty Cal and Ghost are standing at the roadside. I turn on my body camera.

    An agent named Dennis, his baseball cap cocked backward, introduces himself to Fifty Cal. He says he is an intelligence officer for the Border Patrol, and he tells Fifty Cal and Ghost they’d spotted us using infrared technology.

    “Y’all ever seen an AR pistol?” Yota asks the officers. They walk over to a 3UP truck and Yota hands his weapon to the second Border Patrol officer, whose name sounds like Ford. Ford turns it over, looks it up and down, and aims it. Then Fifty Cal brings over his .300-caliber AR-15 and Ford handles it with awe.

    “I love my job,” Dennis says. “I have days where I’m like, ‘Fuck this. This is the worst mistake I’ve ever made.’ But most of the time, if I sit back and I think about it, I come in and play hide-and-seek, steal weed off of people, steal vehicles from people—legally—and watch Netflix.”

    “I love having y’all out here, man,” Dennis continues. “It impresses me that you guys come out and do my job for me for no pay at all.” He pulls business cards out of his wallet and hands one to Fifty Cal and one to Ghost. “Give me a good heads-up next time you guys are gonna come down. If you plan on coming to the Nogales area, since you’re out in Colorado maybe I can take a trip out and give you guys an unauthorized brief. Or at least give you something in writing so you guys can brief and whatnot.” Ghost and Fifty Cal shake his hand. “Then when y’all get down here I can link up with you again and whatnot.” He says he does the same with another militia that does ops down here.

    “We’ll take all the help you guys will give us,” Ghost says.

    “You didn’t hear this shit from me,” Dennis says.

    Fifty Cal brags to Dennis about their survival training. “We have a great fucking prison. We have perfected the art of waterboarding. Hahaha!”

    “We call it ‘freedom masking,'” Yota says.

    Fifty Cal tells the officers that 3UP once had a run-in with the Mexican military. The soldiers came up to the fence, pointing at them and asking, “US military?”

    “They wanted to know how many,” Ghost says. “They wanted to know where our FOB was. They wanted to know a lot of shit.”

    “I heard you say you were a sniper?” Ford asks Yota. “Mind if I ask you—” He hesitates, shuffling sheepishly. “I don’t have the right to ask you, so I won’t.”

    “What was the longest shot?”

    “Nine hundred forty-six meters.”

    “He was movin’. Left to right.”

    “Nice,” Ford says. “You guys actually went and fought. I didn’t go. That’s on me.”

    “Hey, you’re doing your service now, right?”

    Ford shakes his head in shame.

    “Hey, it’s the administration that’s fucking it all up,” Yota says. “I took an oath. I honor that oath. I got out in 2011. I went in in 2002. I’m out here honoring my oath again, serving while I still have an able body. That’s what we do.”

    Ghost asks where there is a good place for us to set up and look for people. Dennis looks at Ford. “Witch’s Tit? Witch’s Tit. Perfect.” He tells Ghost how to get there. “If you sit there, you can watch all the way down, dude.” Ford says another group might be trying to do something out there. “Just a heads-up about that.”

    Dennis offers to take us on a tour of the border road. That way, he can point us to Witch’s Tit and other spots for us to set up. We follow the Border Patrol truck on dirt roads for what feels like an hour, shining spotlights into the desert and along the fence. We occasionally stop and Dennis, Ghost, and Fifty Cal get out of their vehicles and talk apart from the rest of us.

    When we get back to the base, I thaw my freezing hands by the fire. “Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?” Yota says.

    “Yut,” Ghost says, staring into the flames. “Learned a lot of fucking shit.”

    “Did he give you more intel in the end?” I ask.

    “That dude’s given me more intel than any other fucker out here. Not to mention, he’s an intel officer for Border Patrol. He just told me the exact trail that they take. That’s why they took us on that drive. Then there’s Witch’s Tit. He said you just get on top of that. You can see everything up to Duquesne Road. He said that’s exactly where they come off the mountain pass, across Duquesne. They run right by ya.”

    “I mean, from listening to him, he wants us to do his work,” Captain Pain says. “Which is fine.”

    “Well, there’s a lot more of us than them,” Jaeger says.

    “Well, that’s the thing,” Captain Pain says. “I mean, one guy out there by himself? If they help us help them, it’s gonna be more productive all the way around. In the end, they fuckin’ win no matter what.”

    Shots Fired

    Fifty Cal tells us to circle up. “We got two ops that we want to plan, based off the intel that we got from the Border Patrol last night about a drug run that may be coming in,” he says. “They showed us the area of the fence they come through and the rough times that they think they’re gonna be coming in. We’d need to leave camp at about 0300 tomorrow.”

    A man next to me whispers to another, “They’re hard to chase ‘cuz they’re high as fuck. Their pace is twice our walking pace. That’s why the only way to really get them is to have a known trail. Put people in position along that trail. That’s the only way you can ambush ’em. Good luck fuckin’ chasing those sonsabitches.”

    The day passes slowly as we wait. Jaeger, Destroyer, and Spartan sit and play cards under a tree. Jaeger is listening to a song called “Shadow of the Swastika” by a Viking metal band called Týr. “If you listen to the lyrics, they make a very good point,” Jaeger says. “They are saying, ‘We didn’t commit these crimes. Why should we be blamed for it?'”

    This makes Destroyer think of Black Lives Matter. “They come along and say, ‘Pay us restitution,'” he says in a mock-stupid voice. “No one alive was enslaved!”

    “The goddamn Irish dealt with more bullshit than the niggers,” Spartan says.

    “Yeah!” Destroyer says. “There were literally Irish slaves. That’s never mentioned in history.”

    “They’re not fucking pussies, that’s why,” Spartan says.

    A Border Patrol agent stops in, hurried, and tells us some of their sensors were tripped just to the south of us. Doc and one of the Borderkeepers of Alabama gear up and take a position on a nearby hill. Fifty Cal tells us to stay alert.

    The other day, a Border Patrol agent showed up with two boxes of doughnuts. I asked him whether they ever get any pressure from their superiors in Washington, DC, about us being around. “Not that I ever heard of,” he said. “When you guys come through, they warn us like, ‘Heads up, those guys are out there.’ Good!”

    I later asked the agency to comment on these interactions between its officers and militiamen. A spokesman only replied that the agency “appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears” but “does not endorse or support any private group or organization taking matters into their own hands.” Fifty Cal told me he’s still in touch with his Border Patrol contacts “pretty much weekly.” The agents “give us very useful information to help make our ops better,” including recommendations for times and areas to patrol.

    Captain Pain says that with the new connection to Border Patrol intel, Colorado won’t need to rely on the Arizona guys for their local knowledge. Colorado can set up its own base next time. There is still the problem of equipment, though: The Arizona guys supply the kitchen and lights. Ghost says he has propane lights and gas burners back home. Pain says that when he gets back he’s going to try to get some gun shops to sponsor the border operations. They might try crowdfunding, too.

    “I’ll let you in on a little something nobody knows but me,” Ghost says to the few of us sitting around. “We have 640 acres in Texas we can use. It won’t be ours, but it will be leased to us.” He says the land is directly on the border, so immigrants would have to pass right through it. The owner is a 3UP sympathizer. “That dude’s gonna give us free rein. We can build barracks. We can build fucking shooting lanes. We can do whatever we want to the property.”

    “Catch fucking beaners,” Captain Pain says.

    “Throw up a sign that says, ‘No Trespassing,'” Destroyer says. “Then we can shoot ’em.”

    I don’t bother sleeping in my tent. I’m too exhausted to deal with the cold and the next op is only four hours away, so I get in the cab of my truck, lay the passenger seat back, and turn on the heat. I wake at 3 a.m., stumble past the guys around the fire, and pour a cup of coffee.

    Ghost assigns Iceman and me to go up Witch’s Tit, the spot Dennis recommended. Iceman looks like an apparition from hell. He is wearing a nylon skull mask and a battle helmet with built-in night vision goggles that pull down over his eyes, which he’s blackened like a raccoon’s. By 5 a.m., we are hopping between boulders in a dry riverbed that snakes up a narrow valley. Iceman goes ploddingly, planning and executing each step. “Fuckin’ A, it’s pitch-black out here,” he whispers. He has an eye condition that makes him nearly blind at night, even with the goggles. He is breathing heavily, either from exhaustion or panic. When he takes his monster mask off, he looks remarkably vulnerable and afraid.

    I take the lead. An hour into our patrol, I suggest that we climb the side of the mountain to get up onto the ridge, where we are meant to stand watch. It is steep and Iceman scrambles up using his rifle as a walking stick. Birds trill and a white-blue light is filling the sky. Eventually, we reach the top and sit, looking over the southwest side of the mountain. “Mobile One, Delta,” I say into the radio. “Delta is in position.”

    Iceman scans the valley below with his binoculars and then bundles up in his nylon woobie blanket. He tells me to keep an eye out he’ll use his powerful sense of hearing to conduct audio surveillance. He buries his face in his knees and five minutes later is taking deep, long breaths. I watch the sun slowly wipe away the shadow of the mountain.

    After about 30 minutes, Iceman wakes up and looks across the valley. “It’s hard to believe that just on the other side of that is Mexico,” he says. From here, the border fence is a barely perceptible stitch across the land.

    “You ever been there?” I ask.

    He turns to me and smiles. “Not legally.”

    “Hopped the fence.” He was out on an op with someone else and they jumped across. “We’re like, ‘We’re in Mexico, dude.'”

    Iceman and I stare across the valley, now orange with the dawn. Insects crackle. There is barely a breeze. “We have shots fired on the fence line,” Rogue says over the radio. Shots? How could we not hear that? “None of our people are involved.”

    Iceman shoves his blanket into his bag and zips it shut. “We’re moving,” he says, standing up.

    “If we hear shots fired, I want to return fire,” he says, shrugging his pack onto his shoulders. He moves in close and looks straight into my eyes, his jaw taut. “If I can slay me a body today, I’ll be fucking happy,” he says. We walk along the ridge to the southern side of the mountain. A few minutes later, Captain Pain radios for us to head toward the road for exfiltration. I am deeply relieved. Iceman and I find a dirt road and make a leisurely descent.

    “You know, Cali, I have to say, you’re not a bad operator,” Iceman says.

    “If you ever decide to make your way over to Colorado, you give me a holler. I’ll let you smoke some of that Colorado good stuff.” He says most people know nothing about Aurora. “Only thing I know about it is the theater shooting,” I admit.

    “I live basically right down the street from that theater,” Iceman says. “I lost a high school friend.” His voice is solemn. “She was kinda hot. We called her ‘mountain titties.'”

    Back at the base, the cook has bacon and rice ready for us. Ghost, bored by the fire pit, picks a .223-caliber bullet off the ground and rolls the dusty copper in his fingertips. The cadences of a father-son argument between Captain Pain and Spartan rise and fall from another part of camp. Ghost leans his elbow against the arm of his chair, flicks his wrist, and lobs the bullet into the embers. A couple of postures shift. An eyebrow gives the briefest hint of disapproval. We sit silently. The cook comes by and offers a paper plate of banana bread baked by Ghost’s mother. Pop! The bullet explodes. The cook jumps—”Jesus!”—and a puff of ash covers me.

    “There it goes,” Jaeger says softly.

    I get up and brush off my stomach and legs. Then I head back to my tent and pack my things. I don’t radio in my departure. I start my truck and exit the base, alone.

    Funding for this project has been provided in part by the Puffin Foundation and the ongoing support of Mother Jones readers like you.

    *Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly stated the number of states with these laws.

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    • Residents of the Piney Point Reservoir in the Tampa Bay were forced to flee amid fears a 20ft wall of wastewater would engulf their homes
    • The reservoir had been leaking millions of gallons of water per day for a week
    • HRK Holdings, a shell company that owns the Piney Point phosphate plant, is in the crosshairs of Florida officials
    • 'I'd love to string them up, but the reality of the situation is they have one shell company after another,' one county commissioner says
    • HRK bought the plant in 2006, ahead of a previous disaster there in 2011
    • Its principal owner is William 'Mickey' F. Harley III, who's been described as a 'vulture' investor for his history of buying distressed companies

    Published: 19:41 BST, 7 April 2021 | Updated: 23:41 BST, 7 April 2021

    Stephen King has slammed the owners of a phosphorus plant near his home in Florida

    Author Stephen King who has a home near a troubled Florida plant that has leaked wastewater and led to a recent evacuation order slammed its 'hustler' owners, but local officials say it will be hard to pin them down.

    Florida officials want to hold accountable the owners of the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant that's led to a costly cleanup and worries of continued leaks.

    But holding the plant ownership financially liable appears unlikely, as they are shielded by 'one shell company after another,' a county official said, making it hard to pin culpability on one person or entity, according to a report from the Miami Herald.

    'Piney Point is what happens when you let the sharpies and hustlers have free rein,' King wrote on Twitter last week, blasting the owners. 'Money talks and the environment walks.'

    Millions of gallons of wastewater leaked from Piney Point, an abandoned phosphate plant near Tampa Bay, causing hundreds of homes to be evacuated and a state of emergency declared over the weekend. It isn't clear if King was evacuated.

    Florida lawmakers have proposed spending $200 million to clean up and close the reservoir amid concerns of another catastrophic failure in the future.

    Author Stephen King is among those criticizing the owners of Piney Point

    Effluent spews into a ditch at Port Manatee, where a breach in a nearby wastewater reservoir on the site of a defunct phosphate plant forced an evacuation order for hundreds of homes

    This still image from video shows the breach in the containment wall of the Piney Point reservoir officials warned that a more catastrophic breach would swamp the area

    According to the report, the plant is owned by a shell company, HRK Holdings, which has been running in bankruptcy since a previous spill at the site in 2011.

    The Miami Herald reports that HRK's principal owner - William 'Mickey' F. Harley III - is a Wall Street executive and former hedge fund manager.

    A Forbes profile from 2004 described Harley as a 'vulture, investing in troubled companies that are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection or are trying to avoid it with an out-of-court restructuring'.

    Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge told the Miami Herald he wants the owner of the plant held accountable.

    'I'd love to string them up, but the reality of the situation is they have one shell company after another. These guys are rich and smart and they know what they're doing.'

    Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, left, wants to see the owners of the Piney Point wastewater plant held accountable after a massive environmental disaster there. William F. (Mickey) Harley III is principal owner of HRK Holdings, according to the Miami Herald, a shell company that owns Piney Point

    This image shows the breach in the containment wall of the Piney Point reservoir. This 77-acre pond was holding 480 million gallons of water just 2 weeks ago. Now it's below 300 million gallons as emergency drainage efforts continue

    One of the properties in Osprey, Florida, outside of Sarasota that is listed in author Stephen King's name. King, who lives near the plant, has hit out against the owners

    Best-selling author King has a home around Sarasota, Florida, which borders Manatee County, where the belching plant is located.

    He's been outspoken in his pleas for the environment, and that wasn't any different when it comes to the plant nearby.

    'Piney Point could be the environmental disaster Florida has been courting for a long, long time,' he said on Twitter.

    As for the plant's owner, Forbes describes Harley as a former shoe factory foreman who stumbled into a job on Wall Street in the early 1990s.

    Since then he owned a series of Hooters franchises, served as president of a mining company in Namibia, and invested in cannabis and blueberry companies.

    In an online bio, Harley is described as an 'agriculturist at heart'.

    Harley didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

    An unidentified foam collects on reeds where effluent flows from a pipe into a drainage ditch at Port Manatee South Gate on Tuesday

    A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows a breached retaining wall of wastewater holding pond, in Piney Point

    The Port of Manatee sits near the defunct phosphate plant, whose leaky containment wall forced and evacuation of hundreds of homes and threatened to flood the area

    Through his firm HRK Holdings, Harley purchased the former phosphate plant in 2006 for $4.3m in 2006 from a company called DEP, the Miami Herald reported.

    DEP had bought the plant from a previous owner Mulberry Corp, when it went bankrupt in 2001.

    DEP had intended to close the site using taxpayer money, but the new owners HRK instead had a plan to store dredging disposal on the site.

    The Herald reported that, as part of the sale, DEP asked the new owner to cover an exposed lining of phosphate with a layer of dirt, a process that would cost $4m.

    But the deal was later waived because of an agreement HRK had come to with the Port of Manatee to dredge the site.

    The Herald reported that HRK and the Port of Manatee were required to take out a $2m insurance policy, which was never purchased.

    The dredged material from the Port of Manatee - which was meant to cover the hazardous material - was delayed.

    Then in 2011, a month after 1.1 million cubic yards of material was dumped on the phosphate mine, a fault with the liner caused 170 million gallons of toxic waste to spill into Tampa Bay's Bishop Harbor.

    Amid a flurry of lawsuits, HRK filed for bankruptcy, claiming it couldn't afford to pay for the environmental cleanup.


    “Buses Are A’Comin’” Freedom Riders: 1961


    A portion of the DVD cover for the 2011 PBS / American Experience film, “Freedom Riders,” by Stanley Nelson. Click for DVD.

    Before it was all over more than 60 “Freedom Rides” would criss-cross the South between May and November of 1961. At least 436 individuals would ride buses and trains to make their point. However, a number of the “freedom riders” were physically assaulted, chased, and/or threatened by white mobs, some beaten with pipes, chains and baseball bats. Many of the riders were also arrested and jailed, especially in Mississippi. Yet these arrests became part of the protest – and in this case, a badge of honor.


    Mug shots of some of the more than 300 “freedom riders” who were arrested in Mississippi during the summer of 1961. More on this part of the story follows later.

    The freedom rides of 1961, mostly bus rides, had a legal as well as a moral objective. They were testing two U.S. Supreme Court rulings – Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960) – rulings that found that segregated public buses and related facilities on interstate transportation routes were unconstitutional and illegal. That meant trains, buses, planes, ferries, and related terminals and waiting rooms. The first case dates to July 1944, when Irene Morgan was arrested in Virginia after refusing to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus while traveling home from Baltimore, Maryland.


    Freedom Ride button issued by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).


    In 1961, segregated waiting rooms, fountains & restrooms were common in Southern bus & train terminals, despite Supreme Court rulings striking them down.

    Farmer and CORE were also testing the newly-elected Kennedy Administration in Washington – President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy – to see if they would enforce laws banning segregation.

    The plan for the first ride was to send volunteers on two buses – one group on a Trailways bus and another on a Greyhound bus – both departing from Washington, D.C. bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the route, there would be stops at bus terminals throughout the south, with the passengers selectively testing the “white only” or designated “negro waiting” areas.

    First Departure


    May 5, 1961: Washington Post story (p. B-4) covers the Freedom Riders’ plan and departure for the first 13 riders.

    The Washington Post ran a story on the group’s intentions the following day, May 5th, 1961 on p. B-4 by reporter Elsie Carper. The story, headlined “Pilgrimage Off on Racial Test,” described the group’s trip along with an Associated Press photo of five of the participants looking over a map of their planned route of travel over the next two weeks.

    Shown in the photo, from left, were: Edward Blankenheim from Tucson, Arizona James Farmer, of New York city and director of CORE Genevieve Hughes of Chevy Chase, Maryland Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox of High Point, North Carolina and Henry Thomas of St. Augustine, Florida.


    The first leg of the Freedom Ride from Washington made stops in Virginia and North Carolina. Source: PBS / American Experience.

    The first leg of their trip included stops at Richmond, Petersburg, Farmville, Lynchburg and Danville in Virginia. Stops in North Carolina included Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury and Charlotte. There were no confrontations with riders at most of these stops. Should trouble occur, however, the Freedom Riders were trained in non-violent tactics and would not fight back. In Charlotte, North Carolina, there was an arrest.


    Genevieve Hughes and John Lewis, Rock Hill, S.C.


    The second leg of the trip through South Carolina and Georgia included dinner with Martin Luther King in Atlanta. Source: PBS/American Experience.

    In Anniston, at the Greyhound station, a white mob had gathered waiting for the first bus with its Freedom Riders. As it arrived, the mob attacked the bus with iron pipes and baseball bats, breaking some windows and slashing its tires. By the time Anniston police arrived, the bus had taken a fair beating, but no arrests were made. The passengers had remained inside the bus. The Anniston police car escorted the bus out of the station to just beyond the Anniston city limit on a rural stretch of road. There, because of the punctured tires, the bus was forced to pull off the road near the Forsyth & Son grocery store. This was about five miles west of Anniston.


    Mothers’ Day, May 14, 1961, as Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders and other passengers burns after being fire-bombed by white mob that attacked the bus and some riders near Anniston, Alabama.


    The fire-bombed bus at Anniston, Alabama produced thick smoke that filled the cabin, choking escaping riders.


    The fire on the mob-burned bus at Anniston, Alabama was eventually put out, but the bus was totally destroyed.


    Freedom Riders Jimmy McDonald, center, Hank Thomas, foreground, and regular passenger Roberta Holmes, right, behind Thomas, after bus burning melee, May 14, 1961.


    Fireman going through remains of bus, following fire.


    Map showing route of two Freedom Ride buses traveling from Atlanta, GA to Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama.

    The white mob, meanwhile, had pursued the bus, with a line of some thirty cars and pickup trucks following behind – with at least one car later weaving back-and-forth in front of the bus to slow it down. After the one local police car disappeared, the mob resumed its assault on the bus and its occupants. One attacker hurled a firebomb into the bus. Some reports indicated that the bus door was held shut from the outside preventing riders from exiting, as some of the mob yelled, “burn them alive!” A few of the riders exited through windows.

    The bus door was later forced opened, but only after one of the bus fuel tanks exploded, sending some of the mob into retreat. Riders exited gasping for their lives, choking on the thick smoke that had filled the bus.

    Riders Beaten

    Still, upon exiting the smoke-filled bus, some of the choking Freedom Riders were set upon and beaten by members of the mob. Rider Hank Thomas was one of those beaten with a baseball bat. Some of the mob remained, but a later-arriving state patrolman fired two warning shots into the air, and the mob gradually dispersed.

    The Greyhound bus, meanwhile, became completely engulfed in flames and was totally destroyed. The riders on the second bus, the Trailways bus, were still on their way, unaware of what had happened in Anniston.

    At the scene in Anniston, importantly was one lone photographer, Joe Postiglione of the Anniston Star, who had been tipped off by KKK members. Postiglione’s photos of the Anniston bus bombing – shown above and at left – were the only still photographs of the incident, and they soon made it over the newswires to newspapers all across the country – some running the photo on the front pages, thereby drawing the first national attention to the Freedom Rides.

    Also in Anniston that day was a 12 year-old white girl, Janie Miller, who lived nearby, and after the violence subsided, defied the Klansmen and brought water to the bleeding and choking riders.

    “It was the worst suffering I’d ever heard,” Miller would recall in the PBS / American Experience film, Freedom Riders. “I walked right out into the middle of that crowd. I picked me out one person. I washed her face. I held her, I gave her water to drink, and soon as I thought she was gonna be okay, I got up and picked out somebody else.” For daring to help the injured riders, she and her family were later ostracized by the community and could no longer live in the county.

    A number of Freedom Riders that day were taken, eventually, to the Anniston Memorial Hospital where one attempt was made, unsuccessfully, by a group of Klansman trying to block the entrance to the emergency room.

    KKK on 2nd Bus

    Meanwhile, the second bus with Freedom Riders – the Trailways bus – made a brief stop in Anniston at another bus station. At that stop, the bus was infiltrated by some ticketed KKK members who proceeded to restore the “blacks-in-the-back” seating order on the bus by way of brutally beating up two of the Freedom Riders and installing them in the rear seats. These infiltrators stayed on the bus until it arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, slinging verbal abuse at the Freedom Riders en route and promising them a “special reception” in Birmingham.


    Part of the attacking mob with KKK members at Birmingham, AL, as black bystander George Webb is beaten by several men in the foreground. Photo, Tommy Langston.

    The Trailways station had filled with Klansmen and some reporters. When the Freedom Riders exited the bus, they were beaten by the mob, some wielding baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains. White Freedom Riders in the group were especially singled out by the mob, receiving ferocious beatings.

    Jim Peck, a 46-year-old white CORE member from New York, and black Freedom Rider Charles Person, a student from Atlanta, both headed for the “whites only” lunch counter, according to plan, as they came off the bus. However, they never made it there.


    Jim Peck in hospital after treatment for injuries sustained during mob beating at the Birmingham bus terminal.

    Freedom Riders were not the only ones attacked in Birmingham. Innocent bystanders were beaten too, and so were members of the press. As soon as the flashbulb went off for the photo shown above right, the mob took after the photographer, Tommy Langston of the Birmingham Post-Herald. He was caught in the bus station parking lot and beaten and kicked and threatened with pipes. His camera was also smashed to the ground. He later staggered down the street to the Post-Herald building and was later treated at the hospital.


    Headline from 'The Montgomery Advertiser' news-paper (Montgomery, AL) tells of Anniston bus burning & mob attacks in Birmingham.

    A few of Langston’s colleagues at the Post-Herald returned to the bus station to retrieve his smashed camera to find, amazingly, that the film was still intact. The photo of the melee, shown above, ran the next day on the front page of the Birmingham Post-Herald, one of the few pieces of evidence documenting the mob attack and its participants.

    Meanwhile, back in Anniston, hospitalized Freedom Riders were told to leave the hospital as the staff there became afraid of a growing mob. A group of churchmen and others led by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth headed off around 2 a.m. that night to rescue the hospitalized Freedom Riders in Anniston.

    Media Reports

    In addition to news reports about the Anniston bus bombing and mob attacks in Birmingham, Howard K. Smith, a national CBS News correspondent, was already in Birmingham at the time of the attacks. He was working on a television documentary investigating allegations of lawlessness and racial intimidation in the Southern city. Smith, a Southerner himself from Louisiana, was trying to determine if the claims he and his network were hearing about were exaggerated or true.


    May 1961: CBS newsman, Howard K. Smith, reported on the mob attacks on Freedom Riders that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama.

    Smith did deliver news accounts of the bus station melee over the CBS radio network that went out nationally. He would make a series of live radio updates from his hotel room that day. “The riots have not been spontaneous outbursts of anger,” he reported in one broadcast, “but carefully planned and susceptible to having been easily prevented or stopped had there been a wish to do so.” In another he explained: “One passenger was knocked down at my feet by 12 of the hoodlums, and his face was beaten and kicked until it was a bloody pulp.”[i.e., the Jim Peck beating]. The “rule of barbarism in Alabama,” said Smith in his commentary, must bow to the “rule of law and order – and justice – in America.” Smith reported the facts of the incident for CBS. “When the bus arrived,” he explained in one report, “the toughs grabbed the passengers into alleys and corridors, pounding them with pipes, with key rings, and with fists,” But he was outraged by what he had witnessed, and stated at one point that the “laws of the land and purposes of the nation badly need a basic restatement.” Smith at the time also did a Sunday radio commentary, during which he was more direct, “The script almost wrote itself,” he would later recall. “I had the strange, disembodied sense of being forced by conscience to write what I knew would be unacceptable.” In his commentary, Smith laid the blame squarely on Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor, whose officers had looked the other way during the attack. During that commentary Smith also stated that the “rule of barbarism in Alabama” must bow to the “rule of law and order – and Justice – in America.”

    According to historian Raymond Arsenault, author of the 2006 book, Freedom Riders, “Smith’s remarkable broadcast opened the floodgates of public reaction. By early Sunday evening, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of Americans were aware of the violence that had descended upon Alabama only a few hours before.” At that point, few people had heard of CORE, and fewer still knew what the term ‘Freedom Rider’ meant. But with reports like the one Smith made, more and more of the general population would soon understand what was taking place in the southern part of their country.

    By Monday, May 15th, photographs of the burning “Freedom Bus” in Anniston and Birmingham mob scene were reprinted in newspapers across the country. In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, on May 16th an editorial titled “Darkest Alabama” ran in the Washington Post newspaper. A Washington Post edito- rial of May 16, 1961 used the tagline, “Darkest Ala- bama.” The editors, noting the traditions of the old South such as chivalry, hospitality, and kindness, found them notably absent in Birmingham and Anniston, where the busses and Freedom Riders had been attacked. The Post also noted that “Alabama has a Governor who encourages contempt for the Constitution of the United States and who preaches incendiary racist nonsense.” The Post concluded that Americans traveling in Alabama could not be assured of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. “They are quite justified, therefore, in looking to the United States Department of Justice for the protection of their rights as American citizens.” That message was likely read at the U.S. Justice Department and in the White House.

    “The Kennedys”
    …and Civil Rights
    1961


    During the violence and unrest of the Freedom Rides in 1961, President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy met frequently to deal with the crisis.

    Although John F. Kennedy (JFK) won the 1960 presidential election by a slender margin, with the black vote playing a key role, he had not been quick to move on civil rights issues in the early months of his administration. Kennedy had been cautious on civil rights as he feared taking action would antagonize southern Democrats – “the Dixiecrats” – a group he needed for both his near-term legislative agenda in Congress, and looking ahead to 1964, for his re-election. (In time, the “Dixiecrat defection” JFK feared would occur, helping elect Richard Nixon in 1968). So the Freedom Rides were among the last thing that he and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy(RFK), wanted to see in 1961.

    Just a month earlier, Kennedy had gone though the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. And in May, he was in the midst of preparing for a scheduled June 3, 1961 Vienna Summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the first such summit of his presidential term. So Kennedy’s focus was not on domestic issues, and civil rights, least among these. Journalist Evan Thomas explains in the PBS film Freedom Riders: “The Kennedys, when they came into office, were not worried about civil rights. They were worried about the Soviet Union. They were worried about the Cold War. They were worried about the nuclear threat. When civil rights did pop up, they regarded it as a bit of a nuisance, as something that was getting in the way of their agenda.”


    Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, center, conferring with Justice Department assistants, Nicholas B. Katzenbach, left, and Herbert J. Miller, during the May 1961 Freedom Rides.

    As President Kennedy first learned of the escalating tension around the Freedom Rides, he was not pleased. When reports of the bus burning and beatings in Birmingham reached Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders. The Kennedys, in fact, had condemned the Freedom Rides as unpatriotic because they embarrassed the nation on the world stage at the height of the Cold War. At one point later that summer, Robert Kennedy had called on the Freedom Riders for a “cooling off period.” James Farmer, head of CORE, responded saying, “We have been cooling off for 350 years, and if we cooled off any more, we’d be in a deep freeze.”

    Although the Kennedys were initially angered by the Freedom Riders, and thought the bus rides should end, they soon became quite concerned with the incidents and the safety of the riders. Throughout the summer, Robert Kennedy especially, would become heavily involved in federal-state negotiations to protect the Riders – amid repeated attempts to dissuade them from continuing. However, the Administration was in a bit of quandary on just how much the federal government should get involved and what level of force might be needed. JFK, meanwhile, had some political alliances that would prove awkward.


    JFK and Alabama Governor, Democrat John Patterson, during a 1960 Kennedy-Johnson campaign rally.

    During his 1960 presidential bid, JFK had made some political alliances that would come back to haunt him. Alabama’s governor, Democrat John Patterson, was one of these. Patterson had been one of the few southern politicians to endorse JFK for president, doing so early in 1959. Yet, when it came to the Freedom Riders, Patterson was squarely on the side of the segregationists and “states rights,” and he and the Kennedys would spar on the matter through May of 1961.

    Given the Anniston and Birmingham incidents, the Kennedys worried that there might be more violence in Alabama, and they wanted protection for the Freedom Riders. Governor Patterson had refused to guarantee the Freedom Riders safety. JFK thought at one point he would be able to persuade his old political ally to come around on the matter, diffuse the tensions at the state level, and keep Washington out of the picture. Kennedy had White House telephone operators place a call to Governor Patterson. The governor’s secretary responded that the governor was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and could not be reached. It was then that Kennedy realized what he was up against, and gave the go-ahead to begin preparing for the possible use of federal marshals.


    Alabama Gov. John Patterson, left, confers with Robert Kennedy and two unidentified aides. Photo undated.


    May 15, 1961: Freedom Rider James Peck, talks with a Dept of Justice official and Ben Cox on plane to New Orleans. Photo, T. Gaffney.


    April 1960: Diane Nash, as Fisk University junior with the Rev. Kelly Smith, president of the Nashville Christian Leadership Council. Photo: Gerald Holly, Nashville Tennessean.

    Meanwhile, other civil rights activists, realizing the importance of the Freedom Ride, and also seeing the national attention the Anniston and Birmingham incidents had brought to the civil rights movement, began planning to continue the bus rides. The Nashville Student Movement, lead by Diane Nash, decided to send “fresh troops” to Birmingham – replacement riders – to continue what CORE had started. Nash and other civil rights activists began to see that what CORE had put in motion could not be allowed to fail, and should not stop because of violence.

    Raised in middle-class Catholic family in Chicago, Nash attended Howard University in Washington, D.C, before transferring to Nashville’s Fisk University in the fall of 1959. Shocked by the extent of segregation she encountered in Tennessee, she became a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960. In February 1961 she served jail time in solidarity with the “Rock Hill Nine” — nine students imprisoned after a lunch counter sit-in.

    Nash felt that if violence was allowed to halt the Freedom Rides, the movement would be set back years. She pushed to resume the ride and began calling black colleges in nearby states to find replacements for the injured Freedom Riders. On May 17, 1961, a group of eight blacks and two whites – students from Fisk University, Tennessee State University and the American Baptist Theological Seminary – traveled by bus from Nashville to Birmingham, where they would then resume the Freedom Ride from there to Montgomery, Alabama, and then on to Mississippi and Louisiana. However, upon their arrival in Birmingham, they were immediately arrested – “protective custody,” according to police. Later that night, in the early a.m. hours, this group was transported by Birmingham police chief Eugene “Bull” Connor to Ardmore, Alabama near the Tennessee line, and dropped off in a rural area – an area reportedly known for Klan activity. They were told to take a train back to Nashville. After finding refuge with a local black family, they reached Diane Nash who sent a car for them, returning them to Birmingham, where they intended to resume the Freedom Ride.

    “John Meets Diane”
    May 1961


    John Seigenthaler, in later years, would recall his activities during the 1961 Freedom Rides in the 2011 PBS documentary, “Freedom Riders.”

    John Seigenthaler, a former reporter for The Nashville Tennessean newspaper, had worked with Robert Kennedy in Congress. In 1961, then 32, Seigenthaler became a special assistant in Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department.

    Dispatched by Kennedy to the south to help diffuse the Freedom Rider tensions, his first task in that crisis was to get the CORE Riders safely on airplanes to New Orleans. When the Riders – after some harassment and verbal abuse along the way – arrived safely in New Orleans, Seigenthaler thought both the Freedom Rides and the crisis were over. Instead, he learned that someone named Diane Nash and others from the Nashville Student Movement planned on continuing what the CORE Riders had started. In the PBS film Freedom Riders, Seigenthaler appears on camera offering his remembrance of that pivotal moment:

    . . . I went to a motel to spend the night. And you know, I thought, “What a great hero I am. . . . How easy this was. . . I just took care of everything the president and the attorney general wanted done. Mission accomplished.” My phone in the hotel room rings and it’s the attorney general. “Sir, you should know, we all signed our last wills and testaments last night before they left…”
    – Diane Nash, 1961 And he opened the conversation, “Who the hell is Diane Nash? Call her and let her know what is waiting for the Freedom Riders.” So I called her. I said, “I understand that there are more Freedom Riders coming down from Nashville. You must stop them if you can.”

    Her response was, “They’re not gonna turn back. They’re on their way to Birmingham and they’ll be there shortly.” You know that spiritual [song]—“Like a tree standing by the water, I will not be moved”? She would not be moved. And . . . I felt my voice go up another decibel and another and soon I was shouting, “Young woman, do you understand what you’re doing? You’re gonna get somebody . . . Do you understand you’re gonna get somebody killed?”


    Diane Nash, of Fisk University, let John Seigenthaler know there was no turning back.

    And there’s a pause, and she said, “Sir, you should know, we all signed our last wills and testaments last night before they left. We know someone will be killed. But we cannot let violence overcome nonviolence.”

    That’s virtually a direct quote of the words that came out of that child’s mouth.

    Here I am, an official of the United States government, representing the president and the attorney general, talking to a student at Fisk University. And she, in a very quiet but strong way, gave me a lecture.


    James Peck (right) and Hank Thomas march in a picket line outside the Port Authority Terminal in New York City.

    Civil rights leaders at the national level, meanwhile, were spreading word of what had happened to the Freedom Riders in the south. In several U.S. cities, CORE chapters used the May 17th anniversary date of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to protest the violence in Alabama. They set up picket lines in front of bus terminals in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. More than two thousand people came out for the New York City demonstration, with hundreds picketing the Port Authority terminals of the Greyhound and Trailways bus lines in protest over the segregated bus stations in the South. Some marchers carried signs that read, “segregation is morally wrong.” At least two of the Freedom Riders – Hank Thomas, who had been attacked in Anniston, and James Peck, who was beaten in Birmingham and was still bandaged – joined the demonstration in New York City. Peck carried a large placard that identified him as “a victim of an attempt at lynching by hoodlums,” and Thomas a sign that indicated he was arrested on a Freedom Ride in South Carolina. Following the New York demonstration, Peck and Thomas also answered questions and at a press conference held at the offices of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Lillian Smith, a well-known author and southern liberal unafraid to criticize segregation and who worked to dismantle the Jim Crow laws, was also at the press conference. Other national figures began voicing their opinions as well. On Thursday morning, May 18th, the New York Times and other newspapers reported a story citing the Southern Baptist evangelist, Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, who said that the Southerners who had attacked and beaten the “Freedom Riders” should be prosecuted for their actions.


    Rev. Shuttlesworth during “CBS Reports” TV show.


    May 18,1961: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, left, talks with several Freedom Riders waiting in the Birmingham bus station to go to Montgomery. AP photo.

    Beatings in Montgomery


    May 20, 1961: Jim Zwerg, one of the Freedom Riders beaten at Montgomery, Alabama bus terminal.

    One of those on the arriving bus was Jim Zwerg, a 21-year-old white college from Beloit College in Wisconsin who became an exchange student at Fisk University an was also active in the Nashville sit-in movement. Zwerg was one of those selected for the “new troops” initiative for replacement Riders begun by Diane Nash and others. He was one of the group that left Birmingham earlier that day on May 20th. As Zwerg, stepped off the bus in Montgomery, someone shouted, “kill the nigger-loving son of a bitch!” With clubs and fists they attacked Zwerg brutally, beating him several times. He lost teeth in the beatings and was eventually hospitalized.

    The mob also brutally attacked John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, and William Barbee. Barbee was beaten unconscious and left on the sidewalk, suffering injuries that would later shorten his life. Three others escaped the violence by jumping over the retaining wall and running to the adjacent post office. Five black female Freedom Riders escaped in a cab driven by a black cab driver. Two white women were pulled from another cab and beaten by the mob.


    May 20, 1961: Montgomery, AL mob member, later identified as a Klan leader, attacking news photographer.

    Also on the scene that day in Montgomery to observe was Justice Department emissary John Seigenthaler, who was beaten as well. Seigenthaler, who saw the unfolding melee at the bus terminal from a distance, tried at one point from his car to help one of the female Freedom Riders being pursued in the street. But Seigenthaler was pulled from his car, beaten with a tire iron, his head fractured and left unconscious in the street.

    In the aftermath, ambulances, manned by white attendants, refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Local blacks finally rescued the wounded, with some of the Freedom Riders eventually hospitalized.


    Freedom Rider Jim Swerg in his hospital bed after beating with a copy of the “Montgomery Advertiser” newspaper, with his bloody photo on its front page.

    The Montgomery melee was front-page news the next day all across the country. The Montgomery Advertiser, for its part, ran a large photo of a beaten and bloody Jim Swerg on its front page (see photo at right).

    In Washington, D.C., the melee was front-page news as well. Along with the bloody Zwerg photo, The Washington Post headlines that day also announced the actions of the federal government in response to the violence: “Kennedy Orders Marshals to Alabama After New Freedom-Rider Mobbing.”

    Attorney General Robert Kennedy had been on the phone with Justice Department lawyer John Doar who was relaying a nearly blow-by-blow account to Kennedy of the mob violence as the fists and clubs began flying that day.


    May 21, 1961: Washington Post runs “marshals-to-Alabama” front-page story on violence in Montgomery, along with photo of bloodied Freedom Rider, Jim Swerg


    May 21, 1961: A contingent of Federal marshals gather to watch over civil rights activists and Freedom Riders coming to rally at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery. AP photo.


    Part of the 1,500 supporters who came out to learn about the Freedom Rides and hear from civil rights leaders – on what became a long night. Joseph Scherschel /Time Life


    May 21, 1961: U.S. Marshals stand guard in front of Baptist Church as an automobile burns in the distance after being overturned by the mob. Photo, AP/Horace Cort


    May 21-22,1961: Rev. Ralph Abernathy & Rev. Martin Luther King during stand-off with white mob outside Abernathy’s Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. King had been on the phone with Attorney General Robert Kennedy seeking help. Photo, Paul Schutzer/ Time Life.


    May 21-22, 1961: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on the phone at his Justice Dept office during the night of the church attack in Birmingham, Alabama. Bob Schutz/AP.


    A detachment of National Guardsmen at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama after martial law was declared. AP photo/Horace Cort.


    May 22, 1961: National Guard troops in front of the First Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL. AP/Horace Cort.

    In response to the violence, civil rights leaders called for a gathering of supporters in Montgomery for Sunday evening, May 21, 1961. They convened at Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church and organized a program of hymns and speakers. About 1,500 community members attended along with civil rights leaders, including, Martin Luther King, Jim Farmer, Joseph Lowery, and Rev. Shuttlesworth.

    The purpose of the gathering was to show support for the Freedom Rivers – of which more than a dozen attended. Diane Nash was also listed on the program, possibly to introduce the Freedom Riders. The First Baptist Church was located just a few blocks from the state capitol. Federal marshals, now on the scene in Montgomery, stood watch from a park near the church as evening services began on May 21st.

    As those inside the church that night listened to testimonials about courage and commitment and sang hymns and freedom songs, a white mob began gathering outside. By nightfall the mob had grown larger, and had begun yelling racial epithets and hurling rocks at the church windows.

    Inside, Martin Luther King Jr., told the crowd that Gov. Patterson was responsible for allowing the violence to happen. King also called for legislation to end desegregation and stop the violence. “We hear the familiar cry that morals cannot be legislated. This may be true, but behavior can be regulated,” King said. “The law may not be able make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.”

    During the evening, the mob grew, overturned a U.S. marshal’s car, and set a couple of small fires. The mob threatened to overwhelm the federal marshals who feared the church would be set on fire. According to one account of that evening by a U.S. Marshals historian, “a fiery projectile nearly burned the roof of the church.” At one point during the evening, some 75 marshals charged the angry mob and were pelted with rocks. The marshals were later bolstered by local and state police. Still, the mob persisted.

    From inside the church that night, at around 3 a.m., King called Attorney General Robert Kennedy at the Justice Department for help. Kennedy then called Governor Patterson and also had his Deputy Attorney General, Byron White, later a Supreme Court Justice, meet with Patterson and his staff.

    Back at the mob scene, meanwhile, it became obvious that the civilian federal marshals were overmatched by the mob’s larger numbers. It was at that point that Patterson, under federal pressure, declared martial law and authorized a National Guard battalion to disperse the crowd. The Alabama National Guard took control of the scene and the U.S. marshals were placed under Guard command.

    One wire story of the church attack by United Press International that appeared in newspapers on Monday, May 22nd, reported: “Tear gas and fire hoses were needed to beat off the angry mob of about 200 whites who converged on the church [other accounts had that number much larger]. It took 100 U.S. Marshals and more than that number of city police and a National Guard contingent to hold back the rock-hurling, club-swinging mob.”

    But it was early morning before the surrounding streets were secure enough for the Freedom Riders and their supporters to leave the church. Before dawn on May 22, 1961, the Guard moved the congregation out, using military trucks to transport some of the church attendees back to their communities,

    Back in Washington, there had been early a.m. meetings at the Justice Department on the crisis, and Robert Kennedy, up all night, called President Kennedy at 7 a.m. to update him on what had happened.

    On May 23, 1961, martial law was in place in Montgomery, Alabama, and national guard soldiers were present in front of the First Baptist Church and elsewhere in the city, including the Montgomery bus terminal.

    Still, Patterson called the Freedom Riders “agitators” and said, “they were to blame for the race rioting because of their insistence on testing bus station racial barriers.”

    The church attack and martial law were front-page news across the country. In Rome, Georgia, the News-Tribune story covering the church attack included reaction from state and local politicians, including some who blamed the Kennedys for encouraging “these people to come into the South to change traditions and the way of life.”

    That story also quoted the Alabama Ku Klux Klan “grand wizard,” Robert Shelton, who said the klans of the nation would amalgamate in an effort to prevent further integration attempts in the South. He also added: “It is regrettable that the President of the United States would used the power of his office to condone the unlawful activities of these integrationist groups by attempting to enjoin the Alabama klans from aiding in the preservation of our laws and customs.” Shelton said that while the klan did not condone violence, it would “take all measures necessary” to preserve Alabama customs.

    Back in Montgomery, on May 23, 1961, civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy and James Farmer, and student leader John Lewis, held a news conference announcing that the Freedom Rides would continue.

    The National Guard remained a presence in Montgomery following the mob activity at the First Baptist Church. Soldiers also lined the streets near the Montgomery bus terminals.


    May 22, 1961: Alabama National Guardsman are also stationed at Montgomery bus station. AP photo.


    May 23, 1961: Civil rights leaders John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy and James Farmer announcing that Freedom Rides would continue.


    May 24, 1961: National Guard troops line sidewalk at at bus station in Montgomery, AL as Freedom Riders plan to resume bus trips. Photo, AP / Horace Cort.


    May 1961: Photo from inside bus departing from Mont-gomery for Jackson with police & Nat’l Guard escort.


    May 24, 1961: Wm.Sloan Coffin (glasses) and Yale group of Riders arriving in Montgomery, AL. Perry Aycock/AP


    May 24, 1961: Alabama National Guard protecting Freedom Ride bus at stop near Mississippi handover, at state border.


    Jackson, Mississippi police line city streets near the bus station as Freedom Riders arrive there in May 1961.

    More Riders

    On the morning of May 24, 1961, the Freedom Riders in Montgomery resumed their travels with two buses departing at different times for Jackson, Mississippi. The two buses carried 27 Freedom Riders between them and also some 20 members of the press. The buses were escorted by 16 highway patrol cars, each carrying three National Guardsmen and two highway patrolmen. A few national guardsmen were also on the buses. The ride from Montgomery to Jackson, a distance of about 140 miles, would take about six hours.

    More Freedom Riders were also converging on Montgomery to fill more buses for additional trips into Mississippi. On the same day as the first buses departed for Jackson, for example, two white college students, David Fankhauser and David Myers, students at Central State College in Ohio, arrived in Montgomery. They were among those responding to the earlier call of Diane Nash seeking new recruits. On their arrival, these prospective riders and others would stay at local homes for a few days awaiting additional Freedom Riders sufficient to fill more buses.

    Another bus arriving in Montgomery that afternoon from Atlanta brought a group of Riders from Connecticut, including four white college professors and three black students. Leading this group was white clergyman Rev. William S. Coffin, Chaplin at Yale University. Coffin, 35, and a WWII veteran, was also a member of President Kennedy’s Peace Corps Advisory Council. A day or so earlier on the Yale University campus, at a pre-Freedom Ride ally, Coffin had criticized southern ministers for not supporting the Rides. And in a Life magazine article a week or so later, Coffin also stated: “Many people in the South have criticized the Freedom Riders as ‘outsiders’ who want to stir up trouble. But if you’re an American and a Christian you can’t be an outsider on racial discrimination, whether practiced in the North or the South…”

    Rev. Coffin also explained that by joining the Freedom Rides with his group “we hoped to dramatize the fact that this is not just a student movement. We felt that our being university educators might help encourage the sea of silent moderates in the South to raise their voices…”

    Arriving at the Montgomery bus terminal on May 24th with Coffin that day were Dr. David E. Swift, Dr. John D. Maguire, and a contingent of Yale divinity students. The terminal was then patrolled by the National Guard. Still, a throng of angry whites had gathered there, but Sloan and others were able to make it to cars that carried them to meet with civil rights leaders at a local home. The next day, Coffin and his group were slated to board a bus for Jackson. However, while at the bus terminal that morning before departure, Coffin and others joined Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and others at a terminal lunch counter, testing a “whites only” restriction. Most of this group, including Coffin, were arrested in the Montgomery terminal for “breach of peace and unlawful assembly,” and did not make the trip to Jackson. They were later released after posting $1,000 bond.

    “Fill The Jails”

    As Freedom Riders and civil rights leaders gathered at Ralph Abernathy’s home in Montgomery, including Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and student leaders, a new strategy was devised for the Freedom Rides heading into Mississippi. They decided that as more and more riders came to participate – then converging on Jackson, Mississippi where all incoming riders would likely be arrested – they would seek to “fill the jails” in Mississippi as part of the protest.

    Back in Washington, meanwhile, the Kennedy Administration, was suffering some bad press overseas as new reports of the Freedom Ride violence spread around the globe. As one attempted counter to those reports, Robert F. Kennedy, on May 25, 1961, delivered a radio broadcast over Voice of America, defending America’s record on race relations, and adding, “there is no reason that in the near or the foreseeable future, a Negro could [not] become President of the United States.”

    Back in Alabama, the two buses that had left Montgomery on May 24 were traveling on the road to Jackson with their convoy of police cars, National Guardsmen, and overhead helicopter. They were only making limited stops en route, during which National Guardsmen would array themselves around the bus in a protective manner. As they approached the Mississippi border, there would be a changing of the guard as the Mississippi Guard would take over from the Alabama Guard, and that transfer went smoothly. However, there had been one report of a phoned-in dynamite threat in Mississippi, so the Guardsmen at the state-line border exchange were especially attentive to their surroundings.

    In Washington, Robert Kennedy had been negotiating with Mississippi officials over the safety of the Freedom Riders who were heading to Jackson. He struck a deal with Mississippi’s Democratic Senator, James O. Eastland, allowing the Riders to be jailed in exchange for their safety. Kennedy would not interfere in Mississippi’s affairs by sending in federal marshals as long as Eastland would guarantee there would be no mob violence. Kennedy explained that the Federal Government’s “primary interest was that they [Freedom Riders] weren’t beaten up.”

    There were no incidents en route to Jackson, with the exception of some hecklers and a thrown bottle or two. The first two buses of Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson safely on May 24th, with no rabid white mobs awaiting them. As the Riders exited the buses and tested the whites-only or colored waiting areas, they were immediately ushered by police into a waiting paddy wagon which drove them to jail. The riders were typically charged with “breach of peace,” rather than breaking segregation laws. Freedom Riders responded with a “jail, no bail” strategy —part of the effort to fill the jails. Back in Montgomery, more Riders were preparing for the trip to Jackson. On May 28th, and in the days thereafter, additional buses with more Freedom Riders made the trip to Jackson.

    Among those departing from Montgomery on May 28th for Jackson was Pauline Knight, a 20-year-old Tennessee State student, who would be arrested in Jackson and would later lead a brief hunger strike among female Rider-inmates. Describing the motivation that led Knight to participate in the Freedom Rides, she said: “It was like a wave or a wind, and you didn’t know where it was coming from but you knew you were supposed to be there. Nobody asked me, nobody told me.”


    June 1961: A police paddy wagon in Jackson, Mississippi with arrested Freedom Riders aboard. Photo from “Breach of Peace” book, Eric Etheridge.

    In fact, like Pauline Knight, the same kind of motivation was true for many who came to the Freedom Rides that summer – they just came, in the hundreds, unselfishly, out of personal conviction, finding it was the right thing to do. It was a spontaneous movement of individuals, each coming from separate locations, but each making a similar decision to become personally involved. It was a simple but powerful statement of democratic action – one that augured well for America’s future, and a proud moment for all of its citizens.

    Back in Washington, meanwhile, on May 29th, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy formally petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to adopt “stringent regulations” prohibiting segregation in interstate bus travel. The proposed order would not be issued for several months, but the process was set in motion. Kennedy was also trying to dissuade the Freedom Riders from continuing their protest, asking for “cooling off” period that went nowhere. In fact, if anything, the movement only grew larger in the months ahead as individuals all around the country responded.

    Ray Cooper
    Freedom Rider
    1961


    Mug shot of Ray Cooper, 19, arrested in Jackson, MS.

    …Gathering in New Orleans, we were getting to know one another, bonding to find the courage to act together. There was a wave of volunteers and we had the moral advantage. I could not have continued past New Orleans if there had been a meager turn out. Strength in numbers. Was I frightened? Yes. But like the others I was calm and focused. I was nineteen and was about to do something meaningful for the first time in my life. I had resolved not to participate with the U.S. military adventure in Vietnam. The battle at home was my choice. I was testing myself, challenging my country to actually “free the slaves” not just talk about it…

    I had read about Gandhi in high school. “I had read about Gandhi in high school. He stood against the British Empire. People listened to him and won. I admired that. . . .” He stood against the British Empire. People listened to him and won. I admired that. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted him. I respected that. I believed that nonviolent resistance would also work in America where people professed belief in democracy. It was a gamble but was a rather “strong hand”…

    [Ray Cooper later boarded his Greyhound Bus in New Orleans, headed for Jackson, Mississippi].

    …We arrived in Jackson in [July]. Police and their vans surrounded the terminal. They watched passively as we walked into the whites only waiting room. Once inside we sat on available benches together with arms locked. The police ordered us out. We declined. Threatened with arrest we went limp and were dragged from the Greyhound station by our feet and were loaded into paddy wagons. . . . Arrested and booked for unlawful assembly, we entered the jails of Jackson City and County. We were, of course, segregated by race and sex. Our fear was not of police mistreatment, but of the uncertainty of being housed with criminal prisoners. At no point during the summer did this occur. The standard length of incarceration was forty-five days, first in Jackson and ultimately at Parchman . . . All summer long the buses kept arriving with more Freedom Riders…


    Headline from ‘The Morning Herald’ newspaper of Hagerstown, MD, May 25, 1961 announcing jailing of Freedom Riders in Mississippi with photo of Riders being loaded into paddy wagon.

    Mississippi’s governor, meanwhile, Ross Barnett, had the Freedom Riders in his sights, and set out “to teach ‘em a lesson” and “break the back” of their movement. By doing “real time in a real prison” like Parchman, Barnett believed his Mississippi jailers would give the Riders an education they would remember, helping to end the Freedom Rides. But Barnett’s jailers would underestimate the resolve and ingenuity of their charges. Among other measures to maintain their spirits while jailed, the Riders sang freedom and folk songs – among them, “Buses Are A’Comin, Oh Yeah,” which surely made their jailers boil. When the Riders refused to stop singing, prison officials took away their mattresses and toothbrushes. But the Riders kept singing, and also devised other strategies to survive their jail time. Most would endure a sentence of about 45 days.


    PBS “Freedom Riders” map showing routes traveled as of July 1961, when some 367 Riders had participated.

    Freedom Riders would also test train and plane routes and their related facilities — waiting areas, restrooms, and restaurants — at train stations and airports. Riders also went to Arkansas, Florida and Texas some came from New York and Los Angeles. In fact, they came from all regions of the U.S., and some from Canada as well. (see PBS Freedom Riders website for full list of rides, riders, and routes traveled).

    Media Coverage


    Newsweek’s June 5, 1961 featured three of the contending major players in the Freedom Rider controversy that continued throughout the summer.

    By early June, the Freedom Riders story was front-page national news almost everywhere. Magazines such as Time and Newsweek had cover stories devoted to the latest developments. Life magazine in early June also chose the Freedom Riders and the unrest in Montgomery as its “story of the week.”

    Time magazine featured the Freedom Riders as its cover story, using a cover photo of 39 year-old Governor John Patterson and focusing on the governor’s segregationist career, the incidents that had occurred in his state, and the fight between he and Robert Kennedy over enforcing the law.

    Newsweek also had a photo of Patterson on its cover that week, along with those of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy – featuring the three contending players in that week’s news with quotes from each displayed with their photos. “We stand for human Liberty,” ran beside RFK’s photo. “We must be prepared to suffer…even die,” was attributed to Rev. King. And in the third frame, Gov. Patterson was quoted saying: “The Federal government encourages these agitators.”

    Life magazine ran several pages of photos and narrative for its story of the week – “The Ride for Rights: Negroes Go by Bus Though the South Asking for Trouble and Getting It. Among Life’s photos in that issue was a sequence from the siege of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery.

    More news reporters and photographers were drawn to the story by this time as well. A number of the media had already witnessed the early mob violence visited on the Freedom Riders in Montgomery. More reporters joined on the bus rides in late May 1961 during the National Guard escort from Alabama to Mississippi and others came to Jackson, Mississippi as the “breach of peace” arrests were made throughout that summer. As a result, Freedom Rider stories continued to appear in the news media through the summer and fall of 1961. The media coverage of the Rides kept the issue on the nation’s front burner. Yet it was the rising up of individuals all across the country that kept the Rides going – much to the dismay of the Kennedy Administration which tried to dissuade the Riders from continuing.

    By November 1, 1961, the ICC rule that Robert Kennedy had initiated began to be enforced. With the new rule, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains and related facilities. All the “white” and “colored” signs came down at all terminals. There would be no more segregated drinking fountains, toilets, or waiting rooms. Lunch counters would serve all customers, regardless of race. However, there were still pockets of resistance in some locations. Black riders encountered stiff resistance in December 1961 when they attempted to desegregate a white waiting room in Albany, Georgia. Other locations also offered resistance. But eventually, the rule took hold everywhere, and segregated interstate travel and accommodation ended.

    The Freedom Rides and Freedom Riders of 1961 provided an important boost to the civil rights movement. The Rides brought new momentum, new energy, and a broadening constituency to the movement. The grass roots nature of its participants also empowered the cause in a new way, directly influencing, and helping inspire, other activities that followed – from the March on Washington in August 1963 and the Freedom Summer movement in Mississippi in 1964, to landmark federal legislation culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the voting Rights Act of 1965.


    May 1961: Scene from Montgomery, Alabama after National Guard arrived to protect Freedom Riders from local mobs. / Bruce Davidson

    And for the nation as a whole – the nation watching the horrors on television and reading the news accounts of what was happening, and seeing more and more people step forward willing to risk bodily harm and/or imprisonment – the Freedom Riders helped change minds and stiffen the national backbone for confronting Jim Crow. As the PBS Freedom Riders website has put it: “The courage and stoicism of the Freedom Riders, in the face of the most vicious hatred and racism and physical beatings, left a deep impression on the nation and the world.”

    The Freedom Rides also became established in popular literature and American history practically from the beginning. In 1962, James Peck, a veteran CORE member and Freedom Rider who was badly beaten in Anniston and Birmingham, published his account of the Rides in a book first published by Simon and Schuster, titled Freedom Ride. Later editions of Peck’s book included a forward by African American author James Baldwin. Other books on the Freedom Rides followed in the 1980s and 1990s, some of which are listed in “Sources” below, as well as more comprehensive books on the overall civil rights movement, which typically incorporate special sections on the Freedom Rides.

    In recent years, the Freedom Rides have received more in-depth treatment in volumes such as the January 2006 book by Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and The Struggle for Racial Justice, published by Oxford University Press. This volume, at 704 pages, is regarded by many as the definitive treatment of the 1961 Freedom Rides and their impact. One review of the book appearing in the New York Times Book Review by Eric Foner notes, for example:

    “Drawing on personal papers, F.B.I. files, and interviews with more than 200 participants in the rides, Arsenault brings vividly to life a defining moment in modern American history…. Rescues from obscurity the men and women who, at great personal risk, rode public buses into the South in order to challenge segregation in interstate travel…. Relates the story of the first Freedom Ride and the more than 60 that followed in dramatic, often moving detail.”

    Aresnault’s book became a primary source for a the PBS/American Experience documentary, Freedom Riders – an excellent two-hour show that first aired in mid-May 2011 and has since won numerous awards. 2011 was also the 50th anniversary year of the Freedom Rides, during which a number of other books, short films, museum specials, and other commemorations were produced – including a special May 2011 edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show. A number of these are also referenced in “Sources” below, many with links. However, one volume that came out in 2008 deserves special mention for the imagery and personal stories it brought forth, providing a whole new perspective on the Freedom Rides.


    Eric Etheridge discovered the archive of Freedom Rider mug shots in 2003.

    In 2003, Eric Etheridge, a native of Carthage, Mississippi, had lived and worked in New York City. He had done some work for Rolling Stone and Harper’s, but was then looking for a new photography project.

    During a visit to Jackson, Mississippi in 2003 to see his parents, he was reminded that a lawsuit had forced the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission – an agency created in 1956 to resist desegregation – to open its archives. The agency files, put online in 2002, included more than 320 police mug shots of Freedom Riders arrested for “breach of peace” in Jackson, Mississippi. The photos cover those incarcerated from late May to mid-September 1961.

    The trove of photos, Eteridge concluded, was a pot of gold, and important history that should have wider circulation. “The police camera caught something special,” Etheridge would later say. The segregationist Sovereignty Commission had unintentionally created and preserved an important visual record of the Freedom Rides and civil rights history.


    Eric Etheridge’s 2008 book, using Freedom Rider mug shots for “then- and-now” profiles of 80 Riders. Click for book.

    The result of Eteridge’s sleuthing was the book, Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders, published in May 2008. It features 80 of the Freedom Riders, each shown in their 1961 mug shots alongside a more current photo that Etheridge took, plus interviews he did with the activists reflecting on their Freedom Ride experiences. More than two dozen of the riders Etheridge interviewed went on to become teachers or professors. There are also eight ministers as well as lawyers, Peace Corps workers, journalists and politicians.

    Of the 320 or so Freedom Riders arrested in Mississippi, nearly 75 percent were between 18 and 30 years old. About half were black a quarter, women. And as many who have examined these photos have concluded, the mug-shot expressions displayed by the riders in that famous summer of 1961 not only offer a look at the collective face of democracy in action, but also a measure of each Rider’s composure and determination at the time – and in some cases, their defiance, pride, vulnerability and/or fear as well. Yet above all, at least in the collective, there is an overwhelming optimism that seems to come through – and for the observer, faith in one’s “fellow man.”


    A small cross-section of the 328 Freedom Riders who were arrested in Mississippi during the summer of 1961 – most of whom were processed in Jackson, MS and likely served time in Parchman State Prison for their “crime.”

    The Mississippi Freedom Rider mug shots helped bring a new dimension to the Freedom Rider story, and many are now circulating on the web with personal histories attached, including “where-are-they-now” details. This visual record also helped enliven the 2011 PBS documentary mentioned earlier, and in some cases the photos have also been used on more recent book covers, magazine specials, websites, and DVDs exploring Freedom Rider history. They have also been used in special exhibits and in displays at some museums. A dozen or so are also offered below in “Sources,” only as a sampling, with very brief sketches.

    For additional civil rights history at this website please visit “Civil Rights Stories,” a topics page, which includes thumbnail sketches and links to 14 additional story choices. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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    Date Posted: 24 June 2014
    Last Update: 18 July 2020
    Comments to: [email protected]

    Article Citation:
    Jack Doyle, “Buses Are A’Comin’- Freedom Riders: 1961,”
    PopHistoryDig.com, June 24, 2014.

    Sources, Links & Additional Information


    Catherine Burks Brooks helped integrate restaurants in Nashville, TN before becoming a Freedom Rider. She was among the first group from Nashville who came to Birmingham to keep the Rides going in May of 1961, and also among those Birmingham Police Chief Bull Conner dropped off in rural Alabama in the middle of the night and told not to return. But she and her group did return to Birmingham to continue the Rides.


    Bill Svanoe heard Dr. King speak in his last year at Oberlin College and realized that “this was not the country I thought it was." He signed up with CORE and during his July 16th, 1961 bus ride was threatened with a gun by another traveler, but made it to Jackson where he was sent to Parchman prison. Later, his Rooftop Singers folk-rock group scored a No. 1 hit with 1963's “Walk Right In.” Play writing & teaching followed.


    Hank Thomas was a sophomore at Howard University in Washington, D.C. when he joined the first May 4, 1961 CORE Freedom Ride – the one that was firebombed in Anniston, AL. He was also beaten with a baseball bat there, but persisted in service with CORE as a field secretary in the South during 1962. In 1965-66 he served a tour of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. Today he & his wife own restaurants & hotels in Georgia.


    Margaret Leonard, a 19 year-old student at Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, LA in June 1961, was the first white Southerner to participate in the Freedom Rides, joining 8 others on June 21 on a bus ride from Montgomery, Al to Jackson, MS where she was arrested. Her mother, a progressive columnist for the Atlanta Journal, was fired after Margaret’s arrest. Margaret, now retired, had a long career as a reporter in Florida.


    Clarence Melvin Wright, one of ten children, was born in Mason, TN and was a 19 year-old student at Tennessee State University when he rode a Greyhound bus from Nashville, via Memphis, to Jackson, MS. Clarence was one of 14 Tennessee State students expelled from school for joining the Rides. He also became active in voter registration drives and urban community work, settling in Detroit as a Conrail worker and security contractor.


    Winonah Myers was a white student at the historically black Central State University in Ohio when she joined the Rides after the first group was attacked. She would later explain one key tactic of the Rides, in counter to those who thought mass arrests would stop the Rides: "Our feeling at the time was, 'We're going to keep coming and we're going to flood your jails, cram your dockets, and break you financially,' "


    Jean Thompson was born and grew up in Louisiana, and along with her sisters, became active in New Orleans CORE. She was arrested in Jackson on a June 1961 Freedom Ride. After bailing out of jail, she returned to New Orleans to train other Riders. She also did civil rights work elsewhere in the South in the `60s and also with CORE in NY City. By the late ླྀs, she became involved in anti-war and feminist causes in California.


    James Farmer was co-founder and National Director of CORE, chief architect of the original 1961 Freedom Ride. Farmer joined the Montgomery-to-Jackson ride on May 24th, 1961, was arrested in Jackson and sent to Parchman prison. Farmer, who devoted his career to civil rights and social justice causes, served as an Assist. Secretary in Richard Nixon’s Dept. of HEW, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 by Bill Clinton. Click for his book, “Lay Bare the Heart”.


    Jorgia Siegel was attending UC Berkeley when she heard a speaker describe the Freedom Ride violence in the South. She joined a training group in New Orleans to help “fill-the-jails.” On June 20th, 1961, she and 13 others took a train to Jackson where they were arrested and sent to Parchman. Growing up in a Jewish family, she remembered a cross burning in her neighborhood and a sign that read: “No Jews or Colored After Dark.”


    Rev. Grant Harland Muse, Jr. was a 35 year-old priest at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Berkeley, CA when he joined the Freedom Rides. Rev. Muse was a graduate of the University of New Mexico and had studied theology at Mirfield, England, and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. On June 20th, 1961, he and 12 others rode the Illinois Central Railroad from New Orleans to Jackson where they were arrested.


    Helen Singleton and her husband, Bob Singleton were among the few people to join the Freedom Rides as a married couple. Inspired by the courage and commitment of earlier Freedom Riders, they helped recruit students from UCLA and Santa Monica College and other activists in Southern California to join the “fill-the-jails” strategy in Mississippi. They were both arrested after a July 30, 1961 train ride from New Orleans to Jackson.


    Ellen Lee Ziskind was volunteering at the CORE offices in NY City the summer before her last year at Columbia University. She heard first-hand accounts from Freedom Riders who’d been beaten and jailed. “I think they kind of took my breath away,” she would later recall. “. [I]t was kind of like a story from another country. And I was so. struck by, swept away by their working to have a democracy.” She later volunteered, rode a bus to Jackson and served six weeks in Parchman.


    Stokely Carmichael was a 19-year-old student at Howard Univ. when he arrived in Jackson on June 4, 1961 by train from New Orleans with 8 other Riders. He would go on to become one of the leading voices of the Black Power Movement and the Black Panther Party. He moved to West Africa in 1969, changed his name to honor African leaders, and was a proponent of the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party. He died in Guinea at the age of 57.


    Eugene Levine, a 34 year-old English instructor at Oklahoma State Univ. and WWII vet, became a one-man Freedom Ride. Later explaining to Eric Etheridge that he hated joining groups, Levine drove to Jackson on his own. “The police saw I was alone. and older than the usual Freedom Rider.” They tried to send him back home without an arrest, but he persisted in joining the protest and was finally arrested on June 21, 1961 and put in jail.


    John Lewis, at age 19, was on the first CORE Freedom Ride and had already been arrested in Nashville sit-ins. He later rode to Birmingham, was beaten in Montgomery, and also rode to Jackson, serving time at Parchman. He was chairman of SNCC, spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, and played a key role in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis has served his Georgia district for 27 years.


    A 19-year-old Duke University student, Joan Trumpauer arrived in Jackson, MS by train from New Orleans, LA as part of a June 4, 1961 Freedom Ride. Arrested that day, she was later transferred to Parchman Prison, where among other things, she was subject to a forced vaginal examination. In 1964, she became a Freedom Summer organizer, later worked at various jobs in Washington, DC, and taught English as a second language.


    Rabbi Israel “Si” Dresner (left-center) and Rabbi Martin Freedman of New York – who rode a bus on the June 1961 Washington-to-Tallahassee, FL Freedom Ride – were also arrested in Tallahassee, shown above, for attempting to eat at a segregated airport restaurant.


    John Lewis w/ Michael D’orso, “Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement,” Simon & Schuster, 2015 paperback, 560pp. Click for copy.

    Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and The Struggle for Racial Justice, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    WGBH, “Freedom Riders,” PBS/American Experience, Film & Website, PBS.org.

    “Democracy in Action: A Study Guide to Accompany the Film, Freedom Riders,” American Experience/PBS/WGBH, PBS.org, 2011.

    Terry Gross, “Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961,” Fresh Air, WHYY/NPR, January 12, 2006.

    Elsie Carper, “Pilgrimage Off on Racial Test,” Washington Post, May 5, 1961, p. B-4.

    United Press International ( Rock Hill, S.C., May 10), “Biracial Unit Tells of Beating in South,” New York Times, May 11, 1961.

    “Newsfilm Clip of a Burned out Greyhound Bus and Injured Freedom Riders in the Hospital in Anniston, Alabama,” WSB-TV (Atlanta, GA), May 14, 1961, Civil Rights Digital Library.

    Associated Press (Anniston, Ala., May 15), “Bi-Racial Buses Attacked, Riders Beaten in Alabama Alabama Whites Fire Bi-Racial Bus, New York Times, May 15, 1961, p. 1.

    “Darkest Alabama,” Editorial, Washington Post, May 16, 1961.

    United Press International (UPI), “Bi-Racial Group Cancels Bus Trip Alabama Rejects Appeal by Robert Kennedy for Guard Bus Drivers Balk at Bi-racial Trip State Inspector Aids Passengers in Bus Burning,” New York Times, May 16, 1961.

    “Pickets March Here,” New York Times, May 18, 1961.

    Jack Gould, “TV: ‘C.B.S. Reports’ Turns Camera on Birmingham Negroes and Whites State Their Views Program Sheds Light on Conflicting Forces,” New York Times, May 19, 1961, Business, p. 63.

    Associated Press, “Judge Issues Writ Alabama Judge Bars Attempts At ‘Freedom Rides’ in the State,” New York Times, May 20, 1961, p. 1.

    Associated Press (Birmingham, Ala., May 19), “Crowd at Bus Station,” New York Times, May 20, 1961.

    “SNCC Wires President Kennedy,” The Student Voice (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC), Atlanta, Georgia, April-May1961, p. 1.

    “Freedom Rides,1961,” The Student Voice (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC), Atlanta, Georgia, April-May1961, p. 3.

    Associated Press (Montgomery, Ala, May 20), “Freedom Riders Attacked by Whites in Montgomery President’s Aide Hurt by Rioters Battle Rages for 2 Hours as Mobs Chase and Beat Anti-Segregation Group,” New York Times, May 21, 1961, p.1.

    “Negroes, Whites Try to Renew Freedom Ride,” Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1961, p. 3.

    U.S. Sends 400 Officers to Alabama After Riot,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1961, p. F1-F2

    Montgomery Baptist Church Program, “The Montgomery Improvement Association Salutes The Freedom Riders,” May 21, 1961, Montgomery, Alabama.

    Anthony Lewis, “400 U.S. Marshals Sent to Alabama as Montgomery Bus Riots Hurt 20 President Bids State Keep Order Force Due Today Agents to Bear Arms — Injunction Sought Against the Klan,” New York Times, Sunday, May 21, 1961, p. 1.

    “Kennedy Orders Marshals to Alabama After New Freedom-Rider Mobbing,” Washington Post, May 21, 1961, p. 1.

    “Russians Scornful Refer to Alabama Violence as ‘Bestial’ U.S. Custom,” New York Times, May 22, 1961.

    “Martial Law Declared in Alabama’s Capital National Guard Troops Put Down New Riot Wild Mob Trying to Overthrow U.S. Marshals Scattered Troops Quell New Riots in Alabama’s Capital,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1961, pp. 1-3.

    Susan Herrmann, “Southland Coed Caught in Rioting Coed’s Story,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1961, p. 1

    UPI, “Patterson Declares Martial Law As Alabama Negro Church is Attacked New Violence Explodes in Montgomery Sunday,” Rome News-Journal (Rome, Georgia), May 22, 1961, pp. 1-2.

    Dave Turk, “An Emergency Call to Montgomery,” U.S. Marshals Service.

    Alison Shay, “On This Day: First Baptist Church Under Siege,” This Day in Civil Rights History, May 21, 2012.

    “27 on Freedom Busses Arrested in Mississippi,” Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1961, p. 1-3.

    “Days of Violence in the South,” Newsweek, May 29, 1961, p. 22.

    “‘Freedom Riders’ – and Mob Violence,” U.S. News & World Report, May 29, 1961, p. 6.

    “The South: Crisis in Civil Rights,” Time, Friday, June 2, 1961, pp. 14-15.

    “The Ride for Rights: Negroes Go by Bus Though the South, Asking for Trouble and Getting It,” Life, June 2, 1961, pp. 46-53

    William Sloan Coffin (as told to Life correspondent Ronald Baily) “Why Yale Chaplin Rode: Christians Can’t Be Outside,” Life, June 2, 1961, pp. 54-55.

    “Freedom Riders Force a Test… State Laws or U.S. Law in Segregated South?,” Newsweek, June 5, 1961, pp. 18-20.

    “A New Breed – The Militant Negro in the South,” Newsweek, June 5, 1961, p. 21.

    “How the World Press Viewed the Days of Tension,” Newsweek, June 5, 1961, p.22.

    “Is the South Headed for A Race War?,” U.S. News & World Report, June 5, 1961, p. 43.

    “Ten Riders Hit City 8 Jailed,” State Times (Jackson, MS), July 30, 1961.

    James Clayton, “ICC Forbids Bus Station Segregation,” Washington Post, September 23, 1961, p. A-1.

    Val Adams, “Howard K. Smith and CBS End Tie,” New York Times, October 31, 1961.

    James Kates, “Kicking Nixon: Howard K. Smith and the Commentator’s Imperative,” ARNet, March 6, 2014.

    Sid Moody, Associated Press, “Freedom Rides Brought More than Violence,” February 8, 1962.

    James Peck, Freedom Ride, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1962.

    David Halberstam, The Children, New York: Random House, March 1998, 783 pp.

    John Lewis, Walking With the Wind, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

    Jon Wiener, “Southern Explosure,” The Nation, June 11, 2001.

    David J. Mussatt, “Journey for Justice: A Religious Analysis of the Ethics of the 1961 Albany Freedom Ride,” Ph.D. Thesis, Temple University, 2001

    David Niven, The Politics of Injustice: The Kennedys, The Freedom Rides, and The Electoral Consequences of a Moral Compromise, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003.

    PBS-WGBH, “1961: The Freedom Rides,” Eyes on The Prize/American Experience, 2005 (page created, August 23, 2006).

    Joan Mulholland, “Why We Became Freedom Riders,” Washington Post, May 17, 2007.

    Dale Anderson, Freedom Rides: Campaign for Equality, Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2007.

    Jennifer Balderama, Arts Beat, “Disturbing the Peace,” New York Times, July 3, 2008.

    Bob Minzesheimer, Books, “Freedom Riders Again Ride in ‘Breach of Peace’ They Put Up a Segregation Fight in 1961,” USA Today, Tuesday, July 15, 2008, p. 3-D.

    Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, Files, 1956–1973.

    Thomas Forrest, “Freedom Riders / Free At Last: 47 Years Later It’s A Different Story,” Jackson Free Press (Jackson,MS), July 30, 2008.

    Marian Smith Holmes, “The Freedom Riders, Then and Now,” Smithsonian Magazine, February 2009.

    “The Freedom Riders: New Documentary Recounts Historic 1961 Effort to Challenge Segregated Bus System in the Deep South,” Democracy Now, February 1, 2010.

    Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, Oxford University Press, 1st abridged edition, March 2010 (and companion book to the 2011 PBS documentary).

    “Memories of a Freedom Rider, by Ray Cooper,” SeattleInBlackandWhite.org.

    “Freedom Rides: Recollections by David Fankhauser,” U.C. Clermont College, Batavia, Ohio.

    David Fankhauser, “I Was a Teenage Freedom Rider: Ride for Freedom Ride for Justice 50 Years Later,” Lecture & Slide Show, Presented to UC Blue Ash College, October 24, 2013.

    Dr. Fankhauser is Professor of Biology and Chemistry, UC Clermont College, YouTube. com.

    Michael T. Martin, “‘Buses Are a Comin’. Oh Yeah!’: Stanley Nelson on Freedom Riders,”
    Black Camera, Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 2011, pp. 96-122.

    Jess Bidgood, “From Lowell to Jackson, One Freedom Rider’s Story,” WGBH.org, April 27, 2011.

    “50 Years Ago Today Freedom Rides Began,” Birmingham Public Library, Wednesday, May 4, 2011.

    “Oprah Honors Freedom Riders,” Oprah .com, May 4, 2011.

    Colleen O’Connor, “50 Years Ago, Freedom Riders Blazed a Trail for Civil Rights,” The Denver Post, May 6, 2011.

    Freedom Riders Photo Gallery, Commercial Appeal.com, May 20, 2011.

    “May 20, 1961: Riders in the Storm,” YouTube.com, Posted by RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, Uploaded, May 24, 2011,

    “May 1961: Freedom Rides,” The 󈨀s at 50, May 24, 2011.

    “Photos: The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders,” DenverPost.com, Posted May 31, 2011.

    Amy Lifson, “Freedom Riders,” Humanities, May/June 2011, Vol. 32, No. 3.

    Photo Gallery, “50 years After the Freedom Riders,” WashingtonPost.com, 2011.

    “Mug Shot: A Freedom Rider’s Arrest Photo,” Yale Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec 2011.

    EJ Dickson, “Memories of a Movement: Oberlin Alumni Reflect on Their Time in the Civil Rights Movement of the Early 1960s,” Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Summer 2012, Vol. 107, No. 3.

    “The Road to Civil Rights: Freedom Riders,” Federal Highway Administration, Updated, October 17, 2013.

    “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders: Rare and Classic Photos,” Life.Time .com.

    Freedom Rides of 1961, from “History & Timeline of the Southern Freedom Movement, 1951-1968,” Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

    “Civil Rights in America: Connections to A Movement,” USA Today.

    Civil Rights Series, “A Movement Emerges in Nashville,” The Tennessean.

    Olga Hajishengallis, “Portraits of Civil Rights Pioneers,” USA Today, February 6, 2014.

    “Singleton Freedom Riders,” Website of Helen & Bob Singleton (with video), 2014.

    “Freedom Riders,” PBS Film, Online Viewing, PBS.org.

    Rhonda Colvin, “‘We Were Soldiers’: The Flesh and Blood Behind the New Civil Rights Monument,” WashingtonPost.com, January 15, 2017.


    Civil Rights History

    Thomas Rose, Black Leaders, Then and Now: A Personal History of Students Who Led the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s – And What Happened to Them (Julian Bond, Senator, Atlanta, Georgia Marion Barry, Mayor, Washington, DC Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Television Correspondent, MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour), Youth Project, Garrett Park, MD: Distributed by Garrett Park Press, 1984.

    David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, New York: W. Morrow, 1986.

    Bobby M. Wilson, Race and Place in Birm-ingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

    S. Jonathan Bass, Blessed are the Peace-makers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

    John Blake, Children of the Movement: The Sons and Daughters of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, George Wallace, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, James Chaney, Elaine Brown, and Others Reveal How the Civil Rights Movement Tested and Transformed Their Families, Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2004.

    Juan Williams, My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, New York: AARP/Sterling, 2004.

    Vanessa Murphree, The Selling of Civil Rights: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Use of Public Relations, New York: Routledge, 2006.

    Linda Barrett Osborne, Women of the Civil Rights Movement, San Francisco: Pome-granate Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2006.

    Renee C. Romano, ed., The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006.


    'The Last Dance' on ESPN

    The 10-part Michael Jordan documentary "The Last Dance" is available on the ESPN App.

    North Carolina coach Roy Williams is watching "The Last Dance" and remembering when he recruited Mike Jordan. Roy grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, raised in poverty by a single mom. A few years ago, he found himself driving from Chapel Hill to play golf in Wilmington. He was alone and he slipped off the interstate and drove over to the house on Gordon Road. If you're driving down Interstate 40, there's a sign at the Pender-New Hanover county line announcing that this stretch of road is named in honor of Michael Jordan. But if you're Roy Williams pulling off 117, your mind's eye focuses on Michael's father working out front of Gordon Road. Most likely on a car engine, his tongue stuck out in concentration, a habit he acquired from his grandfather, and his son acquired from him. "Every single time I go down there," he says, "I drive down Michael Jordan Highway. It just reminds me of those times. James and Deloris were so good to me. You can't give the parents all the credit, but they led him by example. They taught him hard work."

    Michael Jordan has become so public it can seem as if he were born fully formed. Of course, that's not true. His family spent at least six generations in one small patch of swamp and cropland in the rural outskirts and farm towns near Wilmington, on and around Highway 117. He remembers his grandparents still eating dirt and clay -- a now little-known practice brought to the South from Africa -- getting needed iron from the land. Michael used to eat the orange and red clay for dessert when he'd visit them.

    He grew up not only hearing about a vanishing world, but he saw the last pieces of it too, a kind of life that died for much of America at the turn of the century but somehow kept going around U.S. 117 for 70 more years. He left that history behind and yet carries it all inside him too. Which means maybe the way to unravel Mike from Michael is to look at where and when his rural North Carolina roots quietly molded his career, and to consider how the land where he grew up shaped his ancestors, who shaped him.

    Michael Jordan's security team was a group of retired and off-duty Chicago cops, guys who knew what it was like to work for a living. "They became my best friends," Jordan says. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    FIVE SUNDAYS AGO, in the last hour before "The Last Dance" premiered, Michael Jordan got a text message. He looked down at his phone and saw it was from the son of one of his old security guards. Those guys cross Michael's mind a lot. During the pinnacle of his fame, a group of retired and off-duty Chicago cops kept him both insulated and connected. The Sniff Brothers, they jokingly called themselves. As in jock sniffers. There were five or six core guys. Jordan took care of them long after his playing career ended, and he deeply misses the three who have died in the years since: Gus Lett, Clarence Travis and John Michael Wozniak, whose son Nicholi sent the text. Nicky sent a picture of Michael holding the NBA championship trophy, and there, in the background as usual, was his father. The Sniff Brothers were always around. On family vacations, in hotel suites playing cards, out in Los Angeles shooting "Space Jam," hiding out beneath the United Center in the hours before a game.

    Nicky wished Michael luck and thanked him for all the support over the years. Michael wrote back immediately.

    I love it. I will watch with him, Gus and CT on my heart.

    The public Jordan, the symbol, needed constant security protection as the game's greatest player. The private person felt most at home around a bunch of middle-class Chicago cops, guys who'd worked narcotics and gang squad, who'd taken bullets and kicked in doors and who knew what it meant to work for a living and to live by a simple code. Guys who reminded him of home.

    "They became my best friends," Jordan told me years ago.


    Crowdsourcing

    What’s the Name of That Book?
    A Goodreads group with searchable discussion posts and thousands of questions and answers.

    3K members — many of whom are librarians or library-adjacent — who help solve book mysteries via threaded discussions.

    The Fiction_L listserv
    Stumpers! Search archives of past questions, answered by an intense book-ish community, or subscribe and post a new one.

    Reddit’s whatsthatbook thread
    A nearly endless thread of users trying to help other users remember book titles, including several frequently requested books. Especially good for science fiction and fantasy.

    "Stump the Bookseller" blog
    A cool indie bookstore in Ohio that maintains extensive, searchable archives — and offers a $4 service for personalized help. Lots of children’s books here.

    Big Book Search
    If you can only remember what the cover looks like, try this cover-search tool.


    Step 5: Seal Your Jar

    When you’re finished filling your jar, you can seal it right away (and then burn a candle on it if desired), or you can burn a candle in the open mouth of the jar and seal it that way.

    Note: Candles are not necessary in jar spells, but I find it adds yet another boost of power if you combine it with candle magic. If you choose to incorporate a candle into your jar spell, find one of the appropriate color and dress it (see the article above for more details) before burning it in the mouth of the jar or on top of the sealed jar, letting all the wax melt down. You can burn multiple candles on a jar over a course of time for an ongoing project.


    The making of masks

    With few exceptions, masks of a ceremonial nature were and are made by professional artisans or noted sculptors. In societies in which masks of supernatural beings have played a significant ceremonial role, it is usually presumed that the spiritual power of the created image is strongly felt by the artist. A primary belief involved in both the conception and the rendering of these objects was and is that all organic and inorganic matter contains spiritual power and that the mask itself therefore possesses the power of whatever material was used to make it. This power is considered a volatile, active force that is surrounded by various taboos and restrictions for the protection of those handling it. In the example of ceremonial masks, certain prescribed rituals must be followed in the process of the mask’s creation. In most instances the artist’s tools too contain spiritual power, and even these must be handled in a prescribed manner.

    As the form of the mask develops, it is usually believed to acquire power increasingly in its own right, and again various procedures are prescribed to protect the craftsman and to ensure the potency of the object. If all the conventions have been adhered to, the completed mask, when worn or displayed, is regarded as an object suffused with great supernatural or spirit power. In some cultures it is believed that because of the close association between the mask maker and the spirit of the mask, the artist absorbs some of its magic power. A few West African peoples believe, in fact, that the creators of masks are potentially capable of using the object’s supernatural powers to cause harm to others.

    The mask maker is enjoined to work within long-established bounds, using particular forms, traditional imagery, and formal conventions. If they are not followed, the artist can bring upon himself the severe censure of his social group and the displeasure or even wrath of the spirit power inherent in the mask. This requirement, however, does not restrict artistic expressiveness. The mask maker can and does creatively interpret the traditionally prescribed general forms, attributes, and devices. In fact, it is often precisely the artist’s known ability to give a vitally expressive or an aesthetically pleasing presentation of the required image that makes him desirable as a mask maker.