Set the dogs on them

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This terrifying sculpture is in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Its power lies in the fact that the path passes between these raging dogs, and by walking along it you have to pass between these ferocious but inanimate canines.

Now just imagine they are real.

On May 2nd, 1963, more than 1,000 African American teenagers assembled at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church across the road, and prepared to march to Birmingham’s City Hall in support of the civil rights movement. The following day, “Bull” Connor, Commissioner for Public Safety, ordered police, dog handlers and firemen to the park.

When the protestors entered the park and refused to leave, water cannons were turned on them, knocking them to the ground. German shepherd dogs were directed towards the crowd, their handlers commanding them to attack. This, and the police brutality towards these teenage protesters, shocked America and the world.

This is only one part of the struggle for civil rights which went on in Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. My recent visit to this, and other sites associated with the civil rights (and let’s face it, human rights) movement, was an eye opening window on to history which was made in my lifetime.

But I’ve no illusions. The struggle against inequality goes on. Some things may have improved, but there’s a whole lot more room still available for improvement.

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