A civil rights pioneer’s quest to clear her arrest record after nearly 70 years of protesting racial segregation has raised the possibility of similar offers to clear the names of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., whose convictions remain on the books in the Alabama capital.
Parks, a black seamstress and activist who was convicted of breaking racial segregation laws after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, was convicted of violating traffic laws. racial segregation. King, who helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott, was fined $ 500 after being convicted in 1956 of breaking a law banning boycotts.
Parks refused to pay her a $ 10 fine, and she and King have become icons of racial justice and the modern civil rights movement. Yet their cases remain on the books in Montgomery, said civil rights lawyer Fred Gray, who represented the two.
In the case of King, a promising pastor at the time, efforts to overturn the conviction in court failed, Gray said.
“We could just decide to take legal action on his behalf to have this case struck out,” Gray said. The same goes for Parks and others, potentially, he said.
Alabama’s chief prosecutor, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, said he would generally support a decision to clear King and Parks’ arrest records, but he would need to see the details of such a request before responding in court.
Bailey and Gray spoke on behalf of Claudette Colvin as she asked a court on Tuesday to withdraw records of her arrest and conviction after refusing to ride in the back of a bus under segregation laws racial in March 1955 in Montgomery. Now 82, Colvin was a 15-year-old high school student at the time.
“My mindset was on freedom,” she said after filing the de-listing request, which has yet to be decided.
An attorney representing Colvin, Phillip Ensler, said he would support an offer to clear the court records of other civil rights activists. But Colvin, who was convicted of assaulting an officer during her arrest and declared a delinquent, is not sure that such an effort is possible because there has been so much injustice for so long.
“It would take a hundred years, maybe 200 years to go through the justice system,” she said. “You could never finish it.”
Representatives for the King Center in Atlanta and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Foundation in Detroit, where Parks has lived most of her life, did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Hundreds of people were arrested in the South during civil rights protests in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is unclear how many of them would like to delete their arrest records, which many see as a badge of honor. ‘honor. When the city of Birmingham offered massive pardons to those arrested during protests in 1963, many refused.
Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Gina Ishman said deleting court documents removes convictions from defendants’ records, but generally does not result in the destruction of documents, such as historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks.
Colvin, who moved from Alabama to New York at the age of 20, said the conviction never bothered her much, though her family were concerned as they never received a notice that said his probation was over. The worst part of this ordeal was losing high school friends over her act of defiance, she said.
“They didn’t want to be around me,” Colvin said.