"They're turning the hose on us"
By PAUL PHILLIPS
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 3, 1963 (UPI) - Five firemen stood less than 50 feet away today sweeping methodically with a high pressure hose and sending hundreds of racial demonstrators tumbling in the street.
The force downs a man as fast as a charging tackle on a football field and is no less damaging.
I was in a corner telephone booth dictating a story as a crowd of chanting, singing, gyrating Negroes surged time and again into the face of a police blockade. Spray hung across the intersection like fog.
When the first powerful blast hit the front line of anti-segregation marchers, they toppled and rolled in the streets, clinging to the curb and to each other.
As the hose swung away, they jeered the firemen, taunting with catcalls. But the ones who didn't flee at first soon were routed by the full force of spray.
Then the firemen turned their attention to a small group of Negroes on the corner where I was standing.
"Let's get those people out of there," an officer shouted.
The firemen swung the hose quickly and the gush of water splattered the seven Negroes on the corner. They fled into a restaurant and the firemen followed, playing their hose in the restaurant for two or three minutes.
"They're turning the hose on us," I shouted to another newsman.
Elvin Stanton, of radio station WSGN, jumped into the phone booth with me. We braced for the blast of water which hit the glass wall with a roar.
The water was brown, then a boiling white froth which roared through the cracks in the booth, sloshed under the booth and soaked our feet. Then they turned the hose on an upper ventilating slot and our shoulders were soaked.
I kept yelling that we were reporters, but the torrent kept pounding on the glass booth. Somehow, the glass held until they turned the hose around.
We walked out. As we strode soggily by the firemen, one turned and asked: "Did you get wet?"