In 1961, civil rights activists decided to test the recent Supreme Court ruling that segregation was illegal and in their effort to fight forced segregation on public transportation in the South, they organized the Freedom Rides. Buses with both African Americans and Whites left Washington, D.C. and traveled through the South headed to New Orleans. Some of the riders were simply arrested in North and South Carolina, but in Alabama, angry mobs provoked by law enforcement set one bus on fire. Freedom riders of both races were beaten by angry mobs or arrested. Although there was a threat of more violence to come, the Freedom Riders wanted to continue their journey, but the bus drivers refused to go on. The riders decided that they did not want more violence to hamper their cause and not wanting to miss the rally in New Orleans, they flew the rest of the way.
Paying tribute to the freedom riders of five decades ago, a new series of freedom rides are planned by the Pro-Life Movement as a peaceful way to say that justice and equal rights belong to "every human being, regardless of size or age or any other condition." Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life says that it is a call to end our country's self-enslavement to legalized abortion. It is noteworthy that the abortion industry sets up clinics in low income areas, targeting Hispanic and African American women.
Alveda King, niece of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the director of African American outreach at Priests for Life. She says that ever since she was a child, she dreamed of a better life and freedom for all. At a Birmingham news conference, King said, "We join our lives and hearts together with those who have gone before us. . . . We take to the bus, to the streets of America, riding for justice and freedom for all, from conception till natural death. . . How can the dream survive if we murder our children.""
The Freedom Rides, which will take place this summer, will have participants from various political and religious backgrounds. The goal is for this diverse representation of people to speak a spirit of nonviolence on behalf of those without a voice or whose voice has not been heard. The first Pro-Life Freedom Ride begins with a concert and rally in Birmingham on July 23. Fr. Pavone says that dozens of such rides will be scheduled across the country over the next year.
The rides will be preceded by a period of intense prayer to end abortion from May 23 (Pentecost Sunday) through July 4. At the news conference in Birmingham, Fr. Pavone announced the Freedom Rides. With him were Pro-Life ministers of various denominations as well as Janet Morana, the executive director and co-founder of the Silent No More awareness campaign. Also attending were the founders of the post-abortive healing ministry known as Rachel's Vineyard - Fr. William Scott Daniels and Theresa and Kevin Burke.
Alveda King on the Freedom Rides for Life