Ozell Sutton

CRS Mediator, Atlanta Office

[Full Interview]

But when all hell broke loose, and they started driving the blacks back toward the church, this police officer runs up to me with that long riot stick and he punches me in the stomach with that stick and he told me to "get." And I'm crying out like a crazy somebody. I wouldn't run, and I couldn't fight. I couldn't fight because I didn't have anything to fight with. He's got a stick and a gun, right? I have nothing. So he starts wailing on me with that stick and tells me to "get." Now, if I'd have had some sense, I guess I would have run. That's what he wanted me to do. But I wouldn't do that. And I was wheeling, and then he got mad because he couldn't hit my head, because as big as my head is, I can get it way down in my shoulders, at least in those days I could. He beat up my shoulders and arms pretty good, but he never hit my head a single time. I tell everybody, if you think that Muhammad Ali could do the ropedy-dope you should have seen me. You should have seen my weaving and bobbing and I think golly, I would have made Muhammad Ali look like a neophyte. But he never hit my head a single time. The only thing that saved me was a young white man. Stanfield was his name. I knew him from the days I was director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. When I was director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, he was director of the Virginia Council on Human Relations. And I had gone on to work for CRS and he'd come down here to work with the Southern Regional Council. He was a field rep for the Southern Regional Council. Back in those days, it was a small world -- we all, just about, knew each other. So, Stanfield stepped down off the sidewalk, now they weren't bothering Stanfield, and he grabbed me by my arm and stashed me up there where he was.

Question: That must have been terrifying.

Answer: It was and it hurt a whole lot. I'm with the Justice Department, and they know that, but you see when the confrontation started, the police all pulled their badges off so their names couldn't be identified. When that ruckus was over I went tearing down to the police department. I went to see the deputy police chief to tell him what happened to me. He said, "Do you know who hit you?" "Of course I don't know who hit me." He said, "Well, if I knew who hit you I could deal with it but there's nothing I can do." I said, "Chief, you knew the men didn't have on badges or their nameplate, so how could I tell you who hit me?" He said, "Well, all I can say is I'm sorry." And that's what went on.