PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They were young, and they were brave. They were called the Freedom Riders, a group committed to the non-violent pursuit of Civil Rights and willing to put their lives on the line.
“A number of our friends and co-workers had been beaten and jailed and killed,” said Sala Udin, a former Pittsburgh City Councilman from the Hill District.
Udin, who would later become an activist and a city councilman, continued on registering voters in the south, but in the interest of self-defense, broke the law and got a shotgun.
“I decided that I’d rather be caught with a gun by the police than without it by the Klan if I had to defend my life on some dark, lonely road in Mississippi,” Udin said.
When his car was stopped by the police, the unloaded weapon was discovered in the trunk. Udin was charged with transporting an illegal firearm across state lines, a federal offense for which he is asking a presidential pardon.
“The record is pretty stingy on pardons,” he says.
President Obama, this week, commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent offenders currently serving time in prison, but the president has granted few pardons, and there currently are 800 applications stacked up at the Justice Department. Udin is among them.
On Wednesday, workers were rehabbing Freedom Corner in the Hill District where Udin’s name is inscribed with others who fought for justice and equal rights.
He says the a presidential pardon of his alleged crime would honor them all.
“It’s important to me personally to have the president acknowledge and validate the value of the work we did in the Civil Right movement in the ‘60s,” Udin said.
Udin says a presidential pardon would be an acknowledgment not just of his efforts, but the efforts of an entire movement to bring about racial equality in America.