Dartmouth Student John Liutkus, Class of ’65, was arrested in Selma, Alabama along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis.

A Norwood resident is proving the fact that not all civil rights volunteers are in Mississippi. Jonas Liutkus, 22 years old, whose parents live at 308 Lenox street, Norwood, is taking a leave of absence from Dartmouth College to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s voter registration project in Selma, Alabama.

Liutkus arrived in Selma on January 7. Since then, he has already been arrested three times and has experienced the special brutality that southern police reportedly reserve for civil rights workers.
A senior majoring in government, Liutkus is rapidly gaining a great deal of practical knowledge of politics and government through working in Selma. His activities include organizing wards and precincts in the Negro community, and accompanying Negro citizens who want to register to vote to the County Courthouse. (SNCC has been working in Selma since February, 1963, but despite its efforts, there are still only 300 registered Negroes in Selma and surrounding Dallas County ‘out of a potential 15,000.)

Liutkus’ voter registration activities have caused him to be arrested by local police three times in a period of less than two weeks. On January 20, he was arrested for “suspicion” -along with Roger Daly, another Dartmouth student from Princeton, New Jersey, as the two were walking down the street. They were released after being held three hours.

One week later, on January 27, Luitkus was arrested again. He, along with Daly and another SNCC staff member from San Francisco, were talking to Negroes lined up at the courthouse waiting to take the voter registration test. This time all three were charged with “unlawful assembly and refusal to obey an officer.” While Liutkus was taken to jail, he was struck five times with an electric cattle prod by a county police official.

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Liutkus was held in the county jail for four days following his second arrest, under conditions he describes as “abominable.” “Twenty-four of us, including John Lewis (SNCC’s chairman) were in a cell twenty-five feet by twelve. We slept on the floor, had two meals a day with no meat. They got us up at three o’clock in the morning.”

Liutkus’ third arrest occurred on February 1. Along with 300 other people, including Dr. Martin Luther King, he was arrested while marching to the courthouse and charged with “parading without a permit.” He was released from jail the following afternoon.

This is not Jonas Liutkus’ first experience as a volunteer civil rights worker in the South. Last November, he worked with SNCC in Mississippi, taking a week off from school to assist in the Freedom Vote, a mock election designed to give disenfranchised Negroes an opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

Liutkus went back to Dartmouth after the Freedom Vote in order to finish out the semester. But once having seen conditions in the South, he knew he had to return to help make democracy a reality for all citizens.

(Originally Published in the February 10, 1965 Norfolk COunty Free Press)

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