Police, charged with enforcing the law, instead often brutalized Black Mississippians, especially those working for civil rights. On June 9, 1963, Fannie Lou Hamer, June Johnson, Annelle Ponder, Euvester Simpson, Rosemary Freeman, James West, and others were riding the bus home to Greenwood, returning from an SCLC citizenship workshop. At the Winona bus depot, a few activists tried to integrate Staley’s Café. They were arrested along with others in the group. At the Winona jail, police and coerced Black inmates took them out of their cells one by one and savagely beat them.
When the group did not return, SNCC staff tracked them down. Lawrence Guyot drove to Winona to seek their release and was himself arrested and viciously beaten. Back in Greenwood, SNCC’s Willie Peacock immediately contacted the Justice Department and influential friends in the North to seek help. SNCC also bombarded the Winona jail with calls for Guyot, attempting to save his life by letting the police know they were being monitored. The group spent four days in jail on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest before securing bail.