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Boston Busing - NBC - 12-11-74

by Matt Delmont

Many of the most well known images of busing in Boston do not feature students or schools, but instead offer vivid displays of force in confrontations between anti-busing protestors and law enforcement authorities. This media frame emphasized that the Boston “busing crisis” was about force. “Media frames,” sociologist Todd Gitlin suggests, “are persistent patterns of cognitions, interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by which symbol-handlers routinely organize discourse, whether verbal or visual.” Television news framed much of their reporting of the Boston “busing crisis” around clashes between white protesters and police, but said little about the students or schools that were ostensibly at the center of the story. Television footage of these confrontations features an array of law enforcement tactics: police motorcades lead the way for buses while police helicopters hover overhead; police officers with riot helmets and push protestors away from schools and out of the way of buses; and police officers on horseback lead charges to break up gatherings of protestors. In addition to Boston police, state police officers, US Federal Marshalls, National Guard soldiers, and FBI agents also further enforcement power. ABC’s Gregory Jackson described the arrayed authorities on hand for the reopening of South Boston High School in January 1975 as “a show of force more befitting a riot than a school opening.” Television rendered clashes between protestors and police with a visceral energy. In several cases, segments included film of the confrontations without voice-over commentary from reporters of anchors, productions techniques akin to how network news presented footage from riots or war zones. NBC’s report on December 11, 1974, for example, includes a forty-five second clip without commentary. After reporter Phil Brady’s terse introduction, “the Police moved in,” the clip shows mounted police riding through a crowd in South Boston, a police office with his knee on the back of a demonstrator, and other police officers holding protesters against squad cars. Without the reporter’s commentary, the images are accompanied by loud crowd noise and indecipherable shouts. Clips like these presented the force of police power in stark detail, but it is not clear who or what these police are protecting. Black children do not feature prominently in these clips and school desegregation is rarely mentioned. There are many law enforcement authorities, but it is not clear which law they are in Boston to enforce.

Boston Busing - NBC - 12-11-74

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NBC coverage of violence in Boston's "busing crisis" - 12-11-74

from NBC News (1974)
Creator: NBC
Distributor: NBC
Posted by Matt Delmont
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