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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- It was the chance to meet some of those who fought to end segregation at the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

'I'm a Freedom Fighter,' said civil rights activist Jerome Smith. 'Sometimes we used to sit and we would sing this song, 'This May Be The Last Time,' because sometimes we thought we were going to die the next day.'

At a ceremony Wednesday on the steps of the state Supreme Court building on Royal Street, they said they want young people today to understand the lessons of the civil rights era. City Councilman James Gray was 18 in 1964.

'In those days we couldn't go into the waiting area, which we would anyway,' said Gray. 'We couldn't drink out of the water fountain, which we would anyway.'

'Martin Luther King, Reverend Abernathy, a lot of people came to the restaurant and we were happy to serve them, and still serve many leaders in the Civil Rights movement today,' said Edgar 'Dooky' Chase of Dooky Chase Restaurant.

At the event, one man protested by shouting during Rep. Cedric Richmond's speech, but Richmond turned it into a lesson.

'A single white male is being persecuted by today's laws and constitution,' said Mark Cobiski. 'I'm being persecuted, a single white male.'

Richmond responded, 'This is what makes this country so great. That everybody would have a chance to achieve what they want to achieve.'

I remember as a child riding the streetcars when there were signs on them ordering African Americans to sit in the rear. Fifty years later, they say a lot has changed, but that a lot needs to be done.

'There might be hard times along the way, but we thought we were going to win,' Gray said. 'I'm not sure these kids think they're going to win.'

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