NATIONAL BRIEFING / ALABAMA

TIMES WIRE REPORTS

Birmingham's mayor offered a blanket pardon to thousands of demonstrators charged in this caldron of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, a mostly symbolic gesture he acknowledged few might actually want.

Many blacks who braved police dogs and fire hoses four decades ago say they carry their misdemeanor record as a badge of honor.

Mayor Larry Langford said he expected many would reject the mass pardon, but he thought it was important to offer.

Gwendolyn C. Webb-Happling was 14 when she was arrested in Birmingham in 1963 and spent a week in custody, charged with demonstrating without a permit.

Now a pastor, she said: "We went to jail for a purpose -- to be free. We are proud of what we did."

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