Muhammad Ali’s Funeral Was His Last Act of Resistance

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Muhammad Ali service

Dave Zirin

Louisville, Kentucky—Five hundred thousand people were expected to line the streets for a 23-mile processional, followed by funeral services for Muhammad Ali in front of 22,000 people at the KFC Yum! Center. Former President Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy, which meant the Secret Service was in charge of heavy security. Metal detectors were everywhere.

It was difficult not to feel conflicted about all of this: security perimeters, the Secret Service, the KFC Yum! Center. It’s a painful way to say goodbye to a man who walked the streets in his prime without bodyguards and said, “I’m an easy target. I’m everywhere; everybody knows me. I walk the streets daily, and nobody’s guarding me. I have no guns, no police. So if someone’s gonna get me, tell them to come on and get it over with—if they can get past God, because God is controlling the bullet.”

Bill Clinton’s presence also stung. The signer of the crime bill, the author of the Iraqi sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern children, the father of welfare reform, the rebuker of Sister Souljah, said the last good-bye to Muhammad Ali, who for so many remains a towering symbol of resistance to empire, racism, and war.

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