Despite his injuries, James Peck insists the Freedom Ride must continue. The Riders return to the terminal to board a bus to Montgomery, Alabama., however a mob has gathered and no drivers are willing to take the Freedom Riders on their bus. Eventually, the Riders are transported to the Birmingham airport, in hopes of flying to their original destination, New Orleans. After several bomb scares effectively trap the Riders at the airport, the Kennedy Administration dispatches John Seigenthaler, assistant to the attorney general, to Birmingham to ensure the safe departure of the Riders. After much back and forth with airline officials, Seigenthaler is able to secure a flight for the Riders, and a plane transports them to New Orleans late on May 15.
On May 19, many of the Nashville Student Movement Freedom Riders arrive in Birmingham in defiance of Bull Connor's request that they return to Tennessee. They are detained at the Greyhound Bus terminal. No bus drivers will take them to Montgomery, and they spend a restless night in the waiting room, surrounded by a threatening crowd. Heated negotiations between the Kennedy administration and Alabama governor John Patterson lead to an agreement that state troopers will protect the Riders and their bus as they travel to Montgomery.