I attended my first Civil Rights demonstration in the late 1960s in a small, conservative town in western Illinois. I had already been to anti-Vietnam war demonstrations on the nearby university campus. The demonstrations had been peaceful. We had confrontations with campus police but there hadn’t been any teargas or police clublings. The student population, however, was overwhelmingly white.
Now we were peacefully assembled on the sidewalk in the town square. I estimated maybe two hundred students had showed up to protest downtown merchant discrimination against black students. Half of our group was white, half black. We had a variety of modest grievances.
Arrayed against us were municipal police, county police, and state police. They were wearing riot gear. In the past few years, we all had watched police on television tear gassing people, beating people, turning fire hoses on people, and using vicious dogs to attack people. I realized there were more police present than protestors.
Then an enterprising white gentleman pulled his car up in a parking place next to me. A black teenager with an Afro stood behind the parking meter. I guessed the kid was from the local high school. He looked too young to be a university student.
The jackass pulling in his car misjudged his distances, and his bumper lightly touched the kid. The kid made a show of rubbing his knee, and people began yelling at the driver, who turned out to be a preacher. Then the cops swarmed us. Multiple people told the cops that the driver had hit the kid.
The cops searched the kid, found a rat tail comb on him and promptly arrested him. That was my introduction to blatant police racism. We wisely dispersed as commanded. Follow up demonstrations resulted in community meetings with merchants, university officials, and students. I don’t know what happened to the kid. Demonstrations work, but look out for racist police.
Check out my soon-to-be-released e-book of Chicago short stories, An Infinity of Days in the Psychotic Atomik Empire. Free for a limited time. If you want the paperback, the book was first published at Plain View Press in 2007. My e-book, There Ain’t No Justice, Just Us is available at Xlibris. Gregory Alan Norton