Actualizado: ene 13
When I saw the column of smoke rising from Chicago’s Grant Park, I knew something was wrong. Then I saw groups of young people streaming northbound along Michigan Avenue away from the park. It was July 28, 1970: I was driving a taxi, and Sly and the Family Stone had been scheduled to play in the park that day.
As larger numbers of hysterical people kept running away on Michigan Avenue, I was able to steer to the west to State Street and put more distance between the taxi and Grant Park.
I didn’t get very far up State Street before the Chicago Police got in front of me and put up their hands – halt. I felt terrified because I was surrounded by police. Everybody knew who the Chicago cops hated, long-haired hippie types like me, and anyone black.
Sly and the Family Stone had cancelled yet another concert, tempers had flared, the police got involved, and now we had another full-scale Chicago riot. The middle-aged cops had a hard time chasing down the kids who always managed to stay just out of reach. Some of the kids began smashing windows on State Street just to piss off the cops. Anybody could see this was going to end badly.
Then I saw what looked to be an elderly black couple emerge from a sunken stairway from one of the many Loop restaurants. The bald man sported a ring of white hair around his head. The woman carried their work clothes, white and black server or cook attire. Unfortunately for them they obliviously walked out into the riot.
The cops didn’t have any problems catching them. They beat them both with their truncheons until the man was on one knee and the white shirts were splattered with blood. Then I watched in horror as the cops dragged them across the street in my direction.
The police yanked open the rear door of the taxi and shoved the couple into the back seat. I covered up my head with both arms, but no blows were forthcoming. A manic cop screamed at me, “Take them to County.” In other words, take them to Cook County Hospital, just west of the Loop. I peeled out for the West Side.
I don’t remember much of the conversation I had with the couple. The man was moaning and the woman obsessively talking and trying to administer first aide. When we reached the Emergency Room ramp, another cop began shouting incoherently at me. I stopped and pointed to my passengers.
When I realized he wanted me to get in line with other taxis, I noticed police casualties were going up to the front door, no waiting. I smiled and said “Ok” to the cop but pulled up to the front door anyway. The last view I saw in the rear-view mirror was the cop grimly waving his club trying to catch up to me, and the couple assisted into the doorway by white coats.
I escaped the clubbing because I’m white. But when the police mindless inferno goes walking, nobody is safe.
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