The undercover cop looked nervous and didn’t enjoy being followed by a couple of demonstrators who were pointing him out. The cop turned around to confront them, but they blended into the crowd before he could do anything about it. I was standing five feet away from the cop as I watched him pull out a .38 special short-barrel, five-shot pistol from his winter coat.
This was happening in Chicago in February 1970. We were all gathered at 26th and California, Cook County Jail, to protest the legal railroading of the Chicago 7/ Conspiracy 8. For people of the generation of 1968, the operative graphic was Black Panther, Bobby Seale, tied to a chair and gagged to receive his fair share of legal abuse.
We had been pushed back by tear gas canisters falling like a meteor shower into a gravel parking lot for semi big-rigs. The police circulated undercover people to identify “leaders” who they would then point out when the police lines periodically charged into the mass of demonstrators.
The undercover cop took a step backwards, slipped on the ice and snow and promptly fell into one of the many giant potholes in the parking lot. I was already trying to move away, which was difficult because of the press of bodies. People were beginning to yell out, “He’s got a gun!”
Somewhat concerned that he had brained himself, I hesitated for a moment as I watched him struggle in the icy water. Then his right arm came straight up, and he began deliberately firing into the air. The short barrel .38 made a lot of noise and displayed an impressive muzzle flash.
I found myself crouched behind some massive semi tires as I counted the deliberately spaced shots. A group of terrified others joined me. Fresh in everyone’s memory was the Police Riot of August 1968 when the Chicago Police went berserk encouraged by Mayor Daley.
We were there that day in February because the innocent activists had just been convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for a major civic unrest event caused by the Chicago Police, not peaceful protesters who had gathered to try to end the Vietnam War.
The cops heard the shooting too and charged into the abandoned space around the downed cop and pulled him out. And so it went that day, I wound up getting chased by police all the way up California Avenue to the Douglas Park elevated station. I got away, but a lot of people wound up in the hospital.
In 1972 the convictions were overturned, and the Department of Injustice wisely decided to drop the matter. Demonstrations work. Even against a long legacy of police lawlessness and a perverted system of injustice.
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