Box 9, Folder 23, Document 4

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Box 9, Folder 23, Document 4

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Then, not that man do more, or stop pity; but that he
be u;ider in living; that all his cities fly a clean flag . . .
Poet Kenneth Patchen
However, if a riot has any benefit, it lies in this,
that it brilliantly illumi nates, for a moment, the
logic of events: extreme violence tends to force the
hands of people, and suddenly theoretical positions
a nd legal principles all look quite different.
What happened in Chicago is not very mysterious
if one looks simply at it.
Search for a Plot
The worst aspect of a riot is that it causes an
over-reaction in the community; the people panic.
Revolutionaries have understood this since the ancient world and have sometimes used it to their own
There are signs of serious over-reaction in Chicago
to the riots that ripped up the W est Side from July
12 to July 15.
Part of the panic is purely self-protective, of
course. Political, economic and religious leaders of
the community discovered in the midst of violence
that they ha\·e less control than they would like,
or indeed than they should have; and they found
D. ]. R. Bruckner is chief of The Times news bureau
in Chicago .
they haYe less information than they need, to act.
Civil rights leaders on the whole discovered much
the same thing.
A number of city officials and police officers, however, are responding to the demands of the white
majority in the city, and are looking for a plot or
conspiracy, whether it be one concocted by youth
gangs or Communist-inspired groups, or by political
A lot of investigators are scurry ing around looking
for this alleged plot, and, God help us, they may
even find one. Any little old mangy plot, however
crazy or ineffectual, will serve very well to salve the.
conscience of the city.
The fact is that the riot was aimless. There is an
instructive comparison available to this city. Last
month there was a considerable riot in the city's
Puerto Rican community. Compared with the violence on the Negro West Side, the Puerto Ricans'
riot was a model of order and purpose.
Theirs was a violent demonstration against a
breakdown of communication. There was a certain
happiness about it at times, as when the crowds
lifted a man who had been bitten by a police dog to
their shoulders and paraded him through the streets
as a hero.
The Puerto Ricans are at least a community
among themselves. After their riot their leaders
attended public hearings and aired their grievances,
and these were the same grievances one could hear
any P uerto Rican on the streets talking about.
Total U nhappiness
What struck one about the riot among the Negroes
was the total dissolution of a neighborhood of perhaps 350,000 people; the hatred not only against
the white power structure, but against one another;
the factions that battled against one another; the
total unhappiness of it. This was not a happy riot,
a nd even some of the boasting leaders of the teenage gangs admitted they were afraid. Afterwards,
no one could fully define the grievances of the
The riot was started by an altercation over the
turning off of a fire hydrant. One's white neighbors
who live out on the lakefront do not accept this
explanation at all, but it is true. In the West Side
ghetto a major riot can be caused by the turning
of a wrench; no plot is n eeded and no reign of
terror by gangs.
Field workers from two city commissions working
in the slums, others working for the YMCA, crusad-
�ing pastors and some police all know that riots have
almost broken out several times in recent weeks
over mere rumors, the transfer of a fa vorite priest
from his parish, or an arrest.
This is not to minimize the organized aspect of
the riot. There are gangs and they are a serious
problem, and there are some revolutiona ry groups
in the ghetto. But life in the ghetto is normally
violent and brutal; it does not take much to set
off a riot. The white man outside the ghetto can
scarcely realize the power of a rumor on the West
Side, for instance; his mind cannot take it in. He
really does not know the life of the poor, Negro or
white, or how suspicious that life is.
At 3 a.m. July 14, in the mid st of the riot, a
reporter was attacked by a large rat on a West Side
street corner. Two teen-age Negro boys, returning,
they said, from a riot fora y, beat off this beast with
a baseball bat and a board, explaining they were
happy enough to fight rats which are, on the whole,
worse than w hite newsmen.
Filled With Rats
The slums are filled with rats ; rats are the manife st evidence of the inhumanity out there. They are
eve ry wh ere, a long with the debris of demolished
buildings, the dirt in the streets, the cheap bars. People grow up among the rats and li ve with them.
Th e West Side is mostly the home of the Negro
poor. In this it differs vastly from the South Side
where perhaps 450,000 Negroes live ; many of them
li\·e \\·ell , some live magnificently. On the West
Side e\·en childhood has degenerated into gang warfare, extortion, intimidation, physical punishment
a nd even occasional murder. Adult life is merely
a n ex tens ion of thi s violen ce. In such conditions on e
does not h a ve to explain riots by plots.
May or Ri cha rd J . Daley, during th e riot, said there
we re "outs iders" promoting the riot. Perhaps there
w ere. But a ll those a r rested lived on the West Side
a nd police di d not find the outs iders. Angry with
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the mayor demanded
to know from him "w hether other cities have no
problems." P erhap s they ha ve, and Dr. King is
indeed an outs id er. But last summ er th e mayor
was face d with th e probl em of nuns staging a sit-in
on the world 's bu siest intersection to protest the
slum s, a nd they were not outs id ers.
The may or's pouting is not dignified; it is childi sh.
But it refl ects th e attitude of the white majority
whi ch still elec ts him and w hi ch resents being
jostl ed.
In ra ce rela tions in thi s city, the bulk of the white
peopl e treats th e mayor like a ser vant who is hired
to br ibe th e minoriti es into civ ic order. Thus a riot
produ ces a sudd en munificence from city hall, of
hyd rant sprinklers a nd swimming pools a nd hou s ing
P e rvas ive Con ception
Th is con ception of the may or's offi ce is so per\·asi \·e that even many Negroes h ave come to beli eve
it, a n d t he lead in g Negro politicians, w ho a re pa rt
of Da ley's De mocratic Pa rty machi ne , act ua lly enfo rce it .
But the g ifts of city h all hide th e bas ic p ro blem
about the l'\egro ghetto. The pr oblem is th a t most
of th e peop le in t he gh etto simp ly do not sh are in
any \\·ay in the life of t h e ci ty . Their ali en a tion is
an eno r mous spir itu al wa ll built u p of uncountable
and ancient indignities; it is the wall of the city.
The problem is to break down the wall. Dr. King,
when he opened his civil rights drive here two days
before hell broke loose, thought he had at least part
of the machinery to break down the wall.
But the riot, which illuminated society's flaws,
also illuminated some serious weaknesses in Dr.
King and his approach. The first thing that became
evident was that in Chicago Dr. King, the patron
saint of non-violence, was leading a collection of
local civil rights groups whose leaders include a
few pretty violent people.
This problem results from a structural weakness
in the King method. Dr. King's Southern Christian
Leadership Conference suffers from a lack of troops
and thus it is plagued by indiscriminate recruitment
when it enters a city. In a big city like Chicago,
where there are 900,000 Negroes and only a percentage of these favor Dr. King, the flaw can be fatal.
Little Influence
Dr. King very quickly discovered he had little
influ ence in the West Side community. When he
walked the streets on the first night of riot pleading for non-violence some young Negroes laughed
at him . When his aides showed films this past
spring of the Watts riots to illustrate the danger
of violence, some youths applauded. Youth gang
leaders who met with Dr. King as the riots subsided
on the night of July 15 said they might turn to nonviolence and again they might not.
Some of these gang leaders told a reporter they
had met several times with SCLC officials long
before the riots, but Dr. King had no program for
them , so the youths gave up on him. One of them
called him a "hit-and-run m essiah. "
His prestige suffered enormously in the Chicago
riots. The Sunday before the uproar started, he
had stood in Soldier Field and debated non-violence
as against "black power " with none other than Floy d
McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality, the
preach er oi black power.
The riot cooled that philosophical a rgument permanently, on e gathers. For th e riot has turned not
onl y the whites aga inst Dr. King, but the Negro
power structure as well; and his ci vil rights movement he re is in immedi a te dan ger of passing into
th e hands of the old-time politicians. Dr. King finds
himself in the position of either becoming the high
priest of all the poor and only the poor, or getting
out, quickly.
In either case, he has been pus hed-violently if
y ou will-in the direction of the McKissick position,
th a t Negro rights must inv olve Negro political
power. Further, no matte r how much Dr. King
protests that hi s Chicago drive is not partisan a nd
not v iolent, the riot exposed clearly tha t many of
the people around him are ve ry pa rti sa n a nd a few
a re v iol ent.
Violen t and Non-Violent
One of his top ai des, t he Rev. J a mes Bevel, told
alm ost 50,000 people at the J u ly 10 ra lly tha t "we
wa n t the violent and the n on-violent to join w ith
us." Tha t seems pretty straigh tforward .
Among the pe rsons a tten d ing a con fere n ce with
the mayor th e clay before the r iots started was
Ch ester Rob inson of th e West Side Organi zati on , ·
a loca l civ il r ights grou p.
R obi nson is n ot person ally a v iolent man, but hi s
h ead qu a rters h as becom e a con venient gath ering
�voices by financing community action programs
seeking to involve the poor in the solution of their
own difficulties, was shouted down in April w h en
he attempted to address a conference called by the
Citizens Crusade Against Poverty . At the time, he
said a ha ndful of "professional demonstrators" were
tryin g to make trouble. His attitude now, at least
for publication, is that su ch confrontations are a
positive thing. "It's time," h e says, "that the poor
speak up for their n eeds."
· Joe P . Maldonado, executive director of th e
county's antipoverty vehicle, the Economic and
Youth Opportunities Agen cy, who also has been
subjected to insulting personal abuse, shares this
opinion in essence.
Governmental Confusion
Infuriated by governmental confusion a n d political
machinations which seem to dull the promise of antipoverty programs, the poor s trike out at anybody
w ho represents the "powe r structure." Their more
vocal m embers appear dete rmined to take over and
make changes th emselves.
Speaki ng of certain manifestations of the so-called
revolt of the poor, J ames E. Ludlam, president of
the Welfare Planni ng Council, a trad itional agency,
told anti poverty board m embers that a vocal minority "grounded in militancy a nd confl ict" was trying
to capture control of antipoverty programs. He said
t h ese militan t elements are given to threats of violence, disru ption of meetin gs and " infiltration a nd
subversion of staff decisions."
Bu t the Rev. Wi lliam Hervey, director of the
Department of Metropolitan Mi ssion for the Los Angeles Presbytery, responds th a t militancy is n ecessary in the fight aga inst "man 's mos t dehuma nizin g
Old weapons cannot be used to fight a n ew war,
argues Mr. Hervey, referring to the traditional welfare agencies. He agrees that many of those castigated by Ludlam are "grounded in militancy and
involved in conflict ," but h e could not agree that
their actions were totally n egat ive.
One of the intriguing prospects in all this is that
some of today's revolutionists, like others of history,
w ill become part of the " power structure" themselves once they gain control. Then, presumably,
they will regard t h emselves as " responsible" a nd
will find themselves facing the fury of n ew revolutionaries.
One man w ho believes the often-irresponsible
accusations by the poor a re a n ecessary part of
progress is Dr. J. A lfred Cannon , a UCL A neuropsychiatrist who works w ith a group ca lled P eople
in Community Action.
Dr. Cannon, a Negro, says, "Anytime you h ave a
group of people who are relative strangers, on e way
they have of testing each other might be through
initial demands or angry confrontations. It's a way
of finding out how genuine the other person is.
"Often this kind of confrontation . . . paves th e
way for more constructive, gentle exchanges.
"Shouting at a public official ... is a demonstration
that the poor a n d minorities have the strength and
power to be able to challenge th e 'big chief.' This
is very important, because they can see their effectiveness in some kind of action. It leads to a sense
of worthwhileness and adequacy ... and a potency
which the poor generally don't h ave."
'Feeling of Participation'
This is the beginning, says Dr. Cannon, "of the
poor man's _feeling of participation in his own
destiny, a very importa nt strut in his h ealth."
Bitterness over the fa ilure of the war on poverty
to deliver immediate results, a nd disillusionment
over the administration of welfare programs have
ti:iggered a statewide-even a nationwide-effort by
th e poor to organize.
With the backing of the Univers ity of California
Extension , the Sears Foundation, and two privately
organized advisory agencies-the California Foundation for Economic Opportunity a nd the California
Center for Community Development-a first California Convention of the Poor was held in Oakland in
F ebruary.
This led to the June con vention in Fonta na, attended by representati ves of slum tenant councils,
welfa re recipien t groups and community action
movements around the state.
Out of t he Fontana con vention , Dr. Jacobus tenBroeck, a UC pol itical science professor and former
chairma n of the State Social Welfa re Board, emerged
w ith the task of g iving some organi zational sophistica tion to the more tha n 20 W elfare Rights Organizations w hich a re loosely joined in thi s movement.
A convention is planned this fall to develop a legislati ve program, clearly aimed at mounting a lobby
for cha nges in welfare and other laws affectin g the
Welfare Recipients
Rema rkably, in view of widespread conviction
among the gene ra l pu blic that most w elfare recipients wou ldn't work if th ey cou ld, some of the
loudes t protests in recent W elfare R ights Organiza tion de monstrations were that the present system
" makes it imposs ible for us to work our way off
we lfare."
" If you don't h ave poor people in on the soluti ons,"
says Dr. TenBroeck, "you misgauge w ha t the problems a nd their attitudes are.
"They flai l, they shout, they a re quite unreason a b le," con cedes Dr. Ten Broeck. "Thi s is therapy
a nd steam-valving. Unless you prov ide some way
to let off their futility, we're s itting on a lid we
ought not to s it on- as y ou see in W a tts.
"It's not a matter of wh ether we enjoy it-bu t
w h e the r we're going to make it possible for those
wh o a re deprived t o cease to be dep r ived.
"They want the rest of us to slide into the back ground as t hey get on their feet a nd get organ ized .
And t hat's th e way it sh ould be."

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