Box 9, Folder 23, Document 4

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Then, not that man do more, or stop pity; but that he
be wider in living; that all his cities fly a clean flag .. .
Poet Kenneth Patchen


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 an-
cient 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 West 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 have less control than they would like,
or indeed than they should have; and they found

D. J. R. Bruckner is chief of The Times news bureau
in Chicago.

they have less information than they need, to act.
Civil rights leaders on the whole discovered much
the same thing.

However, if a riot has any benefit, it lies in this,
that it brilliantly illuminates, for a moment, the
logic of events: extreme violence tends to force the
hands of people, and suddenly theoretical positions
and legal principles all look quite different.

What happened in Chicago is not very mysterious
if one looks simply at it.

Search for a Plot

A number of city officials and police officers, how-
ever, 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 scurrying 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 vio-
lence 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 Puerto Rican on the streets talking about.

Total Unhappiness

What struck one about the riot among the Negroes
was the total dissolution of a neighborhood of per-
haps 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,
and even some of the boasting leaders of the teen-
age 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 needed 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 favorite 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 revolutionary 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 midst 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 foray, 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 white newsmen.

Filled With Rats

The slums are filled with rats; rats are the mani-
fest evidence of the inhumanity out there. They are
everywhere, along with the debris of demolished
buildings, the dirt in the streets, the cheap bars. Peo-
ple grow up among the rats and live with them.

The 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
live well, some live magnificently. On the West
Side even childhood has degenerated into gang war-
fare, extortion, intimidation, physical punishment
and even occasional murder. Adult life is merely
an extension of this violence. In such conditions one
does not have to explain riots by plots.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, during the riot, said there
were “outsiders” promoting the riot. Perhaps there
were. But all those arrested lived on the West Side
and police did not find the outsiders. Angry with
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the mayor demanded
to know from him ‘whether other cities have no
problems.”” Perhaps they have, and Dr. King is
indeed an outsider. But last summer the mayor
was faced with the problem of nuns staging a sit-in
on the world’s busiest intersection to protest the
slums, and they were not outsiders.

The mayor's pouting is not dignified; it is childish.
But it reflects the attitude of the white majority
which still elects him and which resents being

In race relations in this city, the bulk of the white
people treats the mayor like a servant who is hired
to bribe the minorities into civic order. Thus a riot
produces a sudden munificence from city hall, of
hydrant sprinklers and swimming pools and housing

Pervasive Conception

This conception of the mayor's office is so per-
vasive that even many Negroes have come to believe
it, and the leading Negro politicians, who are part
of Daley's Democratic Party machine, actually en-
force it.

But the gifts of city hall hide the basic problem
about the Negro ghetto. The problem is that most
of the people in the ghetto simply do not share in
any way in the life of the city. Their alienation is
an enormous spiritual wall built up 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 percent-
age of these favor Dr. King, the flaw can be fatal.

Little Influence

Dr. King very quickly discovered he had little
influence in the West Side community. When he
walked the streets on the first night of riot plead-
ing 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 non-
violence 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 messiah.”

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 Floyd
MecKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality, the
preacher of black power.

The riot cooled that philosophical argument per-
manently, one gathers. For the riot has turned not
only the whites against Dr. King, but the Negro
power structure as well; and his civil rights move-
ment here is in immediate danger of passing into
the 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 pushed—violently if
you will—in the direction of the McKissick position,
that Negro rights must involve Negro political
power. Further, no matter how much Dr. King
protests that his Chicago drive is not partisan and
not violent, the riot exposed clearly that many of
the people around him are very partisan and a few
are violent.

Violent and Non-Violent

One of his top aides, the Rev. James Bevel, told
almost 50,000 people at the July 10 rally that “we
want the violent and the non-violent to join with
us.” That seems pretty straightforward.

Among the persons attending a conference with
the mayor the day before the riots started was
Chester Robinson of the West Side Organization,
a local civil rights group.

Robinson is not personally a violent man, but his
headquarters has become a convenient gathering

voices by financing community action programs
seeking to involve the poor in the solution of their
own difficulties, was shouted down in April when
he attempted to address a conference called by the
Citizens Crusade Against Poverty. At the time, he
said a handful of “professional demonstrators” were
trying to make trouble. His attitude now, at least
for publication, is that such confrontations are a
positive thing. “It’s time,” he says, “that the poor
speak up for their needs.”

‘Joe P. Maldonado, executive director of the
county's antipoverty vehicle, the Economic and
Youth Opportunities Agency, who also has been
subjected to insulting personal abuse, shares this
opinion in essence.

Governmental Confusion

Infuriated by governmental confusion and political
machinations which seem to dull the promise of anti-
poverty programs, the poor strike out at anybody
who represents the “power structure.” Their more
vocal members appear determined to take over and
make changes themselves.

Speaking of certain manifestations of the so-called
revolt of the poor, James BE. Ludlam, president of
the Welfare Planning Council, a traditional agency,
told anti poverty board members that a vocal minori-
ty “grounded in militancy and conflict” was trying
to capture control of antipoverty programs. He said
these militant elements are given to threats of vio-
lence, disruption of meetings and “infiltration and
subversion of staff decisions.”

But the Rev. William Hervey, director of the
Department of Metropolitan Mission for the Los An-
geles Presbytery, responds that militancy is neces-
sary in the fight against “man's most dehumanizing

Old weapons cannot be used to fight a new war,
argues Mr. Hervey, referring to the traditional wel-
fare agencies. He agrees that many of those casti-
gated by Ludlam are “grounded in militancy and
involved in conflict,” but he could not agree that
their actions were totally negative.

One of the intriguing prospects in all this is that
some of today’s revolutionists, like others of history,
will become part of the ‘power structure’ them-
selves once they gain control. Then, presumably,
they will regard themselves as “responsible” and
will find themselves facing the fury of new revolu-

One man who believes the often-irresponsible
accusations by the poor are a necessary part of
progress is Dr. J. Alfred Cannon, a UCLA neuro-
psychiatrist who works with a group called People
in Community Action.

Dr. Cannon, a Negro, says, “Anytime you have a
group of people who are relative strangers, one 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 the
way for more constructive, gentle exchanges.

“Shouting at a public official . . . isa demonstration
that the poor and minorities have the strength and
power to be able to challenge the ‘big chief.’ This
is very important, because they can see their effec-
tiveness in some kind of action. It leads to a sense
of worthwhileness and adequacy ... and a potency
which the poor generally don’t have.”

‘Feeling of Participation’

This is the beginning, says Dr. Cannon, “of the
poor man’s feeling of participation in his own
destiny, a very important strut in his health.”

Bitterness over the failure of the war on poverty
to deliver immediate results, and disillusionment
over the administration of welfare programs have
triggered a statewide—even a nationwide—effort by
the poor to organize.

With the backing of the University of California
Extension, the Sears Foundation, and two privately
organized advisory agencies—the California Founda-
tion for Economic Opportunity and the California
Center for Community Development—a first Califor-
nia Convention of the Poor was held in Oakland in

This led to the June convention in Fontana, at-
tended by representatives of slum tenant councils,
welfare recipient groups and community action
movements around the state.

Out of the Fontana convention, Dr. Jacobus ten-
Broeck, a UC political science professor and former
chairman of the State Social Welfare Board, emerged
with the task of giving some organizational sophisti-
cation to the more than 20 Welfare Rights Organ-
izations which are loosely joined in this movement.
A convention is planned this fall to develop a legisla-
tive program, clearly aimed at mounting a lobby
for changes in welfare and other laws affecting the

Welfare Recipients

Remarkably, in view of widespread conviction
among the general public that most welfare recip-
ients wouldn't work if they could, some of the
loudest protests in recent Welfare Rights Organ-
ization demonstrations were that the present system
“makes it impossible for us to work our way off


“Tf you don't have poor people in on the solutions,”
says Dr, TenBroeck, “you misgauge what the prob-
lems and their attitudes are.

“They flail, they shout, they are quite unreason-
able,” concedes Dr. TenBroeck. “This is therapy
and steam-valving. Unless you provide some way
to let off their futility, we're sitting on a lid we
ought not to sit on—as you see in Watts.

“It’s not a matter of whether we enjoy it—but
whether we're going to make it possible for those
who are deprived to cease to be deprived.

“They want the rest of us to slide into the back-
ground as they get on their feet and get organized.
And that’s the way it should be.”

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