GQ: The Mess We Made

I urged people to head back toward the Hilton by any means. If there was gonna be blood or gas, let it be all over the city. So people started up the long, narrow park along Lake Michigan. There are small bridges along the way that get you to the Grant Park area adjacent to the hotel, but all these bridges were occupied by troops with bayonets. And there were submachine guns mounted on tripods pointed at the protesters as we went from bridge to bridge.

Finally, though, like the Red Sea parting, we came upon a bridge that was open. And there was this cheering, and this large crowd of people rushed across the bridge as if they had been liberated, and they arrived on Michigan Avenue. We simply had to turn left and march towards the Hilton, which was a mile or a mile and a half away.

Before he was murdered, Martin Luther King had agreed to send people from his proposed Poor People's March to march with us against the war. And suddenly here they were, too, this mule train from the South, with sharecroppers in blue Levi's shirts, overalls, and horses -- clop, clop, clop -- joining us and marching forward. It was kind of a joyous, delirious half an hour. There were no police in front of us. But as we arrived at Michigan and Balbo, with the Hilton on the right and the park on the left, suddenly the line was blocked.

James P. Turner (Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice): I was there to investigate police abuse. The idea was that the attorney general needed a lawyer's eye on the ground, because everyone else had an ax to grind. So I went down there to look around. The police had cleared out Grant Park, on the east side of Michigan Avenue, so that gave you just kind of a dead end where the marchers and the demonstrators and the mules and the wagons and everybody just kept pounding in. Didn't just stop; they just kept packing tighter and tighter. It was pretty solid humanity.

Rumsfeld: The police had the diffculty of trying to determine what their response should be. They responded against people who were instigators and also noninstigators, and I suspect the latter was much larger than the former. All I know is, when things are that hostile, there's no way any one individual can tell you what took place and whose fault it was.

Hayden: At the sight of the police, people expected to be beaten and gassed again. And so they just sat down. They sat down in the street and on the sidewalk at the corner of Michigan and Balbo. The street was completely occupied by police vans and police cars and police o8cers and I'm not sure what other military forces. And there were lights from media cameras, I guess. People sat down. And then somebody invented the chant "The whole world is watching."

Turner: The protesters were singing songs -- "This Land Is Your Land" -- and they had cheers -- "The whole world is watching" -- and everybody was pretty rowdy but behaving all right. At some point, a platoon of police offcers came east on Balbo Street, and they just marched right into the crowd, knocking people around. Of course, the crowd then backed off, away from the cops, but if you push one side of a balloon the other side goes out. And so over on the Grant Park side, they began pushing into the cops, and the cops over there thought they were being assaulted by the crowd, so they start in. And first thing you know, it just. . . Everything hit the fan.

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