Troops, Police Arrest 7000 in D.C. Mayday Protesters Fail to Close City
WASHINGTON, D.C.-Ten thousand Metropolitan Police and Federal troops-supported by Marine paratroopers and the Army 82nd and 153rd Airborne Divisions-arrested more than 7000 antiwar demonstrators here yesterday and herded them into jails and makeshift detention centers.
Mass civil disobedience aimed at shutting off the downtown section of Washington was, for the most part, ineffectual, and police reported no significant traffic disruptions during rush hour. Government officials said most workers made it to their jobs, usually on time.
Mass arrests began early yesterday morning when scheduled Mayday activities lapsed into widespread trashing and street fighting in the downtown area. Mayday organizers say they will resume demonstrations today.
Late yesterday afternoon, FBI agents arrested Rennie Davis, one of the key Mayday organizers and Chicago 7 defendant, on charges of conspiring to plan disruptions, conspiring to prevent government workers from going to work, and conspiring to interfere with the constitutional rights of persons in the Capitol. He is being held on $100,-000 bond.
Although Washington Superior Court convened at noon yesterday, its eight judges did not begin arraignments until 4 p.m. Cases are being considered on an individual basis-a process officials say was to continue through the night-and it is doubtful that any substantial number of the 7000 demonstrators will be released before tomorrow or Thursday.
Superior Court judges are taking a hard line toward demonstrators, setting bail between $200 and $250 and in most cases refusing to grant bail collateral of ten per cent. That means most people will have to come up with over $200 in order to be released.
All Washington area jails are filled to capacity, including over 1000 cells in the central Washington prison system. When jails reached capacity, police began routing busloads of those arrested to a fenced practice field adjacent to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
Police made plans last night to move over 2000 persons being held there to the D.C. Coliseum until they can be processed in the courts. That will take at least until late this afternoon, court officials indicated last night.
A large number of those arrested-perhaps as many as half-may have charges against them dropped because short arrest forms were not made out at the time they were taken into custody.
The outdoor detention center had all the trappings of a concentration camp. People there were retained by an 8-foot high fence ringed by army troops and police for almost 14 hours. There were no sanitation facilities inside the camp and shelter and water were limited.
A row of army supply trucks laden with pepper gas was situated about-100 yards from the entrance to the detention area. Another truck stood by with barbed wire in case demonstrators collapsed the feeble wire fence which held them in.
Those arrested almost succeeded in pushing through the fence at one point yesterday afternoon, but police used gas to drive them back. Across the street from the practice field, members of the 82nd Airborn Division-flown in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina Sunday-were stationed throughout RFK Stadium, ostensibly to ward off the unarmed demonstrators should they somehow escape from the camp.
Most Mayday regional groups arrived at their target areas in small affinity groups at about 6 a.m. yesterday, hoping to stop traffic at 12 key intersections and bridges. However, police and federal troops awaited them at each site, and turned demonstrators back toward the downtown area.
Police arrested demonstrators and bystanders indiscriminately throughout the morning and frequently used pepper gas and tear gas to break up bands of demonstrators who roamed the streets trying to block intersections with debris.
On several occasions, demonstrators pushed parked cars into intersections or built barricades out of brick, trash barrels, and wood across the streets.
Traffic was clogged most seriously in the area surrounding George Washington University which was eventually cleared by a police sweep and sealed off for the day.
The highest number of arrests occurred in areas around Dupont Circle in northwest Washington, the Washington Memorial, and at George Washington.
At the Washington Monument, six huge Marine helicopters landed at about 9 a.m. and unloaded combat attired troops to secure the park.
A stream of 35 military police jeeps encircled Dupont Circle, where police scattered demonstrators and arrested them for jaywalking and walking against the traffic lights. Arrests were usually rough, and police brought in dogs to disperse bands of demonstrators on sidestreets.
Demonstrators trying to block the four main bridges leading to downtown Washington from Virginia were headed off by National Guardsmen and loaded into green vans resembling large horse trailers.
A Southern Christian Leadership Conference march on the Pentagon was foiled by police before it got under way at 6:30 a.m., but a small group of Vietnam Veterans Against the War reached the Pentagon and dumped 100 pounds of chicken manure on the steps of the building before being arrested.
Bystanders aided police in removing debris and abandoned cars causing traffic tie-ups, and some even chased fleeing demonstrators with attache cases and pieces of wood.
Army troops were momentarily deployed in the George Washington area at about 10 a.m., but were withdrawn when they began fraternizing with demonstrators and student bystanders.
Metropolitan police replaced the troops and soon surrounded the campus area. At 10:45 a.m., police moved in, using tear gas extensively and arresting all pedestrians who "appeared suspicious."
By noon, police had contained most of the trashing. Only a few serious injuries were reported, although police exercised little restraint in dealing with demonstrators. Police made arrests at random throughout the afternoon.
The concentration of police and troops here is staggering. Helicopters circle overhead throughout the day and most of the night, and police are visible at almost every street corner.
Arrests are wholesale and easy to come by-especially if you happen to look like a college student or an antiwar demonstrator. Yesterday, a 25-year-old man and his fiancee were arrested as they came out of a restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue. When police took them to the detention camp opposite RFK Stadium the couple decided that the end must be near. They proceeded to find a priest inside the camp, were fenced-in area covered by a canvas married, and designated a corner of the sheet as their "honeymoon Tent."
"Please do not disturb." a sign hung carefully on the tent said. However, in the police state imposed here yesterday, the chances for peace and quiet are slim indeed.