THERE'S A RUMBLE "We say no, We say no. We say no to the racists..." shivers across the Fenway in the gray drizzle quivers a pale, unshaven man. He's baby-blue double-knit dressed chic and he's bitching at a hulking, red lumber jacketed Militant vendor who's tucked his Militant under his arm in a white, plastic garbage bag Disposable.
At 10:30 a.m. the turn-out is light for the Boston March Against Racism" as its organizers' (the Emergency Committee for a National Mobilization Against Racism) buttons read, or the "Freedom march," according to the student Committee for the December 14 National March Against Racism's leaflet. It's a multi-shaded crowd of a few hundred glum people. And two Rent-a-Trucks.
Roberto Clemente Park, where the march is assembling, is where Boston curbs its dogs and under the glumping sky it's schlepping back into the harbour. As the morning wears on, the dog shit, the mud, and the rain get churned into a fine mess by 5,000 pairs of feet. Globe's estimate. The "Fred Hampton contingent, one of the many groups reaching today, is huddled about some low concrete stands on the far side of a baseball diamond. Murdered in 1969 by the F.B.I. and the Chicago police Fred Hampton, a Black Panther leader advocated a class--not a racial--struggle. The contingent has four or five vivid red banners, roughly ten feet by three feet, that turn this message to the larger crowd on Park Drive.
A wild-eyed oriental scurries about the group welcoming new arrivals. "Hey man. How are you?" he asks a yellow banded security man; short, Irish, build like a longshoreman. "You sure are looking goods continues the Oriental. But the Irishman is tough not good-looking. Perhaps this is a coded message that completes the gestalt of the scene; barren steppes, flooded with water, disappearing under a tide of people and their carefully-lettered banners ripped by the cold wind.
An enormous waxy-faced man carooms through the front of the crowd. He is rounder and crazier than helium balloon, and he's spreading false information about the march's route. Losing his temper a black man shoves his hand into the fat man face, crumpling a leaflet into his mouth. Under a bare tree, two securitymen twist the black to the ground. He's screaming, "I won't let any motherfucking son-of-a-bitch stand in our way." With cries of "police agent," and "white racist pig" the crowd tries to bounce the fat man into Park Drive where the police have established their security line. But nobody wants to touch him.
Two women, one from the organizing committee, the other from a group marching, bicker over whether to go up Commonwealth Avenue or Boylston Street, A police permit has been issued for Commonwealth, a pleasant tree-shaded avenue lined with grimy brick apartments, but not for Boylston,' which cuts through one of Boston's more affluent shopping districts. Later the Globe said that shopkeepers had complained to the Mayor that the march would disrupt their business. The two ladies, one short with short brown hair, the other taller in a long brown coat and with an ugly motley-skinned face, engage in minor histrionics. Raising her eyes to the sky, the short one beseeches the crowd to acknowledge her conciliatory stance.
Perhaps a decision is in the making, for the Socialist Workers contingent, about a thousand strong marches off before the main group. But it isn't evident. Though many people run around with yellow rags tied around their arms, and despite large numbers of walkie-talkies circulating about, and maybe because of the outlandish number of groups involved, each with their own hierarchy of leaders, organizers, and speechmakers, there is a remarkable lack of decision-making. Everyone gets spilled onto Clemente Park, mixed up with everyone else while the ideologues scream about identity. The Anti-Racist Coalition "says the march leaders have a wrong approach." The Congress of Afrikan People is "critical of the Trotskyite and revisionist influence on the march." The Workers League and Young Socialists say "The Freedom March for Human Dignity,' by seeking to place the responsibility for racism on the working class itself, is directed against the workers of Boston."
BUT OTHER PEOPLE evidently felt otherwise, Fifty busloads of anti-somethings were dumped on Clemente Park from Chicago. New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Baltimore, St. Louis, and South Dakota. There were also fantastic groups with esoteric names and nifty leaflets.
The Erytreans For Liberty in America all have the same color skins, a mixture arrived at by melting a bar of Suchard's milk chocolate in a pint of walnut finish. They're all males, all under 5'10", all have arabic features, and all sport little black moustaches. They speak a foreign tongue.
An enthusiastic newspaper vendor boosts the October Movement, "We're for the workers overthrowing the billionaires and telling them what to do." Doesn't he plan for the workers to un billionaire the billionaires? "Oh yeah We'd throw them all in jail and try to re-educate the ones that were savable." He is offering a great deal on his paper, "Buy this month's and you get last month's tree."
"The Political Statement of the Weather Underground" is printed in pink by Prairie Fire. It comes with a "Name the Enemies" crossword puzzle and chants conveniently printed on the verse. They have their neo-Indian war shield white with streaming yellow ribbons, that bobbies through the crowd on a pole about 15 feet high.
The shield might just as well belong to Ganienkeh, a group trying to "Help Eagle Bay." They are a group of "native Americans, Mohawk primarily," who have taken over a former girls camp in New York and kicked all the motel owners out. "They have the right to this land. They will appeal to the United Nations and the International Coort |sic| if necessary." In their pamphlet they fall to elucidate their stand on busing.
The rain stops. From the top of the stands, where it is less damp, this congregation is a crusade with hundreds of pennants strewn in the glowering breeze. The button sellers offer their indulgences. Their most popular model is the "March Against Racism" sold to defray the organizers' costs. It is in the same black and green color scheme as their banners and has a logo with six white, eight black, six polka dotted, and a few incomplete heads. If costs a dollar. There are also two black button models. One is a $.2 bargain, the other is larger and more expensive, though its price seems to fluctuate as the day wears on.
At 12:40 p.m. there is some action. The F.H. contingent must swing around a quarter turn. The result is hectic. Under the Defend the Democratic Rights of Oppressed Nationalities banner stands a short and stumpy man. A faded version of the Pillsbury Doughboy dressed in gray cap, jacked and pants, he stomps his feet in cadence with the archings of his eyebrows and the mechanical chomp of his tight-lipped mouth.
By 1:15 the sound truck has forced its way onto the third baseline. The march must disassemble and regroup behind it, the black schoolchildren near the very front. Other contingents, vying for the lead positions, have cut the F.H. contingent's banner from the group's main body. "If you're missing your organization," instructs their sound truck, "just get in someplace." Later the sound truck announces that the march will leave when state senator-elect William Owens, one of its sponsors, arrives. "Let's go. We don't need him..."urges the crowd. In response, "We shall overcome..." gasps from the speakers. It is hoarse and breathy and staggers into a self-parody. But there is little humor in this crowd. The travesty soon dies: unnoted, surrendering to the mud's sweet juicy suck.