WALKING over to Lincoln Park on Wednesday night, I stop at a liquor store, buy a bottle of beer, and ask for an opener. I know what the Weather Bureau has got planned for tonight. Earlier, at the briefing at the Michigan-Wisconsin-New-England-and-New-York-State movement head-quarters, they told us that after the speeches we were going to march through the city. The police would try to stop us. Police make me very uneasy. The beer fails to make me the least bit high.
At Lincoln Park the turnout for this, the first demonstration, is very small. About 300 people are gathered around a bonfire fueled by park benches. Another 200 newspapermen and spectators stand around the edges. It is very sad. They had announced 1500 would show, and were really expecting 800. It is undeniably terrible when any Left political movement turns out to have far less support that it needs, when the people you thought you had won don't care enough to show.
I sit down on the grass at the edge of the crowd not listening to the speakers, watching the fire glowing through the legs of the people around it, looking through the trees across the park to the cars going by on the expressway. I count the cars, and my friend, Kunen, keeps time. In 150 seconds, two and a half minutes, as many people whiz by on the expressway as there are Weathermen in the world.
How sad that only this few people are crazy. Where are the massed armies of insanity? 100,000 people marched on the Pentagon. Maybe it's because that was on a weekend and this is the middle of the week.
Quite suddenly a speaker is announcing. "We're going to be moving out now. Stay with your groups, and follow the leadership." The march wants to get as far south as the Drake Hotel, which is next door to where the judge of the Conspiracy 8 trial lives. There are no police in the park: they are all in the streets outside waiting to move in if the Weathermen stay past the 11 o'clock curfew.
The Weathermen break into a run across the park on signal. They are wearing white helmets, which are all you can see bobbing up and down in the night. They are screaming and chanting, and suddenly start the high-pitched shrill used by the people of Algiers during the revolution. ill-leel-leell-lil-ill-il-eel-eeeeeeeeeeeee.
They pass a big square park building. Stones and bricks are hurled up out of the running crowd and smash to pieces the building's 20-foot tall plate glass windows.
Now they are across the last bit of park and running into the street. There are no police around anywhere. The police have somehow been faked out. The crowd charges up Clark Street, one of the main streets of Chicago, wiping out store windows on both sides. And then a florist shop takes a stone right through its front window. Lots of flowers are knocked over.
This is when I decide to put a distinction between me and the Weathermen. Their action is really against the people. Kunen is running up the street alongside me. He says, "What are they doing hitting a florist shop?" I don't know, but I don't feel as bad about it as he does. We move out of the crowd and start running up the sidewalk.
A bottle thrown out of the crowd hits the side of a building just in front of me. A girl with long blonde hair is showered with glass but isn't cut. A boy from the crowd yells at us, "Get into the street." But it looks like everyone in the street is going to be shot and arrested pretty soon. The sirens are beginning to scream.
The crowd slows down to a fast walk every so often to allow itself to be amazed. They have taken control of the street. They have proceeded entirely unchecked by opposition. The police squad cars pull across each new intersection only to drive screeching away when the crowd gets near.
Their sound is echoing off the tall buildings around them. Their boots are thumping like a forced march. A new window goes shattering to the ground every two seconds. They begin wiping out cars.
The brighter lights of the Loop are far up Clark Street. But the crowd swings into a turn left onto Goethe Street. The kids are all staying very close together. When it turns, the crowd seems to act as one, its arms waving, its helmets bobbing, flowing into the smaller street like a river rushing through a canyon.
They hit State Street and head back down towards the Loop again. They have foxed the police. It is very hard to keep track of the crowd in the night.
Some of the girls don't have helmets on. Their hair is streaming back behind their heads as they run. They all pass some construction sites where people run over to pick new stones and bricks. No paving stones in Chicago. A guy is going past a Rolls Royce. Imagine a Rolls Royce. He plants one foot ahead of him. Stops, pivots like a shortstop bringing his arm down in a big arch. His club takes out the windshield. Someone else opens the back door, rips out the phone or something, and leaves. Middle-aged people looking out from the lobby of the hotel and standing in furs on the street are visibly upset.