I fell asleep on the floor of a small office that had room for only two or three others that night, the shade drawn to block out the street lights glaring in. I was unaware of this at the time, but at that precise moment 15,000 additional troops and police were arriving by convoy and airlift into D.C. to arrest us on-sight, with or without provocation. There were only maybe 20,000 of us left by then. Almost one heavily armed soldier or cop with the entire repressive machinery of the state at their disposal would confront every one unarmed activist that had only their bodies and their hopes for protection.
About twenty of us left the Institute for Policy Studies at 4:30 AM on Monday morning in four separate affinity groups and we all took a different circuitous route. Our mission was to block the intersection of If we had taken a fairly direct route at a brisk pace down
Andrews Air Force Base transport planes bursting with paratroopers had been landing every three minutes. When you toss in over 5,000 D.C. police and 2,000 National Guard and other security forces, I marvel in retrospect that we saw no one remotely close to that description as we ambled quietly and unnoticed to the corner of . Every park, every monument, and every traffic circle (like Dupont Circle, which we had assiduously avoided due to our fairly good instructions for getting to the site of our action) were being protected by heavily-armed men.
I guess there was a reason our government was successful in killing so many of those over-matched peasants in South East Asia. They understood the element of surprise. When we came within sight of the intersection my pulse quickened and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and beating in my throat. Nearby the Justice Department and the FBI buildings rose ominously from street level above us. There were already twenty people just like us slowly crossing the street and our additional group swelled their numbers. There was not a whiff of the man anywhere.
We had barely entered the intersection when we were surrounded by 30 to 40 riot police with visors down and clubs drawn. They had been hiding! The bastards! Hey, we hadn't done anything yet! They scorched toward us with amazing fury. They shouted and some of us screamed. They encircled us quickly, holding their batons horizontally to their chests by each end then thrusting them forward and bashing into us with the force of a freight train. People stumbled and fell over, we were trampled under foot by hard, thick boots, then crushed into a small, tight clump of moaning humanity so compressed we could not breathe. In a few moments they started to peel off those on the outside of the clump and literally toss us into a large, idling police bus. How had they been able to hide that thing from sight? It was gigantic!
This was at 6:00 AM. Two hours later 2,000 people had been arrested and by 11:00 AM 7,000. At Dupont Circle, where we had spent the previous night, a Marine battalion with tanks was stationed, their barrels pointed out at the populace. D.C. was under military occupation. Anyone wearing jeans was arrested, and numerous people just on their way to work were caught in the dragnet. My former babysitter, a Republican stalwart who had moved from my small town in Indiana to do clerical work at the CIA, later told me that she did not go to work that day because she was sure she would be arrested just for leaving her home.
I was brokenhearted on that short ride to jail. We all were. We had accomplished nothing. We hadn't even broken a law or stopped traffic for a minute. They had arrested us so early and easily we hadn't even been teargassed. We had set up no barricades. There had been no cat-and-mouse. A lot of good that damn gas mask had been. I wished I had gone with the people from Connecticut I'd met the day before and blocked that residential intersection with the telephone poles we'd seen lying in a vacant lot.
I was also mad at myself and ashamed. When the police had charged and knocked us down with incredible force, they had literally knocked the crap out of me and I had shit my pants, right in the same underwear on which my mother had written my name on a small tag which she had sewn above the Fruit of the Loom tag in the back. She had not wanted my clothes to get lost in the shuffle in the dorm laundry room at Purdue. Note to self: when next time confront forces of repression, go to bathroom first. The bus turned a corner, took a tremendous jarring bounce, then swooped down a tunnel into what had to be a parking area under a police station. None of this had been in my plans.
TO BE CONTINUED