Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BIG RICH; Split the Detroit Scene in the Summer of 1968

I Split the Detroit Scene in the Summer of 1968, left town with my girlfriend in a ''63 Ford Sedan, AM Radio. Toronto was a Hippie Mecca back then, so we went. Hangin' out on Yonge Street, sleepin' in the car... nuthin' cookin' for us there.

Met some kids from The States and headed back to Chicago and the "FESTIVAL of LIGHT", as it was called. In Detroit is was being promoted as the place to be, MC-5, joint rolling contests... I planned on winning that one. When we got there it was a different story... ooooooh yeah. Somehow we fell in at a place right across the road from Lincoln Park, it was a Theatre of sorts with high red brick walls and a big gate they closed at night... that was a GOOD thing... Gimme Shelter, for sure.

It wasn't so bad at first, hung at the Park in the day, we walked all over... saw Allen Ginsberg doin' the OMM chant, tryin' to STOP THE WAR! The heat was on, so the weed scene was zero. Never saw a joint, much less a contest. Radical types were holding seminars on anti-cop moves, roll up a magazine for a weapon, Yeah... sure. One night we were over on Clark Street, the Bar/Club Hip Street. The Cops were everywhere, they had started gettin' heavy... "Up against the wall" they used to say. The "Boys" collared me that night too... when they saw I was only 17, they let me go... once again. Just lucky. I guess.

We showed up in Lincoln Park a little late one day... just in time to see the Cops pullin' the plug on the MC-5, and kick'n everyone's ass that didn't flee. Truly, I saw it happen. We were behind the Cops and all the action, so we just walked on over to the Childrens Zoo, where my Ford was parked. It was the ONLY one left... Cops were hangin' out, laughin' and all.

A couple of 'em were sittin' on the hood as we came up. I could hear the hissing of the air as all 4 tires went flat, they thought it was pretty funny, I guess... we split. I fixed the flats, $2 bucks apiece...and headed for the Shelter. I didn't go out at night after that.

It got much worse. Downtown one day... at the Convention Center. THOUSANDS of people... everywhere.The National Guard had jeeps lined up, far as I could see... each one had a 6' x 6' section of chain link fence on the front, with a .50 cal machine gun mounted in the back...made a WALL. It was a HEAVY scene. I understood. THEY didn't like US. My feet never stopped movin' while I was awake. I gave my YIPPIE! button to someone, he asked for it. Ya' know... Youth International Party, what the hell was that? All I knew was I wanted to have a good time... and didn't wanna go to Viet Nam.

Everyone said go to Grant Park... so we did. It was wild. People were climbing up on this big statue thing, carryin' Viet Cong flags and all... Cops came right up after 'em... Down they came... The hard way. The grand finale came at the Band Shell, HUGE crowd... Thousands of people.

Lots of speeches, Dick Gregory, Comedian/Activist, was up... they wanted a March down Michigan Ave. but didn't have a permit... Soooo, Dick invited everyone over to his place, somewhere... just about this time, we being pretty far back, on the edge of the crowd, I see Hundreds of Cops gathering. They formed a Flying V, like a football game, and charged into the crowd, swingin' these 3 foot long clubs, un-believable. They were maybe 20 or 30 feet away, people were goin' down... blood was flyin' and I started movin' FAST... Escaped without a scratch.

We had enough... went back home to Detroit. I think we won.

1 comment:

Fast Film said...

This is not boomer nostalgia, because what we remember and what you've so eloquently described were pretty awful. It's context for people younger than ourselves. I have to remind them that I did have friends arrested for "assaulting police officers" which actually, for the friends, was raising their arms to protect their faces from police batons. There was a funny, insider joke once on "Law & Order" where the Sam Waterston character was explaining to a younger D.A. why law enforcement came down with such overkill on seeming innocents during the '60s anti-war protests: "It came from the top down: the CIA investigated practically anybody who wore paisley."