ustxtxb_obs_1968_04_26_50_00008-00000_000.pdf

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Uprising in Washington Washington, D.C. April 6 Having breakfast at a cafe on a square, 1 looked through the window across the park to where about thirty or forty Negroes were clustered in front of a market they were looting. People walked to and fro in the square, cars moved along as unusual. Often the car lights were on, either in Martin Luther King’s memory or to identify soul brothers. Two blocks away, a liquor store, shelves stripped. Four blocks in another direction, a fire in a Safeway, firemen at work, hundreds of pacific onlookers. Black boiling smoke from another fire a few blocks away. Blocks burned out, blocked off, on H Street. I took a cab down to 14th Street, ravaged overnight. Store windows smashed out, goods gone, everything upended, liquor stores, TV shops, shoe stores, clothes stores, cleaners, grocery stores. Merchants were angry: the police and soldiers had just stood and watched. Workmen boarded over broken windows. People took pictures, as though they might forget what they were seeing. In the cafe I had heard white men talking about taking up arms, killing out the Negroes “like we did the Indians.” In the street a Negro said to me he had not been able to sleep. He had risked the outside to help three of his kin get home. A white man who works in the department of Housing and Urban Development damned the politicians for setting up programs to help the Negroes and then giving the agencies no money for them. Another white said he favors mowing Negroes down like mad dogs as they come out of the stores. Overnight, five dead, 600 taken to hospitals, 2,000 arrested, 6,000 troops, 300 fires. A friend of mine, standing near a group of Negroes, watching the looting, had two tear gas canisters drop at his feet. Puzzled, instead of running he looked down at them. Unable to get home that night, he took a hotel room; at 4 a.m. he woke up retching, sick as a dog. Outside the offices of the Washington Free Press, soldiers passed, looking idly at the posters of Stokely Carmichael and a quotation from him, “If America don’t come around, America should be burned down.” His press conference calling for killing off the whites was on TV last night, I am told; it took up half a page of the morning Washington Post. An old-model Buick, “soul brother” signs on it, two young Negro men in it, two young white men at the door, talking: the Negro saying “We’re free, man, we’re free, don’t you know that? Goddamit, I don’t have to be scared of no white man, we’re free!” On K Street, a clothes merchant, saying you have to sue the city, they offer no 8 The Texas Observer protection, people stood and watched while his store was looted. A group of four or five young Negro girls, maybe 13, 14, go in toward the entrance, looking at the broken glass, poking around, and suddenly they are shouted at from Inside, “Get out of here!” They flurry out onto the sidewalk like startled birds, but one of them laughing. A police car stops suddenly … eight, ten policemen appear in 10 or 15 seconds … they rush the girls down the street away from the store. When one of the girls bends over to pick up something, a cop with a three-footlong billy club in his hand says, “Get out of here or I’ll belt your behind!” One of the girls calls back to them, “Wasn4 for the white man all this wouldn’t happened. Wasn’t for the white man all this wouldn’t happened.” The curfew has been moved back from 5:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the national capital of the freest country in the world, it is illegal to walk out the front door after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There are 12,000 troops in the city now. Two snipers have been reported, one within a block of the Department of Justice. A new fire has broken out at North Capitol and Q, a multi-storied building with stores at the base of it, burning, says a report from a helicopter, quite hard. APRIL 8 I have never heard such bitterness among whites. In the cafe on the square this morning, the waitress began speaking of how she had passed the weekend with her family.’ “We had a rifle, a shotgun, and two pistols. We were ready. There were hundreds of ’em right out the back door, looting. I never knew when they might break in and come through.” “Use ’em,” said a customer, meaning the guns. “I’ve got to get me another pistol,” said another customer. In this same cafe, in an integrated neighborhood of Washington, in the last two days I have heard whites say: “This kind of thing don’t happen in the country, and I’ll tell you why. Any of this crap, they’d be hanging by the lampposts by nightfall.” “The whites should rebel. They’ve got 70, 80 percent of Washington, but across the country we’ve got ’em 23 to 1. We’ve got ’em 23 to 1.” The owner of the cafe takes a calmer position. There is not much you can do to stop it. He opposes shooting them down. But where is it going to end? Out in the square a trim white gent, about 60, walking his dog, said that actually they had been rather decent about it, no homes had been broken into, no one had been raped. There had been little physical violence. Negroes had gone in and taken the things they had seen on TV. It had been not a political, not essentially a racial, but a commercial insurrection. A Jewish man and his wife came in and sat down at the counter beside me. They had a cleaning establishment on the corner of Maryland Ave. and 8th. “We had $10,000, $15,000 worth of equipment in there,” he told me, his eyes red-rimmed. “Everything’s gone. There was an automatic conveyor with 500 hangers on it. Not one thing left on that conveyor. Every window broken out. I can’t understand, why do they have to be so destructive?” “Because they’re animals, that’s why. They’re not human beings, they’re animals,” his wife said. “Twenty five years on that corner,” he said. The Jewish woman said, “My daughter said, . ‘Well, Mother, I guess we should go to church and pray.’ I said to her, ‘Pray! For what?’ “I never thought I’d be saying the things I’m saying,” she continued. “I never thought I’d be feeling the way I’m feeling. All your ideals, all the things you’ve ever believed in … gone. If I saw a man dying on the street now, I’d walk up and kick him.” “You must remember what happened to your people in Europe,” I said. “What?” You must remember what happened to your own people, in the war.” “Yes,” the husband said. There was some kind of pause. “Johnson up there having his breakfast juice now,” she said, “surrounded by 26 guards.” “In India, in Africa, where they have nothing, they’re starving, I can understand it, they have nothing to lose,” he said. “But I watched as one of them drove up in a Cadillac and carried off four or five cases of whiskey. We try to make excuses for ’em, say they don’t know any better; but they know better. We give ’em free food, free rent, free everything. And what do I get? Nothin’. I think if the white people stood up and fought back, kill or be killed, all this wouldn’t happen.” In 1916 the Armenians were driven out of Turkey, set upon by criminals released from the prisons for the purpose, driven into the desert. This is why the phrase, “the starving Armenians,” is in the language. About a million of them died. In announcing, to his general staff, his final solution to the Jewish problem, Adolph Hitler said that no one ever remembers the Armenians; the world, he said, honors success. I recall, from Adolph Eichmann’s account of his visit to the death camps, that a young Jewish woman walked past him on the way to the machine-gun pits, pointed to herself,