A Purge of Austin Radicals? Austin If any city in Texas can be considered simpatico for the unconventional, it’s Austin. Writers hole up in the cedar hills to flesh out creative efforts. Sculptors toil in the commodious old houses in town. The beatniks and bohemians of the ‘fifties, the civil rights workers of the early ‘sixties, the leftists, hippies, and runaways of the late ‘sixties all have flocked to Austin, where the prices are low and the community relatively openminded. But the scene here is changing radically. This year Austin voters turned out a moderate city council in favor of a conservative one. The result has been a new hard line in the relationship between city fathers and leftists. Parade permits are refused. Groups are restrained from soliciting for radical causes on city streets. And a Travis County grand jury is engaged in what appears to be a purge of left wing activists, or at least what it perceives to be left wing activists. As a result of incidents at the University of Texas Chuck Wagon last month, 22 young people have been indicted for rioting and property destruction. Although some of those indicted were little more than spectators in the Chuck Wagon incident, all are being held responsible for the damaging of a few automobile and truck tires under the assumption that their presence inside or outside the campus cafe amounted to complicity in a riot. All are facing felony charges that could put them in jail from two to twenty years. The grand jury overpassed a milder “campus disturbances” law passed this year to punish such actions as the taking over of a campus facility. Instead, the grand jury charged persons with the strongest possible offense and contended that their action constitutes a conspiracy. STUDENTS AS MODERATE as Assembly President Joe Krier are criticizing the city’s action. In a recent Daily Texan column, he wrote, “The only conclusion that can be drawn is that these arrests are part of a carefully calculated attempt to intimidate or destroy the radical movement on the university campus.” Paul Spencer; one of the non-students arrested, agrees. “This is a concerted attempt to smash the movement,” he told a faculty meeting. Cam Cunningham, a radical lawyer defending some of the “Chuckwagon 22,” as they are calling themselves, believes the facts that the people were the subjects of closed indictments, that their bail was “exorbitant” \($2,500 each, between police are threatening many more arrests 6 The Texas Observer indicate that there is a campaign to intimidate activists. “The result is paranoia,” Cunningham says. The conflict concerning the Chuck Wagon, a cafe in the student-subsidized Union Building, has been incubating for years. The cafe always has been a haven for outcasts the students who do not have a fraternity kitchen to patronize and those who must eat cheaply. One could sit in the Chuck Wagon for hours, chatting with friends and never buy so much as a cup of coffee. The campus humor magazine used to design charts of the eatery, pointing out where the Arab students sat, the seventh-year English graduate students, the motorcyclists, and various other sub-cults that frequent the Union. A chart this year would have allocated at least a third of the tables to the leftists, the street people \(a loose community of high school dropouts and college-aged hippies leading a marginal various assortment of congenial scruffies and their dogs. The place often was overcrowded and a little smelly, but most student habitues of the Chuck Wagon did not seem to resent the influx of non-students. They all were members of overlapping communities. And the Chuck Wagon was their mutual home. On the outside, however, rumors spread that the Chuck Wagon was a haven for social deviates, including pushers \(a credible allegation anywhere that the a laughable charge in these days of L AST MONTH, two plainclothes detectives entered the Chuck Wagon to take an 11-year-old runaway into custody. “Sunshine,” the runaway, had made many friends in the Chuck Wagon community, and as she was taken out of the Union, a group of 40 or 50 persons harrassed the policemen. The men pulled guns to quiet the abusive crowd, and as they attempted to drive away, someone slashed their tires. As a result of the incident, four non-students were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct a misdemeanor. Reaction to the Chuck Wagon affair was swift. The student-controlled Union board closed the facility except to students, faculty, and staff. Persons wishing to enter were required to show university identification cards. The district attorney, Bob Smith, called for a grand jury investigation of the Chuck Wagon and threatened to close the facility permanently. “It is significant that this place has cropped up in almost every one of the more than 50 cases where juveniles have been handled for drug abuse,” Smith told the Austin daily. On the following Monday, Nov. 11, there was a rally on the West Mall outside the Union Building to denounce the closing of the Chuck Wagon to non-students. One person stood up and said he didn’t know what everyone else was going to do, but he was going to storm the Union. A sizable contingent followed him to the Chuck Wagon, where they entered without resistence from the identification checkers. The Union board issued a series of confused statements and finally settled on an ultimatum to clear the place of students and non-students by 4:15 p.m. Then the Union called in the Austin police and Department of Public Safety patrolmen. NSIDE THE CHUCK Wagon, people debated whether to stay or leave. By deadline time most had decided to get out. At 4:15 a university security officer warned that the doors would be closed immediately and that anyone remaining inside would be arrested. Most people started for the exits, but before all who wanted to leave had filed out the narrow doors more than 50 riot-equipped DPS patrolmen and Austin policemen started moving into the Chuck Wagon. Most of the demonstrators were trying to get out of the Chuck Wagon through the two narrow exits. In the crush, both sets of glass doors were broken. The crowd was so thick that it caved in the glass windows at the north exit of the Chuck Wagon. Officers sprayed mace into the crowd. Tables were overturned and crockery broken by the fleeing demonstrators. Ernie Haywood, the vice-president of the Students Association was grabbed by the neck and pushed into a booth as he tried to talk students into leaving the room. Several reporters intervened as officers were about to put handcuffs on him, and he was released. He said later that the decision to clear the Chuck Wagon was “completely unnecessary.” Eight persons, five students and three non-students, were arrested that day. A few were taken inside the Chuck Wagon. Others were arrested when they tried to rescue protestors from the police. Some persons in the crowd outside verbally harassed police and others threw rocks. Lt. Bert Gerding of the Austin police estimated that $160 worth of damage was done to city and university vehicles. “But it only has to be $50 damage to be a felony,” Gerding added. The Chuck Wagon was closed and boarded for a few days as repairs were made. The Union board held a referendum asking for approval to permanently close either the Chuck Wagon or the entire Union Building to non-students. The students voted to keep non-students out of
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