CONFESSIONS OF AN UNREPENTANT MAOIST: Hundred Flowers, 1970 (continued) Run-ins with the authorities
Hubert Humphrey was running for senator again after losing the race for President in 1968. He was speaking at a Hamline College graduation. Some of us thought it would be a good idea to remind folks about his defense of the war in Vietnam and his lying to the American people about the carpet bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. We gathered at the back and formed a wedge around a guy with a bullhorn. We marched in, interrupted his speech by telling the students Humphrey’s real record on the war and then retreated with some angry young people threatening to do us bodily harm. But nobody got hurt, and we made our point.
Besides the sit-in in the buildings in Dinkytown to stop the Red Barn, some young people were sitting in three houses on Harriet Avenue in South Minneapolis. A developer had bought the three houses, and he was planning on tearing them down and putting up a two-and- a-half story walkup that would quadruple the density and transform a residential neighborhood. We had been cheering them on, so, when we heard the bust was coming (the city had cut off all utilities and had cemented shut the basement drains to prevent sewer rats from crawling out) I went down to take a picture with my Kodak Instamatic camera. I went in and talked to the occupiers who were about to be arrested by the tactical squad assembled in the street. Then I went outside and across the street to document the arrest.
I was standing in front of a line of spectators when the cops started their move on the house. Some of us were chanting, “Leave them Alone!” Then I started to move towards the houses, thinking the crowd behind me was following me. I got as far as the middle of the street when two police officers arrested me and threw me in the back of a police van. Soon, many of the people I’d met earlier were thrown in as well, and when we had a full van we took off for downtown. I was photographed, fingerprinted and booked on a charge of disturbing the peace. I needed $25 for bail. I called the paper. They said, “Do you want to be bailed out?” I said, “Of course I want to be bailed out.” They said, “Well, we thought maybe you might want to protest by staying in jail.” I said, “Please get down here with $25 and get me out of here.”
At the trial, the arresting officer didn’t appear, which was kind of a disappointment to me because I was looking forward to cross-examining him. So I moved that the charges against me be dropped since there was no evidence of a crime, and I explained to the judge that I was a reporter for Hundred Flowers going about my duties. The judge called us into his chambers, and, after I explained what Hundred Flowers was and some part of the theory of an underground press, he agreed to dismiss the charges. The experience left me even more confused than before about the line between advocacy journalism and inciting to riot.
One of the guys who was hanging around the paper was Doc. I don’t know if anyone knew his real name. He said he’d been a medic in Vietnam and was medically discharged with an AK47 slug in his back. He was a little intense.
There was a trial of some SDS people who had gotten arrested in a ROTC protest. Doc came to the office dressed in a graduation gown with a plastic machine gun and a bag with fake blood. He was going to go down to the federal courthouse and protest the trial. We tried to talk him out of it. He insisted he was going to do it. I went with him to make sure he didn’t get hurt. We got down to the federal building, and Doc didn’t know the number of the courtroom. What’s worse, we were in the wrong federal building. Some FBI people came up behind us and asked us to come with them. I tried to explain to them Doc’s history and current project. They were uninterested. The sat us down on a bench, took our names and told us to wait while they checked us out. About 10 minutes later this fat, bald man came out and sat down next to me and said, “Well, Ed Felien, what have you been up to lately?” That was a little creepy. I stood up and asked, “Are we being charged with anything?” They didn’t answer. I said, “Then we’re leaving.” We left, got back to the house, and we never saw Doc again.