From John Harrold, Aurora, Illinois: I went with a group of folks from Valparaiso University. We left Friday evening [April 30] and drove all night. Saturday, we set up camp in Potomac Park. I recall listening to the music as I fell asleep thinking how nice the concert was, especially when Linda Ronstadt’s name was announced.
On Sunday, we were chased out of the park by the police. We ended up spending the day at George Washington University. I think that we were outside the student union. Periodically, the police would line up down the street as if they were going to march on us, but they never did. However, that accounted for some tense moments. At one point, Abbie Hoffman held a press conference in the union. There was a dorm adjacent to it, and later when we were outside, somebody stuck a speaker on a windowsill in the dorm and played Jefferson Airplane’s Revolution. That got the crowd really fired up. People started dancing and singing along. Some man in a suit came running out and yelled at some people who were probably school employees to go in the dorm and stop the music. Apparently, they succeeded because the music stopped after being repeated several times.
There was a women’s march that day down the street that bordered where we were. The sight and sound of hundreds of women chanting “Piggies piggies better run…now the sisters have a gun” was very powerful.
I do not remember where we slept that night. The next day was the day of the protests and the so-called shutting down of the city. Our group was in the street in front of, I think, the Justice Department, at one point blocking traffic. However, instead of walking out in between the cars as we should have, we left an open area behind us. We were stretched out across the lanes, holding hands, when I looked behind me and saw a whole bunch of police moving in. I decided to not hang around. I was with my girlfriend, and we broke ranks. Later, we were walking down a sidewalk with some of our group when we were approached by a man in a suit. One of my friends had a gas mask and the guy grabbed it and cut the hose with a knife and then handed it back to him.
I do not know how long we participated in the action, but we heard that we could find sanctuary at some church. We walked there, and by this time we were kind of tired from all of the running we had been doing. While waiting for a light to change while we stood across the street from the church, I noticed several buses approaching. They stopped right in front of us, and scores of police piled out. One of them held up his club horizontally in front of him with his two hands and looked me right in the eye and said, “Come on. Come on,” while motioning with his fingers. I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and ran like hell. I was really fast, and I do not know how she did it, but she kept up with me, and we got away. We meandered about a bit, but eventually went back to the church. There we just about collapsed. We had been tear gassed plenty, but it did not affect us that much. We were just tired. I cannot remember how long we stayed there, but we ended up going to the apartment of one of our group’s sister, who lived in D.C. There we spent the night.
Before we slept, we left for a while around midnight to go to the closest police station, to see if we could find out what had happened to some of our group. While standing in front, a caravan of National Guardsmen drove by. The crowd actually applauded them. Some of them flipped us off. Others flashed peace signs. The one sight I will never forget was that of an elderly Japanese man who was crying. He said that his grandson was arrested, and he did not know what had happened to him. We did not find out what happened to our missing friends.
The people who we traveled with needed to return to Valpo, so we left the next day. I wish that I had a camera with me because when we were leaving in our car, I saw an ice cream truck serving some people. There were people with long hair in the line, followed by one police officer, and more longhairs behind him.
I did not see any police brutality while I was there. Some of the police were riding around on three wheeled motorcycles. I did see one riding down the street, with one of the rear wheels up on the curb, knocking people down. I also saw some people who were wearing business attire get sprayed with Mace or something. One guy who got a face full was really ticked off. The police were not discriminating.