From Arnold “Skip” Isaacs, Anne Arundel County, Maryland:
I covered the Mayday ructions for the Baltimore Sun, of course didn’t
know all the behind-the-scenes details you uncovered in your research,
but your book still awakened some vivid personal memories. Among those
my favorite — actually one of the all-time most satisfying
recollections of my entire reporting career — is of the coalition’s
very last press conference after the demonstrations wound up.
I and I’m sure pretty much all the other reporters were there for just
one thing, a quote for our wrapup stories from the top leadership
officially declaring success and that these protests were over but
“we’ll be back.” But when we gathered in the office on Vermont Avenue,
Rennie Davis and a young guy who was functioning more or less as the PR
organizer greeted us with the announcement that the heads of every group
in the coalition would make statements first, and they would take no
questions until all those statements were read.
You could almost hear the assembled reporters’ hearts sinking, but then
someone in the back of the room began rhythmically stamping his feet and
chanting “Questions Now! Questions Now!” (if I ever knew who that was, I
have no memory of it, but I thought then and think now the Pulitzer
people should have created a special award for him). The rest of us
quickly joined in. The young guy tried for a few minutes to call on his
first programmed speaker but we kept stamping and chanting, drowning him
out. As I recall, some of the cameramen standing in the back of the room
picked up unused folding chairs and pounded on the floor with them.
Finally Davis gave up and said OK, he’d answer some questions first.
In fairly short order we got the quotes we had come there to get, and
Davis and the other MC started to go back to the original program,
introducing the head of the April 20 Danbury Connecticut Peace
Collective (I made up that name, but expect you will recognize it as
typical) or whoever had been supposed to go first. But as the Danbury or
whoever guy took the mike, the cameramen in the back began rather
noisily packing up their gear. You could hear what everyone else was
thinking: we have the story we came to get, no need to sit through any
more of this. The cameramen left, a few of the reporters got up from
their chairs and walked out too, and after a short pause more of us
followed suit. I dunno if every last reporter left, but my impression
was that most did.
The Sun’s Washington bureau in those days was in the National Press
Building, and I vividly remember the exhilarated feeling of walking on
air all the way back there from Vermont Avenue. After all those hours
and days hearing the antiwar slogans which many of us broadly agreed
with but were awfully tired of listening to, I and I expect many of my
colleagues felt we had gotten a small bit of our own back. Still one of
the more satisfying moments of my reporting years.
Congratulations on the book, hope it gets the readership it deserves. I
am sure I’m not the only one to notice that parts of it are remarkably
timely all these years later, especially some of the material about
Jerry Wilson and issues of climate and practice in the DC police department.
1 thought on “The last Mayday press conference”
Skip Isaacs is the author of Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia; From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani Americans and Afghan Americans in Post-9/11 America (online at http://www.fromtroubledlands.net)