Jail 8/23 Year of the Plague

The First Jailing. I was locked up in the late ’60s “time of Unrest on Campuses” – 1968-69. The ’60s started with Kennedy and the assassinations – the Kennedys, MLK. Vietnam & protests and SDS. And SNCC (snic – student non-violent coordinating committee) and Black Rights and Panthers.

After Villanova came my first year on Wall Street – 1966. Wall Street encouraged me into teaching & so first, a ½ year at a Brooklyn Catholic HS. Fifteen year old boys led me to grad school – I learned I couldn’t teach dumb young men. And so grad school.

As a math grad student at Stonybrook. Radical PhD program in sciences. Tons of federal money in the sciences to win the Cold War. We had lots of support and were all teaching assistants. With offices.

And Stonybrook was connected with Brookhaven and atomic energy. There was a spherical accelerator buried outside my office window. Crazy times: Beatles, Dylan, the pill, grass, mathematics. College students were acting-out – the late ’60s on campuses. The event that jailed me was sitting-in after the Library usually closed. Our demands to be heard: to integrate good schools and to end-the-war. And to stop busting Stonybrook students for grass on campus. On campus you could get Burma Grass – “truly fine shit” – for $6 an ounce in 1968. Very different from 1964 when you had to know a jazz musician to get a questionable joint for $5.

Out on Long Island we were following the action at Columbia U (on WBAI) when students took over buildings. We went into the city & joined them closing down buildings. Sitting behind barricades, in open windows eating sandwiches. Changing the world. It was a movement. Our Hair was growing, Abbie Hoffman, we lived together and touched. But Morgenthau, the DA, had different ideas. No cops but thugs rushed in and punched a few of us and it all ended.

We brought the revolution back to Stonybrook. We marched, demanded change and chased the nice old university president (a promoted Harvard physics prof) off the campus. And we “sat-in” at the new library. Our Library. Wonderful library. Lots of open stacks, work areas, windows and back issues of Punch.

And perhaps 200 of us, We shall not be moved. We wrote up demands: 1) They not press charges against us and earlier arrested/busted students 2) admit more Blacks 3) end-the-war, etc. On March 19, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organizes a Library sit-in for students’ rights. Hundreds of students participate; twenty-one are arrested after refusing repeated requests by President Toll to leave the building.

The trial was a set-up, a joke. One of the Stonybrook 21’s father represented us. He told us he had made a deal. We were to plead guilty to the lesser crime of trespass and get no record. Versus being charged with Criminal Trespass. Shmucks, we plead guilty and were astonished to be given 15 days in Yapank Correctional Facility, a working prison farm. The grownups spanked us, taught us a lesson. We got out with good behavior after 11 days. I was on the Freedom Train. Quoted in the Times.

Stonybrook 21 get sentenced to 15 days….

The class of 1969 had its 50th reunion in 2019 and recalled the Stonybrook 21.

The Second Jailing was months later in November.

November 15, 1969, Moratorium March on Washington. 500,000 protesters flood into Washington for the largest anti-war demonstration in U.S. history. The rally features antiwar politicians and musicians such as Pete Seeger, who led the crowd in singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” President Nixon reportedly spent the day watching sports on TV.

After the Stonybrook 21 bust I was networked with the peace march planner. I was a grownup 25 & asked to go, before the Washington march and handle food and housing. The Moratorium March. HQ was installed at the Florida Avenue Friends Meeting. I was able to install banks of phones quickly – I’m sure the FBI wanted us to have phones. It was too easy. At the Meeting, my volunteers/peaceniks first collected hundreds of offers of “crash” pads for the expected hoards of protesters. We also got into food. Made tons of granola from donated oats. We had full run of the church. Lots of donations.

When the buses flooded into DC and the march was underway, on the second day, after the speeches, it devolved into “The Dupont Circle” confrontation/faceoff. We won’t be moved. Let’s get arrested and fill the jails. The Friends Meeting staff had everything under control so I went down to Dupont Circle & got arrested. It was terrible. Thousands of us crammed into small cells. Spent 2 days and nights being heroic. To end-the-war.

June, 1970 Wilmington Delaware. The Third Bust. Big deal – Federal wrap. Look for “Jail 2”. Which will include a quick look into how I got to be an anarchist (of sorts).