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The Consequences of Panthermania

"Look, Bobby, let's understand, you control your people, the Panther followers. I can control my people, the cops. I want those kids to go to school. You get Miranda out of their hair."

"Tell you the truth," Seale said (according to Markle), "I think Miranda's nuts, too."

From wherever the control came, the children of the black community did not appear at the rally. Thirteen thousand overwhelmingly white college students did.

Quake! Panic! Connecticut in a funk! Four thousand men of the 82nd Airborne and 2nd Marines from bases in surrounding states came by plane to await the holocaust. Brown trucks rolled into the city and spilled National Guardsmen on the streets. Long mute lines of little boys in weekend soldier uniforms hid behind unsheathed bayonets, forbidden to speak to the passing rabble. Finally, on the afternoon of the rally, the Guardsmen wedged into York Street, one block from Yale Green. Come and get it, baby! President Nixon was preoccupied at the time with the invasion of Cambodia. But while Attorney General John Mitchell and Governor John Dempsey and Senator Thomas Dodd helped to prepare the climate for violence, Yale President Kingman Brewster watered the fuse. The university family came together in hundreds of meetings. Striking students and black faculty aired their bitternesses, discussed ways to monitor the upcoming trial and generally slugged out the more obvious aspects of racism in the spirit of dinner-table debate. Speaking to his faculty Kingman Brewster made his famous statement:

"I am appalled and ashamed that things should have come to such a pass that I am skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States."

May Day opened, flowery. And opened and opened in the tingling sun like the magnolia blossoms in Branford College courtyard. Welcomes everywhere. Long tables were spread with brown rice and Familia. Ripe-bosomed co-eds dished up a soul picnic for the incoming bedouins of the Woodstock nation.

Meanwhile, super-efficient student marshals patroled the campus, giving it the prepared aura of a big-city emergency room. There were rock bands. And signs. Signs to the People's First Aid Station. Signs to the john. Signs everywhere bearing the commandment: Help the Panthers Keep the Peace.

On Saturday afternoon people covered Yale Green like crocuses, bathing in May sun. The speechmakers worked hard. But the crowd was less combustible than convivial.

"In Huey Newton's trial the first thing people wanted to know was the facts of the case. The hardest thing is to convince them the facts are irrelevant." Tom Hayden's words stunned the crowd to attention.

"The trial in New Haven is a trial of whether or not there is anything left in this country worth defending." Visibly pained by having to walk a rhetorical tightrope over the dubious heads of his Panther hosts, Hayden went on to make great promises on behalf of his sprouting white revolutionary crocuses.

"We have to make an all-out effort starting this summer in every town around, every factory and college, and turn the whole New England area into a giant political education class—the last political education class they will have." He challenged strike-bound students to form White Panther brigades.

Abbie Hoffman interchangeably shilled grass, revolution and release from Whitemiddleclass Paralysis.

. . . "the most oppressed people in America are white middle-class youth . . . my brother is a Chinese peasant and my enemy is Richard M. Nixon"—a pause here for the obligatory rally commercial: Eff Nixon! Eff Nixon! The crowd obediently stood to do the chorus for Abbie's one-minute Nixon spot. He rewarded them: "We ain't never, never, never gonna grow up. We will always be adolescents . . . Eff rationality . . . We got the adults scared to eff anymore 'cause they know they're gonna have long-haired babies!"

Abbie barely remembered, coming down from his rant, to put in a plug for the Panthers, whose rally it purportedly was. He set up the crowd like tenpins and bowled them over: Free Bobby! Free Ericka!

Doug Miranda picked it up and went for a strike. The young Panther from Boston prophesied: "We just may come back with a half a million people and liberate New England!"

Stirring . . . yet, immediately after the rally, the movement lost focus. A handful of political groupies—four dozen whites from schools of paperback Marxism and a few black students from Harvard and Cornell—massed across the street from the local jail. Begging for a group snort of pepper gas. A lineup of police, under the walkie-talkie command of Chief Ahern, stood with hardware on hip. Expletives flew. A block away National Guardsmen stood in ready phalanxes.


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