Interview with Linda Bryant-Hall

When Dr. King calls off the march, how did you feel?


When he called off the march, we were surprised; we were shocked. This is the march we looked forward to. The other marches were nice. But, the one in Cicero had special meaning for us. The Cicero community was been--has been a very hostile community to Blacks for years--ever since I can remember. And, I looked forward to the time that I could march down those streets and, and in defiance of all those people there. Ah, when I was a little girl, we were told ah, never go on the other side of Plusaki; never go ah, on the other side of Cicero--and, especially, don't go there by yourself. Ah, so, when Dr. King said he wasn't going to march in that neighborhood, I said, my gosh, well what's it all about? This is the neighborhood to march in. AH, they've been known to have "toughs" in that neighborhood, and even some gangster, ah, connections there. But, we were saying, you know, we're talking to all of those White bigots, and whether they're mafia people, or whether they're just ah, some White hecklers, we want them to know, yeah, we're going to come to Cicero; Cicero's got to yield too, like the rest of the country. So, when we decided that we were going to go that morning when we gathered for the march, we had made this big statement, saying we were going to defy Dr. King and march to Cicero. Well, that took a lot more ah, than just conversation to do. So, we got in the park at the gathering point, where we had announced to the city in public press releases, we were going to march. There were practically more reporters than there were people; there were about six or seven of us who showed up to go on this march, and we just knew we were going to fall flat on our faces, and just, this is going to be the ultimate in of embarrassments. And, when we decided--we waited around, we were supposed to start I think about twelve o'clock; we waited around and waited around and waited around until, finally, we had to go. And it became obvious no more people were going to come. And, just at that point, I think the community almost felt sorry for us--the community people: they started to show-up. Well, these were the people who lived adjacent to Cicero, too. So, they sort of knew the relationship of Cicero with Chicago; and, especially with Cicero with Blacks. And, so they started to fall in line. We hadn't knocked on anybody's door. We hadn't leafletted[SIC] that neighborhood; we had not done all of the kinds of community organization things that it takes to get this kind of march going; but, yet, and still these people just sort started to come out of their houses, they were--they had been sitting in cars watching, you know, the reporters and the new people around the cameramen and all, and they were watching. But, then the kids were playing basketball, they decided to come, go with us. And, I guess what happened is that everybody really was just tagging along to see who was there and what was going to happen. But, as we got into the Cicero, the hecklers got so bad, that everybody decided, well, you know I'm not going to let my people go over there and ah, maybe I need to go with them. And, I think it was sort of a ground-swell. And, the next thing I knew it was just at least a couple of thousand people, ah, going into Cicero. And, once you got in there, you couldn't come back by yourself, so you had to stick with the march. So, as we got into Cicero, the, we noticed that the National Guard had been alerted, of course. Loucas[SIC] had promised ah, this, the city to ah, to ah, ah, fathers, that there was going to be no violence. Now, how he could promise somebody there was going to be no violence, I don't know. But, that's the only way they were going to give us the permit to march. So, we decided we would go on and tell them, yeah, nobody's going to riot, nothing's going to happen; and, in fact, on our part, nothing did happen. Ah, when we got there, we noticed that all of the bayonets, ah, and the guns that were out were aimed at the marchers and not at the hecklers. The hecklers were throwing bottles and rocks and spitting and calling us all kinds of filthy names and ah, ah, doing some other things that I wouldn`t even repeat. But, it, what happened is that people became so excited, and we were--it was a closeness in that march. Even the Chicago police, I think, saw some of the things that were going on and felt that those things were unjust, and they decided, for the first time--Chicago police did not beat the marchers; did not throw the marchers around. Chicago police decided to protect to us. Because, it was obvious who the National Guard were there to protect; they were there to protect Cicero and those people who were heckling us.