Interview with Ben Chavis
QUESTION 31
JUDY RICHARDSON:

OK. So you've just come from Gary. Give me a sense of that coming into Wilmington. You've just come from Gary.

BEN CHAVIS:

Well, on the last day of the convention, I flew straight home to North Carolina. I was excited about giving the good news about what had happened in Gary. And as soon as I arrived at the church, I noticed that the whole block was being surrounded by policemen. So I went outside the church and said, "What's the problem?" And I remember the police sergeant said, "Reverend Chavis, how was your trip to Gary?" And I said, "How did you know I was in Gary?" And he said, "Oh, we have friends in Gary and in Chicago. We even know the hotel room you were staying in Chicago." And at that moment, before I could ask what the problem was, he said, "You're under arrest." Should I go into it now?

JUDY RICHARDSON:

Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. And then say what--

BEN CHAVIS:

At that moment, the police sergeant said, "You're under arrest." And they, and I said, "What for?" And they said, "We'll tell you when we get down to the, down to the, ah, police station." And they put me in the back of this car, ah, with two White policemen. And there was one, two White policemen in the front. And one of the White policemen had a shotgun, a double barrel shotgun. I'd never forget the sight of that shotgun. 'Cause after, I was sitting on the left, and they were to my right. And as soon as the car proceeded down the street, the officer, the police officer, allowed the shotgun to lean over right to my face, and I was looking down the barrel of the shotgun. And for that moment I said, "You know, my God. Does Gary threaten them this much? Does what, does Black people threaten them this much?" 'Cause I had just come from this big convention, and now I'm back in Wilmington, North Carolina, and this police officer is pointing a shotgun in my face. I'm under arrest, they haven't even told me what I'm arrested for. You know, and, and, and, I just thought to myself, you know, the price of African people, the price of Black people's struggle for freedom in this country, you know, is a life and death struggle. And there are penalties sometimes you have to pay just for gathering in convention. Just for trying to mobilize, just for trying to organize, you know. Sometimes, this society doesn't even want you to have the right to protest or have the right to struggle.