Interview with John Conyers

What was the message to you as a civil right leader out there trying to stop people but they were no longer listening to you? Were they listening to Black Power ideologies at that point? What were people going to listen to?


Well, it's, it's too hard to sort it out neatly in, in that kind of a situation because some were listening to each. I mean some people, ah, were, were, ah, listening a new drummer, that they wanted new leadership. Some were not listening to anything. Some, some, it was perceived by some as an opportunity. People who had no particular political orientation, although as you know, ah, ah, a person is making a political statement when they do anything out in the streets, in terms of taking somebody else's property and looting and burning, that, that's a, that's a statement regardless of whether you have a leader in front of or not. And, that, that generally was what, was how one could characterize the riots, that, they were, they were not organized. We, we had the, the federal presence in trying to find an organized, subversive leadership, which was pretty insulting, in a way that, that, ah, you'd have to have communists or radicals come in from somewhere, ah, to, to get, to have this kind of activity result. And we were trying to tell them that this isn't any sinister, ah, left-wing political ideology manifesting itself through covert leadership. These people had had it up to here. But it was a, a, a, a dimension of the misunderstanding that they couldn't see that. That we were busy trying to convince the city, ah, ah, leaders, the, the local police, the federal people, ah, I got a call from President Johnson right in my house in the middle of the, of the rioting, to let me know that they were, ah, sending in, ah, ah, the, ah, the, ah, leadership council and, and, all the Washington people to really stabilize and coordinate and investigate. But the fact still remain is that, ah--