Interview with William Rutherford

So start me with you and Bernard going off to meetings.


Yes, Bernard and I had meetings with a number of, ah, as I said, other community groups. And either asking them to participate the in Poor People's Campaign with us or at least not to interfere with the campaign. And we spoke with the Panthers in the West Coast in a couple of instances. We spoke with gang groups in Memphis. We spoke with, we spoke with SNCC leaders in Atlanta and Washington. Ah, one particular, ah, occasion I remember, Dr. King and Andy were there as well, ah, and we spoke with Courtland Cox and Rap Brown and I believe, ah, Stokely Carmichael was there as well. And these guys who had been former, ah, members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, would become absolutely fierce in terms of having accomplished nothing with non-violence and they wanted to short circuit and, or not, only not hesitating to turn to violence but actually advocating it. And we really met with them on more than one occasion, ah, to insist that they not, ah, interfere with our program which was, by its nature, ah, non-violent. And I remember one of their arguments saying, they said, "No, no." They attempted to reassure us that they would not interfere and Courtland made the statement, ah, "Our policy is that we will no nothing to impede the efforts of anything that anyone is doing to help Black people." And, that was the position that they took and we were not totally reassured but that was their stated policy. And after we left, ah, that meeting in Washington, I remember saying to Dr. King, because I was very impressed with the force and the sincerity of Court, sincerity of Courtland's statement, and I said, "Gee, that makes a lot of sense to me." And Dr. King wheeled on me and literally took my head off. He said, "No. No. No. Absolutely not. It is not correct at all. Anything that is violence. It has no, nothing to do with whose doing it." He says, "But it's absolutely anathema. It's the worse possible thing. Violence only brings more violence and you achieve nothing ever with violence." And he spoke with such heat and such strength, I realized then he was not simply taking my head off, because he rarely, ah, castigated an individual in front of others, ah, that, way and with that strength. I realized he was articulating and repeating to himself his basic and fundamental thoughts on the subject of ends justifying means. He thought under no circumstances, ah, would violence ever be justified.