Interview with James E. Smith

Think back to that council meeting and the march that came after it. What happened?


Well, nothing really happened. As I recall it had, it was one of those days where there was great expectation. We had heard that there was going to be some kind of resolution to the strike and we were all looking forward to meeting with the council that day. And as we went to the council, council's chamber we were just there expecting the best and expecting a solution. And we got there and, and there was really not a meeting. In fact, it was a sham and the only thing that happened was they made a few comments and dismissed the meeting. And we were just so let down because our expectations were so high, we were looking for so much. Nothing really happened. That was a sad moment. It was a letdown because we had anticipated so, so much. And then we got to the point that we didn't know exactly what to do or where to go. So the decision was made that we would go back to the, to Clayborn Temple and have a m--a mass meeting and a rally because the morale was low at that point. The decision was made. And we started marching and the police department said that they would make sure that we got there safely. And I thought it was fantastic to have the police department and policemen escorting us to Clayborn Temple. The march went fine for two or three blocks, but as we approached, uh, Madison Street, I think, the policemen began to come in and to move us over, further and further to the curb**, to the sidewalk. And the next thing that I knew all kinds of things were happening. And, and, and I was shocked. Um, they were, there was mace and, and teargas and everything. And policemens everywhere running over people, um, clubbing us. And it broke up in that fashion. It was, uh, like a dream that, that shouldn't have happened. I was trying to wake up from that dream but it was reality. That was a sad day. And, and we finally made it to Clayborn Temple thought but it was tremen--an awful day. And a lot of people were, were hurt. And, and as we struggled to Clayborn Temple, not only were we crying from the teargas but our pride had been injured. We felt dehumanized. We got there. We all got into the Clayborn Temple and then they came down to Clayborn Temple as I recall. And as we were sitting there and they were trying to calm us down and make speeches, they shot teargas in the church. And people started going everywhere trying to get out of there. And, uh, Reverend Lawson was trying to calm everybody down. But, but he couldn't do that. Folks were just trying to leave and get out of there because the policemen were all out in the streets surrounding the pla--had surrounded Clayborn Temple and just firing teargas into the church.