Interview with Wyatt Tee Walker
QUESTION 30
TEAM B MEMBER:

…GO INTO THIS AND THEN YOU KNOW THE QUESTION, BASICALLY, YOU DON'T EVEN NEED TO LOOK AT CALLIE EXCEPT MAYBE JUST FOR THE CONTINUATION OF THE SOUND, BUT, YOU KNOW, JUST EXPRESS WHAT YOU THINK—THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR BEHAVIOR THAT NIGHT WITH... [unintelligible].

Wyatt Tee Walker:

Well, if Bob Gordon had not wrestled me to the floor, I think aside from me probably losing my life or being seriously maimed or injured, it would have done irreparable harm to the non-violent movement. Because here was Dr. King's top lieutenant, chief of staff, attacking a, a police officer. And I certainly would have been the aggressor. That's the way it would have appeared, however, I, you know, I just wasn't thinking about anything, except that my wife, you know, they informed my wife had been injured and hit with a carbine and that was the man who did it. Now, the non-violence has many different levels, and at this stage in my life and career, I was committed to non-violence as a way of life, but for me there was no prohibition against me protecting my home and family. And with an attack, a physical attack on my wife, I guess in my mind, this guy was fair game and it didn't even occur to me, you know, that he had an automatic weapon, you know. It's just one of those human responses. And, upon reflection, you know, hindsight is 20/20, I'm very grateful that this white UPI reporter from Mississippi, stopped me, aside from the physical harm that might have come to me, the smear that would have been potentially available to place on the non-violent movement. And one of the things that I think is so fantastic about the non-violent movement, is that it's hard to find any single occurrence of retaliation in our movement, when you consider it was in eleven southern states, innumerable demonstrations and campaigns, and, and we became the victims of violence. I, in my time at SCLC, I never heard once of any retaliation on the part of a demonstrator. I've known of times when we had demonstrators who, who left the line, who left the demonstration because they said they couldn't be non-violent, they just, they, they needed to do something else. They couldn't take it. And that was a part of the genius of our orientation and training under, again, Jim Lawson and James Bevel, to role play how you've got to act in the face of being burnt with cigarettes, and spit upon and called ugly names etc. I think I might say, if I may, in my own defense, that in Monroe, North Carolina in the Robert Williams fiasco, I was attacked by one Van Vicory, 6'6'', 240 pounds on the courthouse steps, and knocked down twelve or thirteen steps. And at that time, in that moment, my concern was that as black folks congregated around the courthouse in southern communities then, I did not want to be a black retreating in the face of a physical attack from a white man, so I went back up the steps. At this time the deputies had grabbed him. He obliged me and knocked me down a second time, and I, with this still in my mind I went back up the third time and he knocked me down those steps the third time. I went back up the fourth time, and when I saw them turning him loose again - they'd make a show at trying to hold him - I said, "Look, what are you going to do? Let him kill me." That was about the nearest I came to any defense, and then they grabbed him and carried him away, and arrested him for something, some minor charge which was quickly dismissed.