I set out one summer day to join a peaceful protest against the President of the United States’ Vietnam War policy, but never made it – I was preemptively arrested. This is what happened.
On July 21, 1966, the New York Times carried a front page story mapping a Midwest campaign swing President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) would be making for the off-year congressional elections. It would begin in Indianapolis, the very heart of that patriotic part of the country. The next day the IU chapter of the Committee to End the War in Vietnam (CEWV) circulated a flyer on campus calling for an antiwar demonstration planned for LBJ’s speech in Indy, 50 miles to the north.
The flyer read, “Since Lyndon B. Johnson has chosen to honor the citizens of Indiana with his presence, we feel that IU students who oppose his policy in Vietnam should show Him (sic) that we exist.” A copy of the flyer and related material found its way to the office of IU’s president, Elvis Stahr. It had been sent to him by the university bookstore with a note: “We found [these documents] … on one of our cash register[s] … and are sending them to you” [in case copies haven’t already reached your office]. The note went on: “We would like to add that we are strongly against the policies and opinions expressed in these communications and hope the University can curtail these as much as possible.”
I had planned to join the protest that weekend. I had already been in Indianapolis many times since Jeff started working on the railroad that summer. I knew he’d want to participate and went up that Friday after classes to stay with him at the house where he boarded. However, Jeff was scheduled to work that sultry Saturday so he dropped me off quite early at Monument Circle in the center of the city where LBJ would speak. About 100 activists began arriving from IU about 10:30 AM. By then the preemptive arrests had already begun. State troopers had relayed the license plate numbers of the cars from Bloomington to the Indy cops who were working with the Secret Service. Although the IU group had a permit and were assured they could peacefully demonstrate, the Indy police began arresting them as they arrived.
♫ Oh, deep in our hearts we did believe that we would overcome some day.
It is incredible that responsible public officials would utilize the powerof their position in such a flagrant suppression of the efforts of the citizens to exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression. Let us hope that this kind of harassment arrests will never happen again in Indianapolis.
Between 25 and 30 peace demonstrators were placed in a sheriff’s bus today and taken to the city building after President Johnson had spoken at Monument Circle. A sheriff’s deputy said the demonstrators might be kept overnight on a ‘charge of breaking up a public meeting’. The group had been kept a half-block from Mr. Johnson during his speech. One of the pro-testors….was Professor James Dinsmoor, Indiana University psychologist who was an unsuccessful candidate for a Democratic nomination for Congress this spring. Police Capt. Charles Sherman said Mr. Dinsmoor had been charged with interfering with the police.