Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary.

Today is the anniversary of my one-and-only arrest and incarceration.

Thirty-eight years ago I was on my way to an anti-war conference at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I was coming from Miami University, about 63 miles away, where I was a freshman.

I never made it.

I was hitchhiking. I didn't hitch often, even back then, but I did it enough to know that a big guy like me doesn't get picked up after it gets dark. I was on the outskirts of Dayton when the sun went down and the rides dried up. I'm not sure how I knew this, maybe it was just a hunch, but I was able to walk a couple of miles to where I could get a city bus into downtown. I had friends at the University of Dayton, so I went there instead.

The weekend turned out very different than I had planned. Dayton was playing arch rival Notre Dame in basketball that Saturday night. If UD won, they would be in the NCAA tournament. We started drinking early on Saturday, by which I mean we started drinking when I arrived Friday night. We tried to get into the game but failed, due to our intoxication. I recall them literally throwing my friend, Charlie, out of the arena. At least the picture in my memory is of him flying out the door and rolling across the sidewalk.

Charlie's roommate was, I believe, sober. At least I hope he was, because he was driving. He was also rich and drove a Jaguar X-Type. Beautiful car. My dream car.

So we went back to the dorm, drank, and watched it on TV. UD won so we went out on the streets to celebrate.

UD at that time had a student housing neighborhood near the campus that everyone called The Ghetto. It was a neighborhood of small privately-owned, two-story, wood frame houses, almost all of which were rented to students. The neighborhood was very rundown then and now has long since been demolished. The streets were full of students, building bonfires. I'm not sure if spontaneous bonfire building was a traditional form of celebration in that neighborhood or if this was something new. I was a visitor so I went along. I don't recall doing any active fire-building myself, but I may have fed the flames literally. I was certainly doing it metaphorically.

Remember that it was 1970. Most young adults in those days had at least a little experience with demonstrations and other mass activities. I won't go into the whole litany, but there was a lot of that about. Anti-war and also race-related. We didn't know it at the time, but apparently there had been some kind of riot or near-riot in Dayton's mostly black Second Ward that same night, so when the police got to us they were even more tired and grumpy than usual.

The Fire Department was there too, putting out the fires. As each was extinguished, the mob would run to the next intersection and set another one.

The police tired of this game very quickly and started to round people up. This had the desired effect of dispersing the crowd and ending the party. In the midst of that, I saw several cops grab Charlie's roommate, I ran to his aid (as I perceived it at the time) but before I got there I was felled by a blow to the head from a riot club, the long ones, about the size of a baseball bat.

I went down instantly, but didn't lose consciousness. I felt myself being dragged by the arms, for which I was initially grateful because my first thought was that I would be trampled. I opened my eyes and saw blue, cuffed trouser bottoms and shoes that could only belong to policemen. The next thing I knew I was in the wagon on my way to jail.

Maybe on some other occasion I'll write out the rest of the story, but I've got some other important things to do today, so I'll shorthand the end. I sat in the lock-up for a few hours, was taken to the hospital to receive stitches to my head wound, actually had a very enjoyable time with the two young cops who accompanied me there, was taken back, got a little sleep, and was bailed out by Charlie and others at about 5:00 AM Sunday morning.

In 1996, when I got my law degree and applied for the Illinois Bar, I had to get a copy of my record from the Dayton PD. They sent me a photocopy of a 3 x 5 card. I don't have it handy, but I think all it said, after my name and address, was "drunk and disorderly," which was certainly true, and the amount of the bail or fine, which was $5.00.

No comments: