Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Column Left: Riot Control
“I DON’T ASK QUESTIONS, I JUST FOLLOW ORDERS. IF PEOPLE RIOT, I SHOOT.”
Black soldier; “Oh man, get off it. People have been put up tight for too long; they’re cheated and poor.”
White soldier: We defend America.
BS: What about here, man? What are we defending here? Liquor stores?
WS: Well, maybe we shouldn’t be here, but we get sent into other countries when governments ask us to come.
BS: You know those people looting on 14th St? What if they asked the Chinese to help them fight and the Chinese came in and fought us. They would say the Americans asked them in. Well maybe thats what we do in other countries. I just came back from Vietnam and that’s what happened there. I don’t unsderstand it there.
WS: I just follow orders.
BS: You should be in Nazi Germany. Hitler would like you.
(To the reporter:)
BS: There aren’t many guys like him in the Army. He volunteered to go to Vietnam four times but they wouldn’t take him. He kept saying he wanted to kill people. He thinks he’s John wayne. They’ve kept him here. He’s nuts. Other guys don’t like it.
*From an interview with National Guards by a Washington Free Press reporter during the rebellion in D.C. after King was murdered.*
If your unit is anything like mine, it has so-called “Emergency Operation” SOP. In it is probably a plan to mobilize the guys the unit to quell local “civil disturrbances.” In it, too,is probably contained the inference, at least, that all strikes, civil disturbances, etc. are started by the “enemy,” that is, those evil-eyed communists with the pointed ears you hear so much about in Character Guidance. I guess they' re talking about the VC or something.
It's pretty clear that the Brass uses our bodies in riot control much the same way it uses them in Nam. In the Nam we have “pacification” where a militant villages people are numbered, herded off to a sort of concentration camp and watched Here, it's about the same - there's the same lack of respect for human life and human rights, only there's not the same wholesale slaughter in US riot control.
Black people who live in ghettoes stay there. Because of very strong social, economic and political forces, there are few who can manage to get out. The Man hires and fires you, owns your house, furniture and clothes through indebtedness, “educates” your children, taxes your pay and generally legislates your life . . . a little like the way the Man controls our lives in the Green Machine. The whole question of riot control on the national scene becomes more important when you think of yourself in the streets of Watts or Newark or Newport News complete with uniform, weapon and doubts. Like - what am I doing here?
Similar to the question you might ask yourself standing the middle of a rice paddy.
Ghettoized black people revolt because, paradoxically, the successes of the civil rights movement in the last ten years or so have shown them new hope for eventually winning social justice. But when those hopes are frustrated by the oppressiveness of every day ghetto life, one simply gets pissed. Ghetto insurrections will decrease only when frustration is turned into hope by powerful community political organization. Much the same way GI's, sailors and airmen are beginning to get themselves together all over the country using the very effective tool of the underground GI paper - what you're now reading is a good example.
It's been proven time. and time again that if GIs can stick together, the Brass finds it much harder to screw them ever [sic]. The Brass has the powers of position and prestige, and control over the press - dig the local paper. We have the potentially strong power of numbers, and our own form of publicity. The Fort Hood strike was a good example. 43 black GIs at Hood refused to be sent to Chicago before the Democratic Convention to quell possible “civil disturbances.” Because they stuck together and got together and got themselves civilian legal aid, support and publicity, they got light punishment and proved their point.
Rough Draft, no. 1