By Jane Gordon
This is a re-print from the July 1969 Beachhead
Thursday started after an all-night rap session among the parade organizers. We had been getting steadily more reports and rumors about what the police had in store for beachgoers on the following day. Nothing we could “prove,” or we’d have taken it to court long before. Just second-had stories about numbers, preparations and intentions. One cop’s kid was heard crooning, “my dad’s gonna break a lot of heads on Friday, nyah nyah …” Material for barricades began appearing on street corners. Reports of huge trailor-size mobile stations for the pavillion. The lady at the Recreation Center advised us not to plan on using the grassy are on that day. When asked why, she was “not at liberty to say.” There were several reports that the police were hoping to start an incident with the people in the parade and then use that as an excuse to bust everyone on the beach. Police were telling people they were expecting dangerous “revolutionaries,” who wanted to “take over Los Angeles.” And on and on.
The all-night session produced the decision to postpone the parade, to hold a silent vigil at Venice City Hall, and to put out a statement clarifying where the blame lay – with the police. We regretted having to concede the beach to the cops on a day which should have been for the people, but we felt positive that canceling the parade and warning people to stay away from the beach was the only way to avert a gigantic police club-in. We felt it absolutely essential to point out to people that we have a lot of work to do before we can control the actions of the police in our own community, and that physical confrontations could only harm our ability to proceed with that work.
We got the statement run off (FREE VENICE WARNS OF VIOLENCE JULY FOURTH) and started calling the press early Thursday morning. We kept it up all day, delivering copies and reading it over the phone. We ran off leaflets with a more graphic version of the same message and began getting them around on the Ocean Front, in the canals, at the library, all over. Police were later seen tearing them down.
People started calling to find our if the parade was really canceled as they had heard on the radio – we explained that it was postponed until we felt we could celebrate independence without intimidation and illegal police activities. We also encouraged Venice residents to participate in our silent vigil at the Venice City Hall to mourn the fact that our community would be occupied territory on Independence Day.
Thursday evening at the last meeting of the parade committee, we went over our plans and worked out details. Some participants decided to warn of the police trap by making signs which they planned to display during the morning at all major streets leading into Venice. The meeting adjourned and the sign painters went to work.
Anticipation was high, but we were not dejected. We had done all we could to ruin police plans for a bloodbath. We hoped it would work.
By Jane Gordon