THINGS THAT I SAW IN 1968; BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2011

Posted on February 4, 2011 by

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One of my most shocking experience was the day that Ted, a boyhood friend, and I decided to join the march downtown Memphis, 1968, this day, Dr. King’s peaceful marching days would be over. A riot broke out during Dr. King’s march, which was the first in the nation.

We decided to take a route different from everybody else; from Fowler Homes we took Maryland Street to Third Street to Crump Blvd to Main Street.  As we approached the Chisca Hotel on Main Street, now owned by Church of God in Christ, we were stopped by two white police officers one was tall and thin, the other was short and fat.  The tall officer stepped in front of us first, and then asked where were we going?  I told him that we were going to the march, I didn’t know that a riot had started, he ordered us to turn around and go back.  I immediately responded with, “We have our rights, we want to join the march”.  At that time, without any further warning, the other officer jumps in front of the first officer and lowered his shotgun upon us and pumps it.  The first officer, in what was almost a heavenly voice, as calm as possible told him, “to hold up”.  In the same tone and spirit, he told us to, “turn around, don’t look back, and walk slowly down the street”.  In fear for our lives, that’s what we did; I knew we were in danger.  I saw in that officer’s face, death.

As we walked back to the Fowler Homes, my friend and I didn’t speak a word to each other until we got back to Maryland Street.  Then, from seemingly nowhere came police officers, as we stood on the corner I could see in their eyes, again, death.  They had a strange look on their faces as they stared, looking straight ahead without a side-glance, rolls of officers on motorcycles and in cars poured into Fowler Homes.  I had never seen so many police cars as we stood still on the corner watching them go by.  It was as if they didn’t see us.  By the time we walked from Maryland to Latham, down the driveway to Fourth Street the police had terrorized the neighborhood.  Tear gas was in the air and people were yelling and screaming at us to get off the street.  But, the officers had just passed us a moment ago; they didn’t stop us or said a word to us.

As we finally got to my front porch, the word came down that the police had killed someone.  The boy who was killed name was Larry Payne.  Larry, whose brother name was Carl Payne was also a good friend of mine, had burglarized Seals Roebuck located on Maryland and Third Street a few minutes before my friend and I had made it from downtown.  Larry was the last boy to leave the hiding place where the goods were stashed, in a storage room behind a set of three-story apartments between Mason and Fourth Street.   Larry was left to lock the storage door, as he turned around a short, fat police officer place a shotgun into his stomach and pull the trigger.  The officer, according to witness, shouted it was an accident.  However, later, the press reported that Larry attacked the officer with a knife.

I have always believed that I had a run-in with the same short, fat officer eager to use his shotgun.

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