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Studs Terkel comments and presents Fiesta: a Chicago Happening ; part 2

BROADCAST: Aug. 23, 1969 | DURATION: 00:55:39


Studs Terkel interviews José "Cha Cha" Jiménez, founder of the Young Lords. At the time of the interview, Jiménez is preparing a picnic for the local Puerto Ricans. However, he is being harassed by the police.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel This program is in the nature of an accidental documentary. It's titled "Fiesta: A Chicago Happening", and Jim Unrath and I are working on a documentary I trust in-depth concerning the Lincoln Park community, certainly one of the most heterogeneous areas in the city, with its conflicting interests, propertied and human, misunderstandings and possibilities for poor understanding. In this, perhaps, most picturesque of all Chicago areas. Now, that one is called "Strange Journey Through A Familiar Land", and will be broadcast on some subsequent date. On Saturday, August 23rd, 1969, I thought I'd finish my research for this project with a bit of music and a visit to a few homeowners on the west side of the area. The Young Lords, a group of Puerto Rican young men, were planning a fiesta on Dayton Street, corner Armitage in front of the church which is now their headquarters. The occasion, the dedication of the soon-to-be opened day care center in the basement of the church. Now this incredible day, at least for me, began about noon, the scheduled time for the beginning of the fiesta. When I arrived I found a great many policemen guarding the street, and the people who had come to participate were on the sidewalk. I spotted Cha-Cha Jimenez, chairman of the Young Lords, and asked him what was happening.

Jose "Cha-Cha" Jimenez What happened was that we had a permit more or less, we sent in to our Alderman McCutcheon. Somebody from the community, from they're the same people that are trying to move poor people out of this community, went out and got a thousand signatures from this organization. So he took that to Alderman McCutcheon, and Alderman McCutcheon, he's afraid to lose a couple of them rich people's votes, so he went out there and canceled it after he already had the permit. You know, he went out, what I mean by that is, we gave him, could he do us a favor and go and try to get the permit for us, and he went in there and did us the favor of recommending it to the board that they not give us the permit. So he's was more or less playing a two-face. Well, see, we got to that and we more or less told him off today. Alderman Singer went over there to try to get it, but he could not do anything, because he was not from this ward. First they told us that they couldn't, that we couldn't have the picnic at all. And I told them, you know, "Go to hell." So then they came back and told one of the guys to come back and tell me, "Could you tell them if he keeps the people on the sidewalk," that we can have the picnic, "That they can have the picnic if they keep the people on the sidewalk." And I told them, "Go to hell" two times. So we're going to have the picnic on the sidewalk, on the street, wherever we want. We're having free food, we're having entertainment that's coming pretty soon. We're having speakers, we're having poetry read, some cultural things more or less to get more Puerto Rican people involved, and now they did a nice thing because they got the Puerto Rican people and really to see the truth.

George McCutcheon That too bad, but I think they're perhaps more interested in the confrontation than they were in a street fair.

Studs Terkel I'm standing with Alderman Barr [sic] McCutcheon, the 43rd ward across, diagonally across the street from where a moment ago I spoke with Cha-Cha Jimenez, the church--the police on one side, the Young Lords and other people on the other side. How would you ex--I thought a picnic was planned to be held here.

George McCutcheon About two or three weeks ago, Cha-Cha and some of his friends came into my office to ask for permission to close the street today. And I explained that in order to do this, they had to have a certain statement of opinion, general approval of the people on the block, which is this 20 hundred block of Dayton, and they had to have an organization which would sign itself as a sponsor of this block fair. You can't--one person can't do it, it has to be an organization. So they said that this was a Puerto Rican affair, to honor the memory and the fame of Puerto Rico. And there are many Puerto Rican agencies and associations, any one of who could have sent a president or an officer to sign a thing which we send in requesting a permit or call up requesting a permit. But they neither got the permission of the people on the block nor the sponsoring organization. And then just the day before, they run around saying, here we are, trying to undercut them and stop them from doing everything that they want to do. It's--well, I think that, perhaps, that's what they had in mind all along. They have the park right over here that they've made themselves, which we would have been delighted to have used for this. They don't need to have it right here.

Studs Terkel As I understand it, they planned to have this barbecue and songs in front of the church, you know, and their impression I got is that you had planned to get the permit for them and then reversed yourself.

George McCutcheon No, no. They--but there were plenty of telephone calls of disapproval.

Studs Terkel Right.

George McCutcheon Neighbors mostly, no organization in specific. As I say, I said, "Fine, if you will do those things, I will get your approval. But this is conditional." And neither of the two requirements were even haphazardly fulfilled. Every store you go into, a businessman, residents of this neighborhood, the residents of this block in particular have been most upset with the takeover the church in the first place, and to allow them to take over the street in addition was more than their patience could bear. That's too bad. I'm glad to help them out. They could have had it over there in the park and there would have been no problem at all. But this--they knew this. They wanted a problem. So, they asked if close the street, knowing that they would get a problem, and they have one.

Studs Terkel From what I gather, they had an understanding with you. Was that it?

George McCutcheon Certainly, if they did those two things, and then they forgot their part What

Studs Terkel of What were those two things they didn't do now? Those two things.

George McCutcheon To get a more or less a statement of approval of the people on the block, not everybody, there are always a few disagreeable people, but just in general, and the organization. Give me an organization with a few names, we'll try to sponsor

Studs Terkel One last question, Alderman: what do you think would have happened, quite frankly, had you granted the permit?

George McCutcheon Well, there probably would have been slight vandalism in the neighborhood. There certainly would have been opinions throughout from the residents of a nearby community saying, "Are you going to let them do anything they want no matter who it affects? They'll want to do something else even more presumptuous next time. Are you going to let them do that, too?" And, of course, one time you have to say "No."

Studs Terkel This is obviously a confusing situation for me, I'm sure many people. There are two points of view thus far expressed: one by Cha-Cha Jimenez, of the Young Lords, and by Alderman McCutcheon. In speaking with an officer now, Deputy Chief Linskey, your thoughts about this generally.

Deputy Police Chief Linskey The people of the community do not want this street blocked off. A permit was applied for and denied. And it's our function to ensure that the law is obeyed.

Studs Terkel Why was the permit denied?

Deputy Police Chief Linskey You'd have to ask the alderman about that.

Studs Terkel On this Saturday afternoon we're a half a block away from where the picnic may or may not be held. Young Lords and allies on one side, and the police on the other. Half a block away we're seated talking to a resident, a homeowner. Your thoughts about this community, this moment.

Homeowner #1 First of all, I hope that the parade won't take place or the picnic won't take place, because I think is a disgrace to the community. The only thing that they have in mind is just communism and most of the people who own in the neighborhood doesn't want communism whatsoever.

Studs Terkel The picnic itself as planned as told to me by the Young Lord spokesman was to have food, free food, music, rock bands. Would you objected to that?

Homeowner #1 Yes, I do object it, because that is the way that they are planning To get more people. They think that that is good to the people. But then right after that, they're going to go and talk to the people and if the people thought that it was a good deal, then they would follow them because there are some people there are weak-minded, and the weak-minded people are the one that's following them, not the strong-minded people. We have better plans for the community. Which will be backed by the adult. We will have an adult committee. We also are going to have the backing of the merchants of the community.

Studs Terkel A handyman taking care of one of the homes in the area, your thoughts what you were saying.

Handyman I was thinking, them people they should go there where they are really live, not coming to our neighborhood and disturbing. That's what we feel about the residents of this community. We think them Young Lords should go to where they belong, home in their homeland. They should be their lordness.

Studs Terkel But some of them come to Chicago when they were small children.

Handyman Makes no difference. They parents should teach them the right way to

Studs Terkel What would you like to see this area become?

Handyman We like to see this number one area in the city of Chicago. I'm not a slum like they do it.

Studs Terkel What do you think, what about these poor people live around here?

Handyman They are no poor people. That's just lazy to work. That's all. The people that work, they are never poor. No race or color.

Studs Terkel Talking to a member of the corporation counsel's office standing here against the church. What is holding up the festival?

Corporation Counsel There is no permit for a street closing.

Studs Terkel Wasn't there an understanding a permit would be granted?

Corporation Counsel No. Evidently a permit was requested by Alderman McCutcheon. That permit request was withdrawn, no action was taken at all by the city.

Studs Terkel Who withdrew it?

Corporation Counsel Alderman McCutcheon.

Young Lord Supporter As we all know, they began the construction on the First National Bank Building without a permit. I mean, whether you get to do things in the city don't have anything to do with whether you've got permits or not. Or the smelt fishermen who are allowed to stay all night in Lincoln Park this summer, they didn't require permits either, or the jitney cabs that run on the South Side in violation of the city ordinance that gives the monopoly on public transportation to the, you know, to the CTA. All these things are enforced or not enforced by a corporation counsel's office. Now if this had been sponsored by a Latin American group that was run by the mayor's office or Democratic Party officials, there'd have been no trouble in the world in getting permits to it, but this permit job doesn't mean anything.

Female Resident #1 Well, look, I tell you what. I'm on my way to work. I came here to get a bite to eat. That's all. And when I came here, I thought, "My God, what's happening? Why all these people?" They should have a good event providing the police stay out as the "Sun-Times" said yesterday.

Studs Terkel Now wait a minute. This is interesting. There was a picnic or a barbecue that was planned.

Female Resident #1 Yeah

Studs Terkel Would you have minded this street being taken over for a picnic?

Female Resident #1 Would I have what

Studs Terkel Would you have objected to it?

Female Resident #1 To the picnic?

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Female Resident #1 No. I like picnics with young people.

Studs Terkel Well, what do you think the objection is?

Female Resident #1 The objection is the Establishment. The Establishment is afraid. And I don't know what the hell they have to be afraid of. I believe that people should be able to express themselves. I believe that they should be able to have a fiesta if they want one.

Studs Terkel You live in this

Female Resident #1 Yes, I do.

Studs Terkel And for how long?

Female Resident #1 Seven years.

Studs Terkel Are you afraid of the Young Lords?

Female Resident #1 No. In fact, I have to walk from Fullerton to home. And I always think, "Thank God the Young Lords are around, if something happens they'll come to my assistance.

Studs Terkel Now I've wandered across to another corner.

Homeowner #2 If you don't have firemen every day, you have policemen every day. This is every day of the week, period. I'm not kidding when I tell you this, and then it's strictly, oh, it's corrupt, the whole damn neighborhood. Really.

Studs Terkel In what way?

Homeowner #2 What, this? This is the worst it's ever been since they took over that corner. Otherwise it was a pretty nice neighborhood. You got a lot of respectable Puerto Ricans here that don't care for this jazz, you know. So you don't know. What will ever happen. My husband likes this neighborhood. I would prefer living in a more quiet neighborhood. But he likes it, so I'm here.

Studs Terkel Are you a homeowner here?

Homeowner #2 Yeah.

Studs Terkel And your thoughts. What do you think? They planned to have a festival there across the street. Yeah,

Homeowner #2 Yeah, but I heard they didn't get a permit. So how the devil can you have a festival if you don't bother to get a permit? It's ridiculous. You can't just go ahead and break all the laws, you know, as far as that's concerned. You have to obey some laws. They're out for no good as far--that is no church, that's strictly a hangout. And your respectable Puerto Rican people know it, too. Because no good will come of it. They only corrupt the neighborhood, you know. It was a nice decent neighborhood.

Studs Terkel How do they corrupt the neighborhood?

Homeowner #2 By stirring up stuff. That's all. They stir things up and you have, we never used to have police and firemen every day of the week, for God's sakes, and if they're not tearing down something, they're--look at it, look at your buildings here that are nice. They put a lot of these here markings on the wall and all that. And then you have a lot of dope, too, around here. This neighborhood. You got them--little kids like--about this high. Snuffing glue. I see them in my alley. Would you believe it? I wonder where their mothers are.

Studs Terkel What about the poor people of this area? What do you think will happen to them?

Homeowner #2 Sad, you know, because they can't move out of here. They're actually trapped in this neighborhood. They are trapped, because where could you go for cheaper rent? And anybody that does any amount of remodeling here has to move them out in order to get people to pay a higher rent. You know, after all, if you, the homeowner spends money, you have to charge a higher rent. And I feel sorry for those that are actually trapped in this neighborhood. But anybody that does any remodeling, they have to let go the cheaper tenants, because they have to charge a higher rent. Sad.

Studs Terkel I'm in the kitchen of the basement of a church right now, and [Hilda Ignaten?] and her colleagues are preparing food, and I see all sorts of salads, cucumber and fresh tomatoes. And what sort of meat is that? And chocolates. What's in--chocolate cake. And in silver you have meats, I take it. Oh, I see the sweet corn here, too. Pots of it.

Kitchen Worker These are pasteles. It's a, something like tamales, you know. Mexican tamales, but these are Puerto Rican

Studs Terkel pasteles. It's a huge kettle, and I see baskets and boxes of onions and lettuce and plums. This is all for the picnic.

Kitchen Worker Right.

Studs Terkel Where did all the food come from?

Kitchen Worker Mainly donations and people's homes, they cook the stuff they either pick it up here and cooked it at home or they cooked dishes and brought them here for the festival.

Studs Terkel But in the other three rooms or so a lot of children are playing. Is that the beginning of the day care center?

Kitchen Worker Well, for today, you know, we're letting the children play in there, but it's not officially open yet.

Studs Terkel Here are children playing, I see they're Puerto Rican, some Black and some white children playing with a basketball, they're--on the walls there are all sorts of paintings and drawings. What do we see

Mural Explainer First of all, I'd like to start by the one up there, I think it's a very symbolic mural. Obviously this is going to be a day care center for children. That symbolizes the children learning. Learning. Up there we have three figures, three main figures: we have Emiliano Zapata, who was a Mexican revolutionary; in his hands he has a piece of bread. Next to him is Don Pedro Albizu Campos, who is a nationalist in Puerto Rico. He has a book. And on the right-hand side, we have Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who has a rifle in his hands. In other words, our children need to know everything. They need food, they need knowledge, they need education. They also need the gun if that's what it takes to get their freedom. Down here they are just decorative. We wanted to give it a feeling of Puerto Rico and you see palm trees, you see animals, you see all types of vegetation. That's what we have in Puerto Rico, all kinds of vegetation, which inspires life and that's also what we feel that children in our community are, they're life.

Studs Terkel The day care center as yet hasn't opened, has it?

Day Care Worker No, it hasn't. There's still some work to be done. Some of the, like, the kitchen needs to be put in better condition because with all, that's the center of the painting and everything, so we need, really need to work on that, and also we need to get all the baby furniture together. We haven't done that yet because we're more involved in painting this and getting it cleaned up in order to open up.

Studs Terkel Where will you get the, say the furniture?

Day Care Worker Well, we've gotten promises from people that have furniture stores and from people that have offered to buy stuff and donate to the day care center. All types of baby furniture.

Studs Terkel When the day care center, when do you think it might be opening?

Day Care Worker Well, it's hard to say. I would say within two or three weeks. If we put as much effort into it as the rest of it, within two or three weeks.

Studs Terkel How many children do you think might be able to be taken care of?

Day Care Worker Well, see, that's the problem. We've got on file about 125 names of kids, and I don't know if we'll be able to handle that many, and I don't know if it would be right to handle that many, but we'll try to get, you know, take in as many as we can, and hopefully this will be the first model, you know, and people can do it in their area.

Studs Terkel Now, these children are from what families?

Day Care Worker Puerto Rican. Mainly Puerto Rican, and we have said that we will set some sort of priority on children of welfare recipients who can't afford to send their children to a day care center, and the welfare department does not provide money for a day care center, they provide for a babysitter which is very hard to do anyway. You can't get a babysitter for the money that they pay.

Studs Terkel How many--where will the teachers come from?

Day Care Worker Teachers who will be working here come from all different parts of the city, and the work will be voluntary. You know, we've gotten offers from counselors, teachers, physicians, dentists, and just all types of professional people, even mental health, you know, people.

Studs Terkel What will the charge be for this day care center?

Day Care Worker Well, it'll be free. Completely free. People who are working and feel that it's, you know, it benefits them will make contributions. We've already had people promise us contributions even without leaving their children here, because they see the need for a day care center.

Female Resident #2 A day care center? I'm all for it. I'm all for that, because. I'll tell you what. Some people in my neighborhood, a couple of people in my neighborhood, they work all day, and me being retired after 24 years of being in one place of work, I'm taking care of children myself.

Studs Terkel How long have you lived in this community?

Female Resident #2 In this community I would say for the last 60 years, because I was five years old when I came to this country, and we lived just right around this whole neighborhood.

Male Resident #1 I came from Cuba 16 years ago. I'm American citizen now, and I know what was going on and we think there are 80 percent of the people of the community are against this gunk.

Studs Terkel What is it about them? They made trouble in the area?

Male Resident #1 Well, really, no. They don't make any trouble so far I know. But the main thing is their opinion. Trouble, I can't say. So far we have nothing yet. But we will come in some day.

Studs Terkel How do you feel about that festival? You know, the barbecue they planned to hold. The music.

Male Resident #1 I do not like it. There's too much noise around. I do not like it. This kind of music.

Studs Terkel I see the helicopter just surveying the corner. How did this come about, this particular moment that we have now?

Unnamed Official Well, the people in the community were appraised of the fact that the Young Lords approached the alderman's secretary for a permit for a street closing for their fair. And the general feeling in the community is that these people are not a part of the community, nor do they represent the people in the immediate area, and that we did not want the streets closed for this purpose at all. And so the people got together and signed petitions, and there were 271 names on this petition which was procured two nights during the week because it came up very suddenly. These petitions were then taken downtown to the mayor's office, copies were presented to Chief Linskey, and the city has taken action to protect what we consider are our civil rights as residents, owners, tenants and businesses within this particular adjacent community. The objection primarily is the groups that are meeting here in the church, the Young Lords namely, we find a threat to the community. We don't like the influence that they're having on the children in the community. We resent the defacing of property that has become a real burden and a real problem to the people who are trying to maintain their properties in the area. It's hazardous walking on the streets. People are afraid to walk on the streets as a result of these people being in our presence, and they do not belong here.

Studs Terkel What do you think would have happened if a festival were held?

Unnamed Official If the festival were held, we would be adding to their strength. We would be backing down on our civil rights as people in the community, and we don't think that we should do that.

Studs Terkel How long have you lived in this community?

Female Resident #3 Well, about, let me see now. That's 73 years.

Studs Terkel About

Female Resident #3 Seventy-three years.

Studs Terkel Well, you've seen a great number of changes.

Female Resident #3 About 60 years in the immediate vicinity.

Studs Terkel In the 60 years, 73 years, what's the big change that you've seen?

Female Resident #3 Well, that's just--well, that would be a long story, wouldn't it? Too long to tell this way, but there is a vast change.

Studs Terkel For the better or for the worse?

Female Resident #3 Well, in one way for the better and in most cases for the worse, until we get this deal straightened out, which I think we'll be able to do.

Studs Terkel In what way for the better?

Female Resident #3 Well, the improvement that's being made is wonderful. And in the future what we're going to have in this vici--I hope I'm around long enough to see it. Oh, I have to be. I sure have to be. I'm not giving up the boat so easy.

Studs Terkel In what way for the worse?

Female Resident #3 For the worse? Well, we've got a lot of undesirable troublemaking people here, that I think in time will move on. They're like some of the roaches that crawl out of the woodwork, you know. After you exterminate, they're gone. I think that'll happen.

Studs Terkel Is this your feeling about--well, whom would you put in that category?

Female Resident #3 Well, not so much the older people as some of the young punks. I call them punks, because they've got so much to learn; maybe after they live a few more years they will know better.

Studs Terkel I've heard much about the group called the Young Lords, pro and con. Do you have thoughts about them? Do you know about them?

Female Resident #3 I don't--well, I've heard the name, but that's about all. I don't want any association with any gang. I've lived a good, honest, straightforward life. And I want to continue doing that. Not being a troublemaker or a lot of other things..

Studs Terkel You know much about that church on the corner of Armitage and Dayton?

Female Resident #3 Well, I remember when the old church was there. I remember when this church was built. I saw this place being built. I just don't know what year it was.

Studs Terkel Well, it's now the headquarters of the group we're talking about. The Young

Female Resident #3 Yes? How come that it's not a church any longer?

Studs Terkel Well, they're making it a day care center.

Female Resident #3 Well. Who needs day care? I should think in the old days people took care of their own kids, and they were better for it, weren't they? They didn't need day care. They took care of their own kids, father and mother both. And I think the people in the olden days had the right idea. They didn't need day care centers for kids.

Studs Terkel What do you think of the, you know, there's an event across the way. Said the Young Lords had planned to hold that barbecue and song fest on Dayton

Female Resident #3 Well, I shouldn't think that they just take that on their own hands. There's other people to be considered. People that have money invested here. And they're to be considered mostly, don't you think? I say, that's my opinion.

Studs Terkel Have you been bothered yourself? Have you yourself been bothered by anyone?

Female Resident #3 They better not. They just better not. They know what's good for them, they'll just leave this chicken alone.

Studs Terkel Talking to a merchant. So I 've been told that most merchants are against them.

Business Owner Well, I'm not against them. I know that much. Because they don't bother me. I'm making business. I'm in business here. So, I'm not against it. They don't bother nobody. And they're good.

Studs Terkel Back, in a sense, where the festival is, in a sense being held you might say, on the sidewalk, the--it's not on the street. "Recordando a Borinquen," that means what, remember--remember Puerto Rico does. Talking to a lady waiting in line, expect a line here near the church. What are we waiting for?

Festival Attendee #1 We're waiting for the food, the people, the community. They participate. They bring the food. Everybody eating for nothing. And we're very disappointed by what the police is doing. [Mike Hudson?] was supposed to get the alderman, you know, he's supposed to bring the permit so we can have some fun. All we ask is to celebrate a community people, some dancing on the streets. It should be community happy event. That's right. We should be dancing, don't you boys agree? We should be dancing and enjoying the whole community, but they're not doing anything. We can't even cross around the street without them tell us to clear the street because of the--

Bystander #1 May I

Studs Terkel Yeah, please.

Bystander #1 Yeah. How come in a big country like this we have something like this? Would you let me know? How come we have something like this? Nothing bother, no fights, nothing. If there no fights, no, nothing bother, nobody bother [unintelligible] and you see more than 100 policemen over here. How? Why?

Studs Terkel You're asking me?

Bystander #1 No, I am telling you.

Studs Terkel I should indicate as I lean against the tree right now, on the west side of Dayton, it's hard to describe the scene. There's a festival being held on the sidewalk. People are eating and cramped instead of as planned on the streets. The police are watching. I don't know if they'll be offered food or not. But they're not quite certain what they're doing. They're standing and just watching. The idea is for nobody to eat on the street, Dayton. There's a huge, there's a sign: "Recordando a Borinquen." "Remember," I believe "Remember Puerto Rico." Across the street from tree to tree. I can only describe the scene as surrealistic.

Bystander #2 Just tell him, I don't know what you're doing, but--

Studs Terkel That's okay.

Bystander #2 Just tell them a lot of these kids have gotten their first full good meal for nothing. That's all.

Studs Terkel I was down in the kitchen and saw--

Bystander #2 Just see some of those hungry kids carrying it like it was gold. And you know, and forget the cops and the surrealism and all these--

Studs Terkel There's a dance going on just off the sidewalk, in the middle of Dayton Street, and they're dancing. The police aren't quite sure what to do about the dancers, and that's the sound you're hearing. The sergeant was saying "Push 'em back." The dancers are being pushed back toward the sidewalk, but they're still on the street, on the western side of Dayton. It's just a slight movement back on to the sidewalk as the police are casually moving the dancers back. A policeman is very gently urging a mother and child to move back onto the sidewalk. There are many, many young mothers, I say grandmothers, children, festive spirits on the sidewalk. And here's the festival.

Festival Attendee #2 Well, it's trying to be a festival. There's too much--too many policemen around. I think if they would have left well enough alone and let us have our festival, we could have, you know, it would have just been a lot of eating and music and that would have been it, but now I'm not so sure what's going to happen. That would have been perfect, you know, it would have turned out really beautiful. We could have had it the way we wanted to have it. We had a lot of things planned, but you can't do it because it's too closed-in now, you know, because it is on the sidewalk. Well, there was supposed to have been a band on both sides of the street. We're hoping to have, you know, the kids draw on the streets, on the sidewalks, you know, maybe pictures and have a prize for the best for the best picture and everything, just--can't do anything.

Studs Terkel Can you describe your background?

Festival Attendee #2 Well, I'm Italian. My parents are from Italy. So, you know, I'm Italian descent. And my father owns a building. You know, he's not--he's about what you call maybe upper-low-class. An upper-low-class person, and I'm married to a Puerto Rican. And we have three kids. And I've lived in this Lincoln Park community all my life. I'm surprised, I really am, to think that they would do something like this. After all the planning that went into, people in the neighborhood, you know, donating food and. cooking and things like that, I don't know now, we hoped--it really would have turned out so beautiful if we would have been able to have what we wanted to have. Like, there was, I don't know what they thought we were going to have, that we were going to start burning down houses or what, maybe that's what they thought that we had in mind. But, you know.

Studs Terkel On the roof of the church a number of the Young Lords are sitting. I recognize David Rivera, and others, and the police are looking up toward them. So here we are, right on the sidewalk and off the sidewalk and nobody knows exactly what to do. The cops are now shoving us onto a sidewalk. I suppose one memory I'll have of this moment is the laughter and the humor on the sidewalk and the young police on the street against the sidewalk watching impassively. Across the street our neighbors are watching. As you may gather by now, very [serious?]. That's the sound of the police helicopter overhead surveying this area. The crowd is looking up at the helicopter.

Homeowner #3 I think the amazing thing is that this is seems totally unorganized and still this group gets things accomplished. They just need each other so badly that they hang into it until they got something done, like this church they would not have gotten if they hadn't just started, because the trustees weren't about to give it to them, but after they came in and they did start to fix up, now they're proud of it.

Studs Terkel Do you live in the community?

Homeowner #3 Oh, yes, sure. 'm a homeowner, designer and father of five kids and very much involved in trying to get some good schools going, and--

Studs Terkel What are your thoughts about this day? What are your thoughts about the Young Lords?

Homeowner #3 Well, I know many of them from, for many years. They went to school with my kids. They just can't make it, they, for a whole long list of very understandable reasons for which we just haven't been able to find the solutions. The fantastic thing is that they recognize it and realize that they have to do it themselves, and as soon as a group starts recognizing that they have to do it themselves, you start seeing progress, because as soon as they take on the responsibility, they want to taste some success and they try to organize their success. The police and the leadership just doesn't know these kids, doesn't understand them, and that's very easy to understand because the kids don't understand themselves, either. So in that process they do strange things and they begin to learn what they--I don't know how to express that. What works to their benefit and their friends' benefit, and also to recognize what is completely ineffectual.

Studs Terkel You understand why a permit was not granted for this?

Homeowner #3 Fear. Just--that's the only thing.

Studs Terkel Fear?

Homeowner #3 Fear, yeah. Fear that by giving them a permit they might dignify something that they might later on be embarrassed about. And, of course, in the eyes of the Puerto Ricans, say, they just feel that the police is continuously looking for an opportunity to beat them down. And, of course, if you observe young kids all the time, you can find something that they do that's wrong, and you don't have to be Puerto Rican to get pushed into that kind of situation.

Studs Terkel By the way, as we're talking, a new cordon of police have come, the other police are being relieved. New police are now coming in. A change of shift. A man and girl are dancing in the middle of the street, you see, now the police are getting closer. The couple is being asked to go back onto the sidewalk. They're still dancing in the middle of the street. They're dancing down toward the corner as some of the young cops, by the way, seem, are smiling, not quite certain what to do, but the captain is urging them to get that couple off the sreet. They're dancing back again. Now the captain--now the couple is now being urged onto the sidewalk. Did you enjoy your dance?

Female Dancer Right, I'm enjoying my dance, why not? Some were complaining because we were just enjoying this party here. Everybody who want to enjoy, how come they don't want to

Studs Terkel I'm talking to the lady dancer who did the [chore?] on the streets.

Female Dancer There's not enough place to

Studs Terkel There's not enough room on

Female Dancer They try! We're not doing any harm to them. That's what I told them.

Studs Terkel What did

Female Dancer "No dancing in the sidewalk! I don't want you in there" So what!

Bystander #3 We just came back from Brazil, you know, from Rio during the Carnival. And the difference! The city closes off miles of streets just so the public can have a place to dance, you know, during the Carnival. There is no problem, the police are there to protect the people, not the cars and traffic, you know. And my husband just went up to one of the policemen and asked, "Why don't they just close off the block, let us dance in the middle of the street?" "No. Get on the sidewalk." It's an outrage! I don't know what they're trying to protect, the automobiles or not. I mean, it's here to protect the people, you know? These are wonderful kids, we're having a ball here. The music is beautiful. Everybody's in wonderful moods, one of the kids just offered the policeman a piece of bread. I mean, I don't understand this. They say there's no gaiety in the life of Chicago on the streets. That's why, because they're not allowed to be gay in the streets of Chicago, have a good time. I don't know, I just don't understand it. Very sad.

Bystander #4 I just said, you know, can I make a suggestion? "I don't want to hear anything." I said, "Look. All I want to make is a suggestion. Why don't you let the people dance in the streets?" You know? Nothing. They said, "Get back on the sidewalk."

Studs Terkel A permit was denied.

Bystander #4 Oh, was it? Oh, I didn't know that. I didn't follow the details, but I just saw it in the "Panorama" this morning.

Studs Terkel What did you see in "Panorama"?

Bystander #4 That there was a Puerto Rican street fair, dancing, music, food, and so forth, you know. So we came.

Studs Terkel Now cops are--arrested someone, that's the noise you're hearing. The clubs are all drawn, the police are on the middle of the corner of Armitage and Halsted. They're watching the church, the windows of the church are now being closed. No more festival. A bottle

Bystander #5 has They're

Studs Terkel There are several captains. Their eyes are all on the church. The police--

Bystander #5 They're bringing out rifles.

Studs Terkel Officers. Rifles are coming out. There are helmeted officers around and about, some are not helmeted, all have clubs, several have rifles. And they're on the street facing the Armitage Avenue church that is the headquarters of the Young Lords. People are being urged by people in the community, Puerto Ricans, Young Lords, to stay on the sidewalk and not to be close to the officers. I assume to avoid confrontation. On the corner, smack in the middle of the corner of Armitage and Dayton, there appears to be discussion that everybody's watching. Deputy Chief Parker and it looks like David Rivera of the Young Lords are carrying on a very animated discussion with a lot of excited voices interrupting, and yet Parker, Rivera are trying to talk to each other.

Deputy Superintendent Parker Why are there 80 policemen? There are 80 policemen to try to prevent trouble. There could be trouble. Let me say one other thing first of all. You and he said you've got some authority around here, and you'd get the people, you and I and he would talk. Now I'm surrounded by people. I can tell you that somebody's throwing bottles, because I got hit. I don't know who hit me, but somebody hit me.

Bystander #6 Now can I say something? They were dancing--hold on, hold on, hold on! They were dancing in the street, right? I crossed the street and a policeman hit me and the second says, "You ain't supposed to be in the street. Get back." So I move back. You know? All right. The next thing I knew, I turned around, there was somebody swinging at me. Two guys were being carried away, one guy's getting his head smashed in against your hood, the car, for hood of a car because he didn't want to go in because he didn't do nothing, the other guy got picked up for carrying a thing of gasoline to put a generator on, and all of a sudden you guys come out there beating heads and swinging clubs.

Deputy Superintendent Parker Do you know who may have hit

Bystander #7 I got hit, too.

Deputy Superintendent Parker Do you have anybody--well, now, here. What we want you to do. We have a system for adjudicating these things. Everything is investigated. We want to know. Well, let me--so hear me out now, you made it you made a statement. You made a statement.

Bystander #6 Okay, okay.

Deputy Superintendent Parker All of these things are investigated.

Bystander #6 You know who started? He did, that lieutenant over there. He started to push everybody over here.

Deputy Superintendent Parker All right, now here's what I want to do with you. I can't seem to have any--every time I talk to you, somebody else shouts. Now, I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you. I want to talk to

Bystander #6 You talk to me first.

Bystander #7 I'm not giving a statement again.

Deputy Superintendent Parker But I want to talk to you someplace else. I wish Monday morning you'd come in and make your complaints. There's no use making it now because there's excitement on both sides.

Bystander #7 Sunday

Crowd [indistinct voices]

Deputy Superintendent Parker I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to talk to--I'm going to talk to the chief of--the chief was here before I got here. Who's still here. I'll talk to him. I'll talk. And what--but we won't--I don't think it would be wise to turn them out of the wagon. What we would do is, go and make a record of our having handled them and bring them right

Bystander #5 Do

Deputy Superintendent Parker You can have somebody go over the station. They'll be out.

Festival Attendee #3 What I know is, we want

Studs Terkel Talking to Reverend Bruce Johnson of the church. So your thoughts now that the festival became an unfestival.

Bruce Johnson It resulted from the police deciding to get tough to move them up to the curbing and probably jostled a few people, and as anyone would as being shoved and pushed with a stick and everything else, I suppose he responded and reacted. Supposedly someone who had a beret on gave the elbow to the, what is he, a lieutenant colonel, a Silver Star, and I guess that caused the reaction, and then two or three did it after then, because--

Studs Terkel What did they have in mind during that very tense moment there when the windows of the church were closed and the cops were pulling out rifles? What'd they have in mind?

Bruce Johnson The police?

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Bruce Johnson Well, obviously, I suppose the protection of the police and to get ready for snipers.

Bystander #8 I take extreme objection to your saying that the police were just ready to, you know, hit or do whatever they could when they asked people to get off the street. I mean, were you here at that moment?

Bruce Johnson Yeah. I don't think I said it the way you're saying it. They pushed people onto the curbs. Now at various times during the course of the afternoon, they have made the thrust of pushing to the curb and then people move out in the street and then they clear it again. They do this in cycles, and the last cycle was tougher than the other cycles, and I watched the different cycles, in the beginning they were nice guys, you know, "Please get off" and all this kind of thing, and then I think it was about the third clearing, they were quite explicit about it,

Bystander #8 Well, certainly if you had a child and you would ask the child to do whatever once, twice, three times, you might get a little more specific, a little more, you know, angry or a little louder. Now I feel that I did see it, and the police have a very good principle which they decided to use. The streets have to be cleared. I feel it was just a dumb thing to do. I wish they hadn't done it at all. I wish they hadn't even been here at all. I wish [mar?] McCutcheon had given the permit. I wish that that police helicopter had not constantly gone around. How we go about getting that, not standing here on a street corner and arguing and just waiting for a riot, I mean, that is obviously not the way to do it.

Bystander #9 It almost makes you want to cry, it's a damn shame. The sheer idiocy, you know, particularly that lieutenant. Had a mad, truculent attitude, though, right from the beginning.

Bystander #10 A bunch of assholes, that's--

Bystander #11 Well,

Bystander #9 Well, I'm going to find the kids and get out of here, I think. I think it's about time.

Studs Terkel The poster from tree to tree across Dayton Street, "Recordando a Borinquen," still stands. But it appears that the festival is over. I was away from the scene for about an hour and a half, it's now about seven-thirty, and I was away for some more tape and for a bite to eat, and it appears as though there's dancing in the streets. There seems to have been a switch in signals. Charlie Wheeler of the, covering the event for the "Sun-Times", is here. Charlie, what's happened?

Charlie Wheeler Well, I could quo--

Studs Terkel Happen while I was I was

Charlie Wheeler

Studs Terkel How I was

Charlie Wheeler Well, the big thing that happened is that Deputy Superintendent Parker acting on his own initiative decided to block off about 200 feet of Dayton Street to permit the people to dance in the street, which is what was requested a long time ago, and which was denied earlier today precipitating some tension.

Studs Terkel Oh, this is what happened. Now recount that to me again. I was away.

Charlie Wheeler Okay.

Studs Terkel Precisely what happened--

Charlie Wheeler Were you there for the bottle throwing?

Studs Terkel Yes, I was there during the trouble.

Charlie Wheeler Well, Deputy Superintendent Parker arrived on the scene about five o'clock, and he made some inquiries as to what was going on. He conferred with some of the leaders of the Young Lords, particularly David Rivera, and they reached kind of an agreement under which the people who were taken and charged with throwing bottles were released, and the Lords agreed to keep the people off the streets, and Parker, then, on his own initiative, on his own authority, decided to permit the dance in the street, and they blocked off about 200 feet of Dayton Street. And Alderman McCutcheon showed up and he said that he felt that the point had been made that you just can't take over a street without a permit. So that's what's been accomplished by all this. He also allowed as how he probably would not have let them use the street, he would have kept the streets open so traffic to go by. However, he would admit that Dayton Street is not one of the city's principal thoroughfares.

Studs Terkel And so there is dancing in the streets after all.

Charlie Wheeler There is dancing in the streets. I guess it must be a motto in all this that never do anything the easy way when you can do it the hard way.

Studs Terkel You wanted that music earlier, you said, "Don't

Festival Attendee #4 We got it 'til midnight they said. And

Studs Terkel You going to dance?

Festival Attendee #4 Dance 'til midnight.

Festival Attendee #5 Isn't this beautiful? They really let us have the street.

Studs Terkel And, so, the end of a day.

Bystander #12 Well, or the beginning of a long night, I don't know which.

Festival Attendee #6 Back in the old days, when the Italians used to throw their feast over here, everybody came. And as a result, they got a piece of Italian food and they learned a little bit about Italian culture, and Italians were a viable part of the community, and they were appreciated, and people respected them because of who they were, you know, not--they didn't stay away to, you know, and say, "Well, I'm not going there because, you know, the dagos are throwing a feast." You know. Everybody came, the food was good, the chianti was good, you know, and the girls looked good, and everybody had a ball, you know, and if the people would come to this type of festival over here, and then it just happens to be Puerto Ricans throw it, let them come, you know, and learn something about what goes on in, you know, a new culture that's being, you know, introduced into the community. You've got probably 17 different cultural groups here, you know. And this is the way to learn something about each other. You know.

Puerto Rican Song [content removed, see

Studs Terkel Alderman William Singer, the 44th Ward. His thoughts, or the role he did, didn't play in the Fiesta day.

William Singer Well, I got involved in this on Friday evening late, when a number of people who are friends or constituents or just people who are interested in Lincoln Park community called me and said that they were quite concerned about a confrontation developing over the dedication ceremonies at the Armitage Avenue church at the day care center which is sponsored by the Lords and some other people. I wanted to do whatever I could to see that this took place without a confrontation. You know, we've all had too much of that in Lincoln Park. It just seemed one of those situations where everyone had backed against the wall too far, and if we'd only sat down and talked a week or two earlier, people might have worked it out. But when people take these very hard positions, "I'm not going to give them their permit," or "They don't deserve a permit," or "We want a permit, it's ours, we have the right to have it," there's no way to work out any kind of a sensible alternative. And that's what happened here. One of the things that Alderman McCutcheon and others have insisted on was that the permit couldn't be granted unless there were some adult supervisory personnel or staff. That seemed to me a little archaic, a little out of place. After all, there was no adult supervision in effect of the construction of the day care center. It was there, it had been done by the people in the community, when I say 'adult,' these people I think are adults.

Studs Terkel Charlie Wheeler, the journalist who covered the entire event for "The Chicago Sun-Times" reported the end of the evening, the culmination. He covered it from the beginning to the very end, and he wrote: "The Young Lords, the people of the neighborhood and the police got along beautifully after the tenseness subsided when the Lords were allowed into the street. By agreement with Parker, the Young Lords halted the festivities promptly at 11:30 PM, and cleaned up the street before going home." And, so, an accidental documentary, "Fiesta: A Chicago Happening", August 23rd, 1969. My colleague and coproducer, Jim Unrath. They're still dancing in the middle of the street.