Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
One of the more colorful disruptions of 1968 was "Resurrection City," an encampment built on the Mall by the Poor People's Campaign, a crusade begun by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before his assassination that year. The ramshackle collection of tents, plastic and plywood huts, assembled in May, became a sea of mud near the Lincoln Memorial before D.C. police cleared the scene. An excerpt from The Post of June 25, 1968:
By Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post Staff Writer
Resurrection City, muddy as usual and perspiring in heavy, humid air, fell before an overwhelming force of more than 1000 Metropolitan Policemen yesterday with a song, a dance and more than 100 arrests.
The symbol of the Poor People's Campaign was taken by the police without serious incident, 16 hours after the permit to occupy the Federal parkland expired.
Policemen dressed in riot helmets, flak jackets, and knee-high rubber boots and armed with shotguns, teargas grenades and other weapons moved among the wood and plastic huts of the city, but found only a dozen residents at home.
More than 100 were in the "culture tent" and the City Hall, waiting good naturedly to be arrested and taken away. None of the policemen's awesome weapons was ever used. . . .
The police began gathering around the Reflecting Pool before dawn. They sat through a muggy morning and a sudden rain, listening to the oft-repeated announcement read to residents of the camp through police microphones:
"The permit for use of this property has expired. You must leave the camp by 10:40 this morning to avoid arrest and prosecution. If you have no other means of returning home, you will be provided free bus transportation by the Travelers' Aid Society."
But the police did not expect this order to be widely accepted. They were gathered in long columns, most of them at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, looking like the unassembled units of a gigantic parade. They shuffled about nervously; some snapped their fingers in time to the songs of the remaining Resurrection City residents' broadcast over the City's public address system.
These songs and the noise of jets leaving National Airport were all one heard as the armed men of the Civil Disturbance Unit, dressed like spacemen from a science-fiction extravaganza, moved to the edge of the city. Then, at Chief Layton's signal, a man climbed a power-line pole and cut the current to Resurrection City. The sound of the singing stopped abruptly. . . .
A few residents were found and arrested. Several huts apparently were booby-trapped; two caught fire when their doors were opened, and a third spouted tear gas. . . .
Policemen ripped plywood panels off huts or pierced plastic roofs and windows, checking for occupants and weapons. . . .
But there were no incidents. When the police reached the large groups at the center of the city, they found them still singing, still clapping hands and full of smiles. They submitted to arrest in an orderly fashion, had their pictures taken with Polaroid cameras and were marched off to waiting buses. A few went limp and were carried.
The operation ended as it began, with Chief Layton holding a brief "press conference." He explained that the operation had been so large because "you could not foresee that there would be so little difficulty."
Late yesterday, Interior Department workers and representatives of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference began to dismantle Resurrection City, the city of hope, now defunct.
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