Chapter 23: With Andrea Eagan and Newsreel, 1970 (v)
Lala was also one of the women who participated in the women’s takeover of the underground newsweekly Rat around this time. Rat’s willingness to use hip pornographic images of the female body to increase its circulation and the relegating of its women staff members to shitwork roles angered Rat women and other radical feminists within the Movement. So led by Robin Morgan and Jane Alpert, the Rat office was taken over by women. The male Rat underground journalists were soon eased out of editorial positions. Over the next few months, Rat became a non-commercial voice of the early 1970s radical Women’s Liberation Movement.
At this time, Jane Alpert was out on bail after being charged with joining Sam Melville in some kind of bombing conspiracy. Sam had been locked up a few months earlier and charged by an agent-provocateur named “Crazy” George Demmerele, the head of the Lower East Side’s anti-war “Crazies” group, with plotting to bomb a National Guard armory truck. At first, Jane Alpert and Rat had indicated that the bombing conspiracy charge against Sam, Jane and two others was a frame-up. And when Jane Alpert spent an evening meeting with High School Student Union women in late January in my W.16th St. apartment, Movement people had still not been told by her that the bombing charges against her and Sam were not total fabrications. Nor did she hint that she was going to go underground prior to her trial.
Alpert had attended Columbia graduate school but had not been active in the Movement there. After the April 1968 student revolt, she became involved in the Strike Committee’s Community Action Committee that started the Columbia Tenants Union, which attempted to mobilize more community residents to actively resist Columbia’s gentrification policies. In the Community Action Committee, Alpert met Sam Melville and she soon moved down to the Lower East Side to live with him.
On the Lower East Side, Alpert began to write for Rat. Although I was impressed with the articles that Alpert was writing for Rat at this time and I felt that she must be doing politically effective work if the government wished to jail her, I found Alpert to be much colder and elitist in her personality than most other Movement women. There was something about the vibes she gave off that made me uneasy; and I thought it strange that she had not been involved in Columbia SDS before the ’68 revolt, despite her current level of political militancy. But I did not suspect her of being a potential Movement turncoat.
In February 1970 the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial verdict and the contempt sentencing of Abbie, Dave Dellinger, Hayden, Kunstler and the others were announced. Large numbers of anti-war youth and white radical youth responded with militant street protest in New York City that included trashing and breaking of windows. Street tactics that had been considered adventurist when utilized by the Weathermen in October 1969 were now considered respectable by Movement people, after the guilty and contempt verdicts were decreed by Judge Hoffman’s Conspiracy Trial courtroom.
The night before “The Day After” demos around the United States to protest the Conspiracy Trial verdict, Howie and I did some spray painting, for a few minutes, on bank windows in Midtown Manhattan. We were stopped by a cop car and were warned not to get caught with a spray paint can again if we wished to avoid an arrest next time. The following afternoon I joined thousands of other anti-war militants outside 100 Centre St. When I bumped into a group of my old Richmond College Social Change Commune friends as the demo was gathering, I realized that the demo was going to be large.
The anti-war people were in a militant mood and we started to block traffic. Very quickly the cops started to charge into us with horses and clubs, forcing people to run towards the side streets. In the confusion, Florrie grabbed my hand for a few minutes, as we were pushed closer together by the threat of the approaching cops, since she wanted a comrade to clutch on to, in the middle of the police attack. Florrie and I managed to avoid being hit by any of the clubs and we got away. Once she had escaped, she let go of my hand and we were soon separated from each other, as more of the anti-war militants began to scatter in a confused way, some throwing rocks at store windows and cop cars, as we all ran.
In mid-February, Newsreel decided to open an office in Chicago and it was collectively agreed that Steve would move out there and help set it up. Once Steve had moved out of the W.16th St. apartment, I felt less interested in living there anymore. The apartment pretty much became defined by Howie’s scene. And although it was fun getting stoned with Howie and doing anti-capitalist things spontaneously (like unsuccessfully attempting to gatecrash into a rock concert at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East theatre one night), I felt I should move on when Steve moved on to Chicago. So in early March, I began to crash at an East 6th St. apartment which my sister was subletting from a Movement person who was visiting Cuba for a few months.
Prior to my move to the Lower East Side from Chelsea, I became briefly involved with an anti-war nursing student who lived in one of Columbia’s dormitories near Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. But, after a few weeks, I realized that I was too hung-up on Florrie to become more deeply involved with the anti-war nursing student.
James and the Twenty-Seven Bicycles
8 years ago