by Paul Krassner
November 11, 2007
Although the leadership of the Yippies (Youth International Party) in
1968 was virtually all white, Jerome Washington became the first
black Yippie organizer. We had bonded at the Pentagon demonstration
when we were both pissing on a wall of the Justice Building and were
suddenly blinded by tear gas and had to help each other up a hill.
Now a Chicago cop asked Jerome if he was a Black Panther.
"I'm a Black American," he replied.
Nevertheless, his FBI file would falsely state that he was the
liaison between the Yippies and the Panthers. Actually, he had worked
behind the scenes, essentially to get permission from the Blackstone
Rangers, the largest black gang in Chicago, for the protesters to
come to their city.
"We could never have come if they hadn't okayed it," he told me.
"They really owned those streets."
When he returned from security work with Yippie organizer Wolfe
Lowenthal at the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, the
Mobilization Against the War (Mobe) asked Jerome to look into the
security set-up in Chicago. He had been in the Army with some of the
Blackstone Rangers, and knew others. He believed that the
demonstrators could do nothing in Chicago without their permission,
so he contacted Ranger headquarters first, then took a bus to Chicago
a few weeks before the Democratic convention. He met with Mobe's
Rennie Davis, who told him that the city had suggested that
protesters use a certain pier. Jerome checked it out.
"No," he warned Davis. "It would be too easy for them to seal us out
on the pier -- we'd be a quarter-mile out in the lake -- a trap."
Next he checked out Lincoln Park.
"It was ideal," he told me. "Near Old Town, our kind of folks. Open
on all sides. A beach nearby, good escape routes across the drive.
Most of all, it had the zoo. I always wanted to go to the zoo since I
was a kid and watched Zoo Parade on TV. It took two days to set up a
meeting with the Blackstone Rangers. Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis and
others at the Chicago Mobe office were scared shitless of them. The
Rangers had a reputation for killing people, on schedule."
Jerome was told of a meeting spot, he went there, was met and taken
to the South side, where he was left with others in a bar, then
picked up and taken to another place, where he was frisked, then
taken to meet the leaders of the Rangers.
"The whites can come in," they told him, "but if any black people get
hurt, the Stones will step in and fuck up a lot of hippies. They
referred to all white youth as hippies."
The Blackstone Rangers told Jerome that they would set up "safe
zones" two blocks on each side of any march routes. Any whites
marching south in the safe zone would be safe from muggers. Even a
lone white would be left alone. The Stones would be checking on the
protesters every day. And, sure enough, there were always two or
three of them in Lincoln Park, just observing. They had the whole
town mapped out into sections, and Jerome maintained contact with one
of the captains, September Red. Old Town was his turf.
"I can't say it was all my doing," Jerome said, "but Mobe and others
were uptight about the Stones, and I was one of the very few blacks
in the movement at that time."