Madison in the Sixties – October, 1966
Two events of note on the 13th.
The city council rejects a request from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to set up a card table at 613 University Ave. to solicit signatures on a petition protesting the use of napalm in Vietnam. “The Council doesn’t want to go on record for use of sidewalks for such a purpose,” says Ald. Milo Flaten in moving to reject the request. But the council does approve a request from the East Side Kiwanis Club to raise money by selling candy on the sidewalk in front of the Security State Bank at s Corners.46
And radical organizer Saul Alinsky, whose Industrial Areas Foundation recently organized poor blacks in Rochester, New York, discusses the politics of poverty, the meaning of black power, and why it’s a mistake to link the antiwar movement with efforts to organize poor Blacks, in an appearance before a capacity Union Theater crowd. “The peace movement is not an issue in the ghetto,” he says, as many poor persons of color find the armed forces a better alternative to going jobless. “A lot of them would like to see the bomb dropped if it would fall on their white oppressors,” he says.
The author of Reveille for Radicals and a biography of John L. Lewis, he decries the dichotomy of color to denote value. “Anytime we use a color, anything horrible is always black,” he notes. “Black tragedy, a dreary black day. All the angels are white.” And he explains why change always brings conflict. “Change means movement; movement means friction; friction means heat, and heat means conflict.” And he tells his overwhelmingly white audience that its role is to be a supportive ally, not the primary protagonist: “People cannot get equality by having others do it for them,” he says. “They can get it only be getting strong enough to take it.”
About two o’clock the next morning, a major development in the decade-long battle over a Frank Lloyd Wright designed public auditorium at Law Park, as the City Council votes 15–7 to approve a contract with the Wright Foundation to draft a Monona Basin Master Plan, featuring an auditorium for up to twenty- five hundred, exhibition and banquet space for up to three thousand, and a small theater, recital hall, and art gallery of ten thousand square feet.
And on the 27th, a pivotal event in the antiwar movement, as Sen. Edward Kennedy comes to the UW Stock Pavilion to help the gubernatorial campaign of long-time family friend Pat Lucey – and runs afoul of the Committee to End the War in Vietnam, which had vowed not to let any federal official speak on campus, in any capacity.
The committee manages to get members on stage directly behind Kennedy, their antiwar chants picked up by his microphone, their placards in his photographs. More members are out among the capacity crowd of about 4,000.
Given a standing ovation as he rises to speak, Kennedy is immediately interrupted with catcalls and shouts of “talk about the war.” Unable to continue, Kennedy finally invites CEWV chair Robin David up to the podium. David speaks for nearly ten minutes, reiterating the Socialist Workers Party slogan, “Bring the troops home now,” but he’s unprepared to debate a United States Senator and obviously outmatched by the charismatic Kennedy.
Aware that Kennedy is winning the room, CEWV leaders quickly decide to disrupt his speech with continued heckling, which spreads.[i] Down front, Lea Zeldin starts in with Some of the loudest and most urgent shouts of the afternoon. “I have four sons,” she cries out, “and I don’t want them to die in Asia.” A student tries to silence her with a coat over her head, but she throws it off and keeps it up for nearly thirty minutes, until Kennedy gives up, unable to finish his remarks on behalf of the liberal, pro-student Lucey.
Reaction is swift and unanimous in condemning the action, which UW President Fred Harvey Harrington and the Daily Cardinal both call “disgraceful.” Over 8000 students sign a letter of apology, as does a unanimous city council. State senator Fred Risser warns – correctly — that conservatives controlling state government will cite this incident in pushing to cut the university’s budget.
Although CEWV does not direct the widespread heckling after Kennedy dismissed David, the group initiated the overall action, and so gets the blame. The Wisconsin Student Association puts the CEWV on probation its role in the protest; many regents say they wanted the discipline to have been more serious. WSA Senator Paul Soglin says there shouldn’t have been any discipline at all.
The faculty’s Student Conduct and Appeals Committee holds a special Saturday session and declares that deliberately interfering with a university-sanctioned speech “may constitute grounds for university disciplinary action, not excluding the possibility, in flagrant or repeated cases, of suspension of expulsion.” The next day, the powerful University Committee holds a special session and votes to create new policies and procedures to protect the rights to speak and hear.[ii]
In December, the faculty overwhelmingly adopts a new rule forbidding obstruction, section 11.02 of the University Rules and Regulations, with no ambiguity about its cause. “This may be called the Ted Kennedy section,” says its chief drafter, political science professor David Fellman.[iii]
The resolution adopting the rule, immediately binding on the Madison campus, states that those attending a program sponsored by a campus group “have the duty not to obstruct it, and the university has the obligation to protect the right to listen and participate.” Exactly what those terms mean, Fellman says, will be up to the dean of students and the Student Life and Interests Committee.
Fifty weeks after the Kennedy incident, it is to enforce the Kennedy rule that Chancellor William Sewell will call on the Madison Police Department to clear the Commerce Building on October 18, 1967, drawing first blood in the Battle of Dow. That’s how history happens.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, vaccine-taking, mask-wearing listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo of Robin David, et al by L. Roger Turner, courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, WH-I Image 138229
Photo of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy et al, courtesy Neal Ulevich.
[i] Stark interview, War at Home papers, Box 4, Folder 27; Stark email, July 14, 2017.
[ii] Faculty Document 96, 4; “Future UW Hecklers May Face Discipline,” WSJ, October 29, 1966; Faculty Document 96, 5, October 30, 1966; “Heckling Spurs Request by UW Group for Rules,” WSJ, October 30, 1966; William Mullen, “UW Hecklers Isolated Selves, Professor Says,” WSJ, October 31, 1966; Pommer, “Faculty Maps ‘Right to Listen’ Policy,” CT, October 31, 1966.
[iii] Gribble, “New Policy Will Protect Speaker from Hecklers at UW Facilities,” WSJ, November 17, 1966; Sinks, “Speaker, Listener Rights Reaffirmed by ‘U’ Faculty,” DC, December 13, 1966; Behnke, “UW Faculty Approves Anti-Heckling Rules,” WSJ, December 13, 1966; “Faculty Adopts New Speaker Policy Rules,” Wisconsin Alumnus 68, no. 4 (January 1967): 22–23.