Madison, the second week of July, 1969.
Ald. Paul Soglin is found guilty of failing to obey a lawful police order at the Mifflin Street Block Party Riot in early May. As things were getting tense on that Saturday afternoon May 3rd, Soglin wanted to park on Mifflin Street – which police were purportedly keeping open — so he could monitor police and the arrests they were making. Police had other ideas, and ordered him to leave. When he didn’t, Sgt. Gordon Hons pulled him up and out of his rusty 1959 Triumph convertible, and arrested him for obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. Despite an eloquent argument from defense counsel Richard Cates that the police order to leave was not lawful, it takes a traffic court jury of six men and six women less than an hour to convict Soglin of the lesser charge. One female juror dissents, but only ten votes are necessary for conviction. The 24 yo faces a maximum $40 fine or up to thirty days in jail if he refuses to pay.
Quoted in a recent Look magazine profile calling himself “a radical, not a revolutionary,” Soglin is defiant, telling the council “I regret none of my actions.” Preparing to enter the UW Law School this fall after three years as a graduate student in history, Soglin says he would “not follow the orders of a police officer if in my judgment they are illegal and will worsen an already dangerous situation. I will never obey an illegal police order.”
Soglin was sharply critical assistant city attorney larry o’brien for suggesting in his closing statement that soglin was part of a conspiracy that intentionally caused the riot. “His insinuations leave me quite bitter,” Soglin said, challenging O’Brien and other officials that if they really believe that charge, “they have no recourse but to attempt to remove me from office.”
Soglin and twenty other defendants get better news from the criminal justice system when Judge Richard Bardwell rules that Madison Police broke the law when they arrested people for unlawful assembly on the riot’s second day. He dismisses the charges in the first four cases brought to trial; District Attorney James Boll drops the remaining 17, including Soglin’s. Police inspector Herman Thomas, in charge that whole weekend, had declared six blocks in the Bassett/Mifflin area to be an unlawful assembly area early Sunday afternoon, making anyone who didn’t leave when ordered to do so subject to arrest. But Bardwell says Thomas was “overly zealous” and rules the plain language of the statute defines unlawful assembly as a group of three or more persons which causes a disturbance, and can’t just be applied to an entire geographic area.
There are young heroes among us.
Madison Marine Sgt. David B Thompson is awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military combat decoration, for the conspicuous gallantry he displayed this January on one of the 23 long-range reconnaissance patrols he led during his year in Vietnam. Thompson is honored for his “heroic and timely actions” when an eight-man patrol he was leading was attacked deep within enemy territory. Leading a retreat while under fire, Thompson stopped to rescue his radio operator who had become tangled in jungle vines. During the ensuing helicopter rescue, he remained behind with two men who were unable to board, and directed their evasion maneuvers until the helicopter returned to evacuate them. In ceremonies in Gov. Warren Knowles’s office, Thompson also receives the Navy Commendation Medal. That’s for an incident in May 1968, when the helicopter his patrol was on was forced to land after being damaged by enemy fire. Thompson quickly established a defensive perimeter and rendered such skillful medical care to seven wounded Marines that he was “instrumental in saving their lives.” A slender man of moderate height, The 22yo native of richland center enlisted in the marine corps in 1965, was sent to Vietnam in January 1968. He was released from active duty in June, and is now working for his father’s east side plumbing company.
And Army First Lt Ricky B Brantmeyer, also 22, is awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat for continually exposing himself to hostile fire while suppressing an enemy attack northwest of Saigon. Lt. Brantmeyer, a graduate of west high school, has been released from active duty and will be attending the uw starting in the fall. His younger brother Airborne Specialist Jon Brantmeyer, 20, has been serving in a reconnaissance platoon for the past year. Their mother, Mrs Josephine Brantmeyer, lives at 2426 Commonwealth Ave
Aldermen should not belong to private clubs with racist restrictions on membership, say 505 west siders, signing a petition urging their alderman James Gill to resign from the white’s-only Elks club. The petition, signed even by some members of the club, also criticizes Gill for voting recently to grant the club a liquor license, when he should have abstained.
And Soul Brother No 1 meets the Mayor of Madison as James Brown burns down the Dane County Coliseum with Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud, Lickin Stick, and more. For many, the highlight Cold Sweat, especially when Brown cries “give the drummer some,” and Clyde Stubblefield laws down some fabulous funk. For most, the lowlight is the appearance by Mayor Bill Dyke, who interrupts the show to present Brown with a key to the city and a proclamation from the Equal Opportunities Commission saluting Brown for his work on racial cooperation and encouraging young people to stay in school. Milwaukee soul band Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds open the show, which draws about 6,000 on a Tuesday night.