April 8, 1968: Militants Gather On Green, Yale Closed In King Tribute

Two thousand blacks marched to the Green Friday to hear 16 local leaders tell them “The King is dead” in a highly militant public demonstration.

The crowd applauded and cheered the more militant of the speakers who tied King’s death to the death of non-violence, while giving only perfunctory applause to the few speakers who advocated continuation of King’s tactics.

Fist speaker was Fred Harris of the Hill Parents Association, who said King had been “struck down by the same beast that has been paralyzing us for 400 years.”

‘Not a Joke’

Harris said, “The beast is ready to destroy us, “ and told the crowd “It’s not a joke any more, it’s the real thing — it’s just like Vietnam being right here in New Haven.”

He was followed by John Barber of Hartford, who said, “I come here not to bury Martin nor to mourn him, but to be the harbinger of our fire and blood.”

“Martin was our Moses, and Montgomery was our Red Sea, but it took Joshua and his sword to break down the walls,” Barber said.

Less Militant Speakers

He was followed by several less militant speakers, including the Rev. Abdul Karim of Mosque 40, who told the crowd to “work in peace among ourselves; then we’ll gain the help and respect of the world, I think;” and Joan Thornell, who advocated a general boycott. She advised the crowd “stay home and don’t do anything; this country will come to a halt.”

J. Roy Green of Operation Breakthrough said, “We’re going to bring whitey to his knees tonight. We shall not overcome, we shall burn!”

The Rev. Edwin R. Edmonds, the only one of the speakers who stressed non-violence and nevertheless got more than perfunctory applause, said, “It would be a great sacrilege if we were to give vent to what burns in our breast. This is not the way of Martin Luther King.”

Unity, Self-Love Stressed

Most of the speakers stressed the need for black unity, and almost all addressed the crowd (all black except for a few Yale students on the periphery) as “brothers and sisters.”

The Rev. Edward Rodman of St. Paul’s told the crowd to move “not out of hate and revenge but out of self-love,” and concluded that “America is under judgement, and I pray to God that black people will come together and recognize that it is not all in our hands.”

In the closing speech, Black Coalition chairman Henry Parker said, “Some of you who’ve been colored, some of you who’ve been Negro, we ask you to come over to the black.”

No Classes Meet Today

Reaction to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King continued in the Yale community as President Kingman Brewster announced Saturday that the University will be closed today as a tribune to the Negro leader.

Other related weekend activities included memorial services for King on Friday and Palm Sunday, and circulation of a petition to be sent to Congress from the Yale and New Haven communities.

Brewster announced the closing “out of respect for the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King and rededication to his ideals…” Only “essential services such as heating, electricity, and dining halls will remain operative. All classes are cancelled and University offices closed.

The Rev. William Sloane Coffin was in Memphis during the weekend, and returned Sunday to speak for 45 minutes in Battell’s Plam Sunday service on King’s “burden of divinity.”

Comparing King to the Apostle Paul, Coffin said the Negro leader “bore on his body marks of our Lord Jesus Christ…, took up the burden of his divinity, set himself free to strive for freedom … till at least, on Thursday this freest of all men was killed by white slaves.”

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