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"Power to the people! Power to the People!" The crowd roared with raised fists. The campus quad was a sea of students who had gathered at the amphitheater for a political demonstration.
A speaker continued his speech, his voice echoing between the surrounding buildings of higher learning. "We cannot allow this university to continue its policies of racism; its support of the military industrial complex by supporting the war in Viet Nam, the ROTC, and the draft; and to deny us of our civil right of free speech. This university is a microcosm of our society and our government. A government founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A government that currently refuses to listen to the will of the people. Is there only one way for the voice of the people to be heard?—A revolution! I say give back the power to the people!" He raised his hand in a fist as a cheer erupted.
"The people have spoken!" He shouted over the roar of the crowd.
"Then be it so," he continued as soon as the crowd quieted down. "For when a government refuses to listen to its people it is truly time for that government to go up in a blaze of glory." With these words the speaker took an American flag then set it on fire.
The flag was soon engulfed in flames. The crowd cheered as they all watched it burn. He waved the burning flag high into the air, a symbol of our nation going up in flames. The smoke from the burning flag rose between the tall university buildings and into the clear blue sky on this typical warm Southern California spring day.
The quad was in the center of campus. It served as the heart and soul of the university due not only to its central location, but also because it was the hub of activity for college life. It was surrounded by various buildings housing mostly classrooms but also offices or research facilities for different departments or schools. A large library stood at one end of the quad and a theater at the other. The largest structure on campus was the administration building looming over the quad like some overlord of the school. Some of the older buildings were made of red brick, but the more modern ones were constructed of white concrete. It had a fairly modern look, for this was not an old campus. It was constructed mostly in the post war 1950s and '60s when California led in education and the population was growing at rapid rates. Large areas of grass and trees lined sidewalks with benches every few feet connecting the buildings to each other. The university offered a sense of isolation from the outside world in much the same way most typical campuses did. No cars, parking lots, or streets were visible from inside the campus, and no other buildings could be seen over the tall buildings housing this place of higher learning.
"The war in Viet Nam must end," the speaker continued as the smoldering flag lay on the ground at his feet. "We have voiced our demands by our protests and demonstrations to no avail. Our voices will be heard! As a nation we have supported the war not only by the lives of our citizens and our military might but by our actions. Why are we at war? The mighty American Oil Co. has oil rights in the east. The Bank of the United States has been supporting the war with loans, loans to American Oil and others to help secure their interest in oil for future profits. Let them know we want the war in Viet Nam to end. Let them know we want peace. This war must stop!" The speaker raised his arms while the crowd erupted in another cheer.
"What right do we have to interfere in a civil war in another country? What right do we have to force our views, policies, politics, and way of life on another country?" He paused as the crowd cheered. "We have no right. We have no right to force our ways onto another nation. We have no right to be the bully on the block of this planet we call Earth. Why must we be the police force of the world? "He paused again. "This is a war of power. America wants to show its might and power in the world, and American politicians are using this war to show the world that we are strong. This war is none of our business. We would not be there if it were not for oil. Many other nations in the world have problems, but do we get involved with them? No! This is not a fight against Communism. This war is not about making the world safe for Democracy. This is not about 'Truth, Justice, and The American Way'. This is about money and Capitalism and American Imperialism. I say to you—Stop the War!"
The crowd roared with approval, and then started shouting, "Stop the war!" as he stepped back.
After a few moments the next speaker stepped forward, paused to let the crowd chant, raised his hands to quiet the crowd, and then continued. "This war is not about Democracy. It is about power and money. But do not be fooled!" Making the world safe for Democracy is just the smoke screen that our government wants us to believe. Even if it were about these ideologies, these principles of Democracy and Capitalism, who are we to impose our way on someone else? On another nation? They try to keep us believing in this cause, and they do this by using fear: fear of Communism; fear of Socialism; fear of other religions, peoples, and cultures; fear of another way of life. Fear can be a powerful tool. But do not be misled, this is not about ideology. This is about power. This is about money. This is about oil. Banks that are financing the war are near. We must let the nation know that this is unacceptable. We must end this war now!"
Again the crowd shouted a chorus of "Stop the War!" repeating it many times. The speaker stepped back while another speaker stepped forward to take the podium.
"We are here today to change the policies of America as well as the policies here at our own university, for if we want America to change, we must start in our own back yard. We know that this very university is a training ground for officers. The R.O.T.C. is training officers for the military right here on our campus. This we cannot tolerate. This must come to an end."
"R.O.T.C. off campus!" The crowd shouted.
"We also have many other issues here in America that need to be dealt with: racism, poverty, education. Let them know we want justice for all. This is a struggle for power and money. For us, it must begin here at our university.
Our own campus displays racism with a lack of professors of ethnic minorities, and the failure to recognize the need for black studies programs and women studies programs. Programs we have continually asked for. We must set the example and let our dissatisfaction be known.
We must deliver our demands and not leave until they have been met. We must show the world we have spoken. We will not take no for an answer. Therefore until our demands are met our only recourse is to go on strike. Our only alternative is to shut it down!"
With these words the whole crowd erupted in a chorus of, "On Strike! Shut it down! On Strike! Shut it down!" The voices reverberated between the buildings creating an even louder echo.
The speakers descended from the podium. They locked arms then walked through the center of the crowd which parted to allow them to pass. The crowd turned and followed them chanting, "On Strike! Shut it down!" They left the quad and walked toward the administration building.
Helicopters were flying overhead. The crowd's attention was drawn upward to see the line of policemen in riot gear lining the tops of every building—guns drawn. Inside the Administration building the faces of people, thought mostly to be administrators and professors, were watching in anticipation.
This was a real political demonstration like the ones from the sixties. But this was not the sixties, this was the seventies, and there were still some battles to be fought. Along with the crowd there were two students, Michael Stewart and Jason Tucker, caught up in the excitement. They didn't know each other, but the two of them had watched, listened, chanted, and now followed as the crowd walked toward the administration building. It was like a newsreel from the past. But it was not the past, it was not a newsreel. It was the present, and it was real.
The crowd turned the corner approaching the administration building only to be confronted by a sea of police in riot gear—gas masks on, guns drawn, ready for action. The police had formed a line at the top of the stairs leading up to the main entrance.
The crowd walked to the bottom of the stairs and stopped, still chanting "On Strike! Shut it down!"
The sound of a bullhorn pierced through the roar of the crowd, "You must disburse. This is an unlawful assembly. By order of the University, the City of Los Angeles, and the state of California you have been ordered to disburse."
The crowd went silent. It was a standoff.
After what seemed an eternity the bullhorn spoke again, "You have been warned. You have five minutes to disburse or action will be taken. This will be your last warning."
Jason, who had been following the crowd, was now a little worried, unsure of what he should do next. He was frozen there as if time stood still, curious as to the outcome, afraid to leave because of the angry crowd and what they might do, and afraid to stay because of what the police might do.
The police began to advance down the stairs. The crowd held its ground; many sat down and locked arms to further demonstrate their protest by instigating a sit it. The police began grabbing protesters. They tried to get them to stand in order to place them under arrest. Angry protesters at the front began hitting the police, screaming obscenities as they were dragged away. Others went limp, making it difficult for the police to take them away. Police threw a tear gas canister into the crowd—pandemonium began. Students scattered in all directions, police on their heels.
Jason wasn't sure where to run, but he knew that he must.
Just then a hand grabbed him, "Follow me." The stranger pulled him by the arm. Jason turned. He recognized a student in one of his music classes. Jason followed him across the campus quad, between the buildings, through the parking lot, and across the street, running and panting all the way. They began to slow as distance separated them from the demonstration. Eventually it turned into a walk as they both felt comfortable and far enough from harm's way. Soon they were off campus, but they were still cautious, constantly looking behind them to see if anyone was following. A few of the students had taken a similar route, but mostly the street was filled with students coming and going to class—unaware of the assault. They could still hear the noise of the crowd and the voices from the bullhorns echoing from the tall buildings just a short distance away, but the noise faded as the distance became greater.
"I live in an apartment building just down the street. I suggest we hang out there till this thing blows over," Mike offered, still walking.
Jason nodded in agreement. "OK," he said panting.
They stopped in the courtyard of the apartment building which was more like a college dorm, even though it was off campus. They turned to see if they were being followed; they saw only the usual students coming from or going to class.
They looked around to see what appeared to be just another spring day in Los Angeles, a day not unlike any other, where it always seemed like the weather was warm and sunny—never changing. But the weather, just like the times, had changed. It was the seventies, both in the temperature and date. A seemingly insignificant time in itself compared to the decade before when the violent storms of the sixties seemed a thing of the past. It was a time when the hardships of the decade past had brought about many changes just as spring changes bring new life after a winter of hardship. And just as a stormy winter turns into a mild spring, the sixties had turned into the seventies. Life was returning to normal after a turbulent past. A past that had spilled over from the storms of the last decade with this day a remnant and a remembrance of times past with some battles still unresolved.
It was through politics and music that Jason Tucker and Mike Stewart met on that spring day of 1971. Although they had taken a few classes together at the Los Angeles University, their paths had not crossed until this day of politics and changing times. Whether it was fate or just coincidence, it was a chance meeting where the past would have some influence on their future. They were about to begin a new episode in each of their lives just as spring brings about renewal and change.
"Man, what a trip. That was fucking close. Are you OK?" Mike asked.
"Uh, Yeah," Jason responded, "I didn't expect it to get so crazy."
"This is like the old days!" Mike exclaimed. "I thought we were all over this shit. Ya know, the demonstrations and all."
"Uh huh, that was pretty wild," Jason agreed still a bit out of breath.
The two stopped. They were silent as they both reflected on what had just occurred.
"I'm Mike, Mike Stewart. I think it best we lay low until all this is over. This is where I live. Wanna join me?" He unlocked the door to his apartment.
"Thanks, you're probably right." Jason turned to follow him.
"Come on in," Mike opened the door and motioned for Jason to join him.
The two entered the apartment exhausted and out of breath.
It was a small one bedroom apartment that looked like a typical student pad. The walls were covered with psychedelic '60s posters, a concert poster from the Rolling Stones tour, and a few other posters of various rock bands announcing tours or engagements. Jason took a seat on the sofa. In front of him was a large construction spool which sat in the middle of the living room and functioned as a coffee table. It was covered with guitar picks, magazines, old beer bottles, and ashtrays filled with cigarette butts and marijuana roaches. On one wall, bookcases made from cinder blocks and pieces of board housed his stereo, some books, and an extensive collection of albums. Various guitars, both acoustic and electric, on stands lined the other wall in what should have been the dining room; an amplifier stood in the corner. A frameless single mattress and box spring was on the floor in one corner where Mike obviously slept. Jason noticed a door to the bedroom.
"That's where my roommate Doug sleeps. He's the guitar player in the band I'm in. We share the place. Actually it was his place first, but when we started playing together he let me crash here since I needed a place to live. It's just temporary until we can get a two bedroom or something larger. I do pay him some rent though which helps him out. He gets the bedroom unless we have chicks over. Then it's kind of a free for all. But he lets me use the bed if he's alone and it's just me and a chick." He paused "What's your name?"
"Jason, Jason Tucker," he replied.
"I recognized you from Advanced Musical Composition, and from a recital I saw. You really play beautifully" Mike took a seat on the sofa.
"Thanks. I thought you looked familiar," Jason now recognized him from class.
Mike was tall and thin with black shoulder length hair. He wore his Levis and Rolling Stones concert T-shirt like a true rocker, and with his rock star good looks he certainly fit the part.
"As you can see music is my life." Mike said. "Someday I hope to make a career out of it. You know rock and roll. That's why I was taking the class, to learn more about music theory and composing. You must have musical aspirations as well."
"Yeah, I hope to make a career of it as well; playing, composing, or arranging, maybe even for the movies doin' soundtracks or something. I really love my music. I hope to be a professional some day."
"Far out man. Hey. Let's check out what's happening." Mike walked over and turned on the small TV "See if there's anything about the demonstration on the news. I saw the news cameras on campus when we were there." A blurry picture with a lot of snow came on the screen. Mike adjusted the wire hanger which served as an antenna to see if he could get better reception. He hit the side a couple of times. Finally a faint picture began to take shape. The voice of a newscaster spoke out.
"Campus demonstration erupts in violence," the news anchor said. "And now for some live footage of the event."
Excerpted from HOLLYWOOD THE BAND by STEVEN JORDAN BROOKS Copyright © 2012 by Steven Jordan Brooks. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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