The Mulford Act
The day they turned the Berkeley campus into an armed camp, I went out to check the action and saw these two young kids, one white, one black, walking and rapping. A competent black gas mask was dangling from the white kid's hand. I angled to get ahead of them for a front shot, but heard them talking, changed my mind, drew up and asked them where the main masses were. They figured Bancroft and Telegraph, and we decided to cut through campus to get there. When we passed Oxford the black kid dropped out. "See you later," the white one yelled as we crossed the street and went on together.
"I've gotta find my little brother," he said, "he's six, he shouldn't be here."
"Where do you think we'll find him?"
"Where the action is."
"At his age?"
"Yep. My kid sister thinks he went up with some friends."
"How old you?"
"Shit, man. Kids your age . . . That gas mask yours?"
"Yep. My sister gave it to me, she's nineteen, she's moving out to go live with her boy friend."
"Is she how you come by being a radical?"
"Partly. My whole family is radical, my parents are radical. "
"It sure does help to have radical parents," I told him, thirty, remembering.
The first road into the campus had two squads of Blue Meanies; we didn't even bother to try. Walked past, took a reading, doubled back, took a shot, walked on. He asked me about exposure settings.
"Did you work at People's Park?" I asked him.
"And the Annex?"
"Yep. I had a tree there; I planted it."
"What happened to it?"
“They ripped it up. I had a patch of pumpkins in, and a patch of corn, had it coming along. They ripped it all up."
"This was at the Park?"
"Yep. Our whole family was there. It was at Dwight; they had shotguns. Some pig was gonna hit me, and my dad hit him and we split."
"Plant anything at the Annex?"
"No, it was the only day our parents went without us."
We turned in at the second path, where they were letting some students through. But they stopped us, six boys in burly blue and gleaming helmet-hoods and a short man in green exoskeleton who hurried about like a beetle. Did we have reg cards? No? Then we couldn't come on campus. "Not even to look for my brother? "
"You can't go on campus unless you're a student." We turned away.
"That's cold," said my friend.
"Yeah. Let's try farther on." We headed for West Gate. "Where you go to school?"
He named a well-known public school. "Many of the kids there radical?"
"How do you mean?"
""I dunno, however you see it. But more than just hair."
"I guess most are radical then. Either because their parents are sort of radical, or because that's just the way they want to be." The path through West Gate was clear; people were strolling in and out. We headed up the long central artery toward the Campanile. He went on, "I wouldn't of come up here today except for my brother. I'm supposed to be at home, not sposed to go out for two weeks."
"Well, I was up here on Wednesday with a whole bunch of guys, and I got home late and forgot to cook dinner. My dad was sore. Then yesterday it happened again; we got tangled up near the tear-gassing, and I didn't get home till six. They get home at five, and Dad saw there wasn't any dinner again and said, 'All right ... ‘ and I couldn't go out for a week. Then later my friends came by, and I shinnied out the window and down the vine, but I got caught. That made it two."
"Cooking your share of the housework?"
"Yep. I like to cook, and I don't like washing."
Three men from a clot of blue moved to intercept. Behind them was the green beetle. "I want you to arrest them," he was chittering, "they were warned by Lieutenant Flan not to come onto the campus ... " They took my I.D., called for the booking officer on their transistors. I thought, "Shit, what a hassle, we'll miss rehearsal."
The beetle kept chittering. The kid and I ignored him, went into our act: minimal, frank, good-willed. The kid explained about his brother, reasonably; I let him take the lead in handling them. "What's your name?"
"What's your brother's name?"
"What are you doing here, fellow?"
"I was escorting him to look for his brother."
“Where do you live, kid?"
"He's very concerned about his little brother, sir," I said to the top cop, venturing a look of mild disapproval at how the sergeant was badgering him. The kid was quiet, reasoned, the image of self-control. Niggers to a T, precisely calculating the shade of abasement. They aren't fooled, though they can't be sure; but it pleases them if you grovel a bit, as long as you don't overdo it.
"Why do you have that camera?" he demanded.
"I take pictures," I said, "it's what I do," as the one behind me started pawing through my bag.
Without comment he pulled out film, lens, kazoo, hooded glasses to muffle my eyes from the tear gas, plastic bag filled with wet cloth to breath through. "Got any rocks in here?" We eyed the gas guns, their cartridges, black leather and technology, the riot guns, their shells. They looked at my necklace, my facecloth, and the kid's gas mask. "Get off campus. Straight down there, don't stop. If we see you again we'll arrest you."
We stepped back smartly the way we came. "Jerks," said the kid, "they make me so mad." His voice was completely level, he was lagging a stone with his toe in the gutter. "That search bullshit."
"Not worth getting busted for," I said, "not now at least." He nodded. "You haven't been in jail, have you?"
"Oh yes," he said, "twice, in Oakland." "What for?" I asked, having caught myself again presuming.
"Once was for 'lewd and immoral conduct' or something; they caught me with two quarts of beer. The other was 'breaking and entering,' only what it was, I was trying to look into the window of my school after it closed and the watchman caught me. They're all the same."
"You shouldn't be surprised at anything they do, you really freak them. Me they can sort of understand, or they think they can, and kids from like nineteen to twenty-five here. I mean, we look like grubby weirdos and you can tell we're long lost; they've given up on talking to us. But seeing you must really freak them out, they can't believe you at all. Dig it, man, you look like a cherub, nothing wrong with you that a haircut and some straightening up wouldn't fix. And you're twelve?!"
"Yep," he said, "and there were a bunch of us out, along with the high school kids. I'm lucky he didn't recognize me from yesterday."
"You were throwing rocks too?"
"Oh yeah. Threw a choke chain, caught this pig on the head. Because he hit my dog with a rock. Burnt my hand all to heck on a canister throwing it back." He took two pull rings from gas grenades out of his pocket and held them out for my inspection. "And I broke three windows in the Chancellor's office."
We met Zelda coming up the way, fresh from the arraignment of yesterday's casualties. She was calm and full of anger, the flush of high energy in her cheeks. The tang of tear gas lingered in the air from all the shady places. I sneezed. She told us they had been coming into court all morning barely able to function, "big strong guys too, all battered. One with his teeth all knocked in. When we finally got a doctor into jail he said he had five hours to get to a hospital and save any." The kid sneezed. We looked back to see if they were coming after us. "I'm surprised," she said, "that somebody didn't throw a bomb into a knot of them yesterday." We both nodded. "So far I'm chicken to myself, but if this keeps on . . . I wish ... " The wind stirred the delicate hair on her cheeks and the V of her breasts. Up the walk, guards began drifting our way.
We almost made it through the last cordon, but it was right across from the armory and some of them were eager for games. The kid and I weny through our whole bit again: worried diligent brother, disinterested protector. This time they were faster, harder, hassled us both. "You don't expect us to believe that, kid." They took his gas mask; he surrendered easily. "Where'd you get this?"
"From my sister."
"Where'd she steal it?"
"She did not."
"They're all the same. You, if you know this kid, what's his name?"
"Frankie John," I said.
"Kid, what's your name?"
"You know I can take you in for contributing to the delinquency of a minor? You know that?"
"I know what contributing is."
"Get caught before, huh?"
"All right, listen. This campus is under the Mulford Act. You know what that means? I catch either of you around here any time in the next seventy-two hours, I run you in . . ." Gave back the mask.
We started leaving. The sheriff's bully boys were playing with their gunstocks, their hair bristling like tooth-brushes. One said to the kid, "Hey, little girl, what's your name?"
"Frank," said the kid, coolly, "I'm not a girl."
"Hey little fairy, what's your name?" said his side-kick.
We walked away. "He knew I wasn't a girl," he said.
His light hair lifted rhythmically in the breeze of our motion; his face and his brow were as open and fair as a Botticelli, and as untroubled. I hugged him. "We're not afraid of them because we're learning to be not afraid of the things in our selves that they fear, at least that's the way it's been coming for me."
"I dig it," he said. "I want to kill them. I want them to get what's coming to them. But boy, do they have all the guns! It's really depressing, is what it is. But I want to kill them, I mean it, I do."
"I dig it," I said, as we cut down Alston. There hadn't been any live tear gas for hours, and we figured control on campus was tight enough so any little kids would be sent home.
"But I'm glad they didn't take us in," he went on. "Dad would be furious if I missed three times in a row."
When we turned down Grove I showed him the roof of our cottage. "You ought to come visit us sometime and meet my woman," I told him, "we have a groovy place with a lot of junk and the dogs and some good people."
"Yep," he answered, "I know where it is, used to deliver papers over there."
"You into girls?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mean . . . do you pay them much attention yet?"
He laughed. "Since the third grade. My little brother
"Oh, I dunno. We got one around our place, eleven, name of Debbie -- pretty nice, though she's still childish, could use someone to help her learn some things. Take care now," I called to him as we parted, and he waved.
17 April 1970