April 3, 1969. Spring in the era of discontent. From Chicago, a second night of disturbances on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Tensions and apprehension ran high. Already an outbreak of violence caused Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvy to order 6,000 National Guard troops into Chicago’s West Side ahead of the first anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Earlier in the day, a number of high schools were closed after students demonstrated in support of their demands they be given the day off in honor of King. Police acted quickly before the situation got out of hand. The disturbances broke out around noon when a walkout was staged at a number of schools in the area. It was the same area where rioting broke out one year earlier. Police attempted to use what they called “quiet tactics”, but it was apparent they were concerned over how far the students were ready to go, and whether “quiet tactics” were the best thing. At the time of this broadcast, some 250 students and adults were being detained by the police and Chicago Mayor Daley ordered a city-wide curfew in anticipation of trouble ahead.
The eve of the assassination of Dr. King brought a wave an apprehension nationwide, as cities all across the country were anticipating trouble. Mass marches were planned for the upcoming Easter weekend in observance of Dr. King and many were convinced it would be a repeat of the violence from the previous year. Meanwhile, the SCLC, the organization founded by Dr. King, was struggling with its own identity in the midst of this anniversary. Factions were erupting within the organization that wanted to change direction, from non-violent protest to militancy, and to extend the group’s involvement to protesting the Vietnam War, in addition to continuing Civil Right protests. A meeting was slated to be held later in the month in Atlanta to address the concerns and make plans.
Meanwhile, violence of another kind was making the rounds this Spring. It was taking place in Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Springs, of all places. Having nothing to do with Civi Rights or The War, it had to do with a lot of kids on Spring Break getting loaded and going crazy – taking the party and the rite of passage to the extreme with rock and bottle throwing and general mayhem.
And that’s a small taste of what went on, this April 3, 1969 as presented by ABC News.