Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Marx, Che, Eldridge, and Seale at the Oklahoma Tire and Supply, Fayetteville (Arkansas) Square, 1970

The photographs below show a strange little march held on the Fayetteville (Arkansas) square. It took place, I think, on July 4, 1970. However, I have found nothing in the local newspaper to verify that date or any other one.

The most striking visual impression of the photos is the juxtaposition of the familiar Oklahoma Tire and Supply and Campbell-Bell signs with jolting images of Che Guevara, Karl Marx, Bobby Seale, and Arkansan Eldridge Cleaver, plus a couple of Vietcong flags. That combination of images was rarely seen on the square. 

This small march was one of many protests in Fayetteville during the last part of 1969 and the first half of 1970. On October 1969, the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium March was held with about 600 participants (according to the local paper). On May 8, 1970, another large anti-war march was held, with 750 protesters (according to the local paper) walking from the University of Arkansas campus to the Fayetteville square. At the end of the march, 57 people were arrested when they refused to move from the entrance of the Selective Service office. This march came not long after the shooting of students at Kent State University.

On July 4, 1970, I just happened to be on the square on a hot Saturday morning when the pictured protest took place. And I just happened to have a camera with a telephoto lens with me. I am not sure how many pictures I took, but I can find only these three slides of the march.  

The young people shown marching were among a handful of people, found in most towns with large universities, who were radicalized in their opposition to the Vietnam War and to racism and to capitalism. No doubt some of the marchers considered themselves communists and/or revolutionaries. Most of them were students at the University.

People with radical views were not very popular in Northwest Arkansas and even less popular elsewhere in the state. Likely if such a demonstration had been held in Fayetteville in the early 1960s, or in any other Arkansas city except Fayetteville or Little Rock, it would not have passed unnoticed, without condemnation, or, maybe, without violence, in reaction to the symbols carried by the marchers. However, by 1970 such a march attracted little attention in Fayetteville.

I do not recognize most folks in the picture, but I did know the guy in the second picture who is dressed in white and is carrying a flag at the head of the procession. I think I recall his name, but will not give it here in case I am mistaken. I also remember seeing some of the guys wearing berets around the U of A campus.  

I have to wonder where the folks who took part in the march are now and what political beliefs they have. 


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