Alright. Yeah. Well, these 500 uh writers, like Norman Mailer and uh John Hersey and professors like R. B. Sewell and Galston —people like that at Yale, whom I knew very well. And the clergy gathered un in front of the Justice Department to support these students who had turned in their draft cards. And it was the usual uh funny situation. First of all, we gathered in two churches proving that intellectuals can never get their act together.
And then the cops thought we were as dangerous as any marches on the Pentagon. You know, even Doctor Spock in his three piece suit looked like a hippy to them. You know, it was unbelievable how they can’t seem to see the difference. And they zoomed up and down on their motorcycles as if they were sheep dogs, y’know, guiding the sheep. But fortunately they were there. Because ahead of the column we suddenly realized we didn’t know the best way to get to the Justice Department (chuckling). So, if it hadn’t been for the police, we might never had made it.
When we got there we forgot the bullhorn, but there was a physicist in the crowd and he got a bullhorn. And uh we made a few uh fine speeches. I can remember Ashley Montagu saying that if the war in Vietnam is right, what’s there left to call wrong? And uh I guess I made uh the main speech, which was simply to say that uh we are here to support these young uh people in their hour of conscience, and if they are arrested for violating a law which violates their consciences, then we too must be arrested, for we hereby counsel them to continue to follow the dictates of their conscience, and we will aid and abet them in every way we can to resist the draft.
So we put ourselves on the line. Then ten of us were allowed to go inside...uh where we were met by somebody in a black suit and no face. And a walk down this interminable corridor and then into a room where there was another no-face black suit uh man at the end of a mahogany table and uh a lady over here ready to pour coffee and determined to be courteous about all this, the no-face black suited man said, “Would you all care for coffee?”
Well, we had in our crowd a nifty black guy. They all thought he had the bomb. Where he would have carried it I don’t know because his pants were so tight you couldn’t get a matchstick into the pocket. But all the secretaries were peering out the doors, you could see them point at him—“He must have it”—as he came down the corridor, you know. And uh, he says, (SHOUTING) “Coffin, man, unh!”
And the secretary got so frightened she poured more coffee in the saucers, y’know, then in the cup (chuckling). All this is good for comic relief in the middle of a rather difficult trying time. And uh, then we told uh Mr. McDonough, his name was, what we were there for, and Dickie gave him a good black rap, this was the black fella, and then McDonough took out a piece of paper and said that he’d like to read us something. At that point this black guy said, (with a southern accent) “Man, you ain’t go’n read that?” And he says, “Yes, that was my intent.” He said, (shouting) “I don’t have to listen to that, see you cats later.” And out went Dickie, with every movement just as graceful as a cat.
Well, McDonough looked visibly relieved that the one black guy was out of the way and there was no one but us middle class Whites left. So he read this pompous statement alleging that we were uh perhaps in violation of the law, all of which of course, we knew. And then, a very funny thing happened. He folded the paper and put it back in his coat and turned to me and said, “Now, Dr. Coffin, am I being tendered something?”
And I said, “Tendered something, Mr. McDonough?” And he says, “Yes. Tendered something.” I said, “Oh, yes,” catching on. I picked up this briefcase that had about 950 draft cards. I says, “You are hereby being tenderly tendered 950 draft cards with supporting statements from some 500 people who are now outside your building.” And he went (making a gesture) like this. And I said, “Shall we try it again, Mr. McDonough?” You know, and I offered it to him again, and again he went back like this. I couldn’t understand what was going on, you know. So I said, “Should we try the table, Mr. McDonough?” So I put the thing down on the table in front of him, you know.
Like that (chuckling). Arthur Waskow, who had been watching this like Wimbledon, you know, stood up in a sheet of rage and said, (yelling) “I can’t understand what’s going on here. You allege that we are guilty of crimes for which we offer you substantive proof.” And he slammed his hand down on the briefcase. “And you refuse to accept the evidence—where, man, is your oath of office?”
I thought it was terrific, you know. His partner told me afterwards that his sixth grade civics was not impressive. But in any case, the briefcase stayed there and we walked out. And we found out afterwards that uh the FBI was waiting in the next room, just waiting for us to get out in order to come in and pick up the evidence. And we certainly heard from them very shortly thereafter.