Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: The Sixties was a violent period as well as a period in which you describe passion coming out - I mean, the death of two Kennedy's, John and Robert, the assassination of Martin Luther King. How did those events impact on you?
RD: Well, significantly so. I mean, I think each time they sort of gradually began to undermine the sense of innocence that was pervasive in the early part of the Haight Ashbury days, let's say. It got to be, you know, more and more serious, you know. At the same time, our power was growing, and I think it took on more and more a sense of, you know, "We're as serious as you are, and we intend to see at least this war end." And so, when we went to jail, which was subsequently reversed on appeal, the largest riot in American took place on the day that we went to prison. And then, when we came out, four students were shot and killed in Kent State, and we - meaning now the defense of this trial - called for a nationwide student strike, and over 90% of the American campuses went on strike. It was a profound show of force, really. And yet the war continued and continued, and so it came down to really, you know: is the non-violent position of the movement going to be abandoned, or are we going to take up, you know, guns, or what's going to happen? And these were the kinds of discussions that ultimately defused the sentiment. You know, it was just like: what more can be done? And I would say the process of Martin Luther King, the Kennedy's, riots occurring all over the country, the increased political suppression through the use of agents and other means, you know, ultimately just brought the whole thing to a standstill, where, you know, the Government did end the war, and I think the pressure exerted internally in this country, along with the... you know, the enormous military victories that were occurring in Vietnam, you know, was the formula for doing that. But the rose fell off the flower and the innocence tended to fade in those latter years, as the whole thing was winding down.
INT: People had been dying, been shot by the forces of law and order, so-called, in this country for years - blacks in particular. Why do you think the death of four students at Kent State was so shocking?
RD: Well, I'd have to say that you're looking at white students being killed, you know. I think there was a consciousness in the Sixties that when black people were killed, or white people that were in support of civil rights, that there was an awareness that was starting to grow for the first time in the history of this culture, and a willingness to stand up and be counted. But... the Kent State thing simply represented the climax of something energetically that had been building from 1960, you know, all the way into the spring of 1970, and it was definitely the climax. We did do one major demonstration at Washington, D.C., in the spring of '71, but that took a huge organizational effort to do it; whereas the spring of '70 was... represented the true spontaneity and the power of this passion and social phenomenon that was occurring. And, you know, again, students being killed in 1958 would have produced, you know, some interesting headlines, but nothing more than that. It was the underlying movement that was building, that came right at that moment, and then having the Chicago seven, with such enormous popularity with young people, able to issue a call for a nationwide strike, you know, was the culmination of all those events that made that strike possible.
INT: How important do you think was Berkeley to the anti-war movement?
RD: I think it was important to the country's understanding of the anti-war movement. From my perspective, it was an important local center, but one of many. You know, the free speech movement came at an early time, and again was one of those ignition points that went out, that helped to captivate the imagination of many young people and adults, you know, throughout the country and even in Europe. But its effect on the country was more through the media than what it was able to do. But it was one of many, many local centers where there was, you know, bubbling up and activity that was going on; also some very passionate leadership, very articulate, able to speak the sentiments of many, many people, and voices being heard certainly in the local area, but also a voice or two that was able to be, you know, heard nationwide, at least by students; and so, in that sense, you know, very much part of the history and part of the tradition that launched the whole thing.
INT: You went to Vietnam twice, to Hanoi. To what extent do you think that you were placing yourself in a situation where people could accuse you of being treasonous?
RD: Well, you know, I was very much kind of self-righteous about that in many ways. I was an American first and foremost, and as far as I was concerned, this war was wrong, it was just (..?..) wrong - that was it, you know. And so, that it needed an American to go into Hanoi to refute the Pentagon claims... I mean, in 1967, the Department of Defense took the public position that it was only bombing military targets, steel and concrete, and I was the first person to come back to this country and say, "Every day I was in Hanoi, I was in bomb shelters. Bombs rained down all over the city. I went in too(?) and saw whole city blocks, you know, wiped out by air raids, and they're certainly not coming from Europe or the Soviet Union - you know, they're American planes." And villages... you know, I would go into a village clearly that had been hit by an anti-personnel weapons. It's hardly a military bomb for purposes of steel and concrete: it's anti-personnel. And the Pentagon, you know, took the public position that I had been brainwashed and that this was a lie, and I was one of those times like, "What?!" you know - like, how could the Government lie to the country? You know, that was kind of my level of sophistication (Laughs) at the time, you know. So I viewed myself, quite honestly, as a patriot, and I viewed myself as supporting American GIs, and my way of supporting them was to get them out of that, you know, senseless war. And a lot of... a lot of GIs related to that position. I spoke in military bases with very intense conditions and high security, and I set up coffee houses to support our GIs around the country - and that's one of the reasons the Vice-President called me so dangerous, you know, because we were going into the military arena. But we had many, many, many supporters among GIs. Now, often I would speak and I would have a GI get up and be upset, you know, that... you know, "How can you talk like you support GIs? You don't support me," and that sort of thing. But I knew enough about, you know, military talk in a sense, and where people were based and so forth, that if I could get that person into a conversation about where he was based and what was going on and so forth, I could usually touch a point and we could have a real conversation - 10,000 people in the room, and give him a microphone and "Let's talk about this." And we found that by taking a very open position of "This is how we're supporting the American GI," that the treason charge and that sort of thing that the Government wanted to level on us, just didn't stick, just didn't hold up. And I think we won that debate.
INT: I'm going to ask you to do two particular things which help me edit. Firstly, you mentioned Bill Frappoly... I wonder if you could actually introduce just a few words about Bill Frappoly, by starting "Bill Frappoly...", by actually saying "Bill Frappoly." Could you do that for me?
RD: Yeah. Bill Frappoly was the person who worked, you know, as a volunteer on our staff at Chicago, and I don't know... I found him interesting. He was a little straight-laced kind of person for me, and I never really thought of him as a police agent, which he subsequently turned out to be. But, you know, I took the position I think a lot of people did: that if we get into that way of thinking, "Who's the agent here?" and "We've got to watch ourselves," and so forth, it would add a level of fear and paranoia to our own organization that would just undermine the whole spirit of what we were about. So I never allowed it to come into myself. I didn't care if police agents were there: maybe we could convince them about something, bring them to their senses too, you know. The thing that was perplexing about Bill and so many of the agents who subsequently testified, was just their willingness to create fantasy about what was said. And I don't mean anything demeaning about them as people, you know, but it was an interesting phenomenon to me that things were allowed to come out of their mouth of conversations that would never occur. When they were with you and nobody else was around, (Laughs) nobody could verify what was being said, you know. So that was what I would say. We had a lot of that, and I think, quite honestly, I would say we had a good formula not to get paranoid or fearful ourself [sic]. When you let the fear come into you, that's what starts to undermine the whole operation and nobody trusts anybody and everybody's looking over their shoulder, and you're right back into goody two-shoe and right back into the 1950s. And in some ways, that's actually one of the things that ended the movement, is that it let itself be exposed to some of that towards the end.