Who’s Gonna
Clean Up This Mess?
Summer 1967
This excerpt from Lost from the Ottawa: The Story of the Journey Back,
a memoir by Pun Plamondon,
tells the story of the 1967 riots in Detroit from the point of view
of a young man living in a downtown hippie commune
with the leaders of the counterculture.

I’d been in Detroit for two months and hadn’t gotten drunk even once. I didn’t even want to drink—there was too much going on. Beyond that, The Prez and most of the people in the TLE [Trans-Love Energies, a commune established by activist John Sinclair and artist Gary Grimshaw] commune didn’t drink, or at least not excessively like my old crew in Traverse City. My new friends felt they were engaged in a great creation. The old culture was dying, eaten away from the inside by its own contradictions and the lies it could no longer sustain. A generation of dynamic young people were redefining the world in their own terms, creating a new culture and value system. The result was a political earthquake, the aftershocks of which are still being felt a generation or more later.

I believed that part of building the new involved rejecting and destroying the old. I came to see alcohol as the drug of choice of the old culture, an acceptable custom in a dying lifestyle. I wanted nothing to do with it. I had arrived in Detroit in the waning days of The Artists Workshop, which was being transformed by a younger generation of visionaries. Of the two Workshop storefronts, street people had claimed one. The other was in better repair, and its door still locked. The mimeograph machine and reams of paper stolen from Wayne State University were stored there, as were all the books and posters produced by the Workshop. A sculptor and several painters still worked there from time to time, but overall, the light was fading.

I was getting rather pissed off at Lobsinger and his band of Breakthrough brown shirts who were firebombing the offices below us and throwing beer bottles and rocks through our second-story windows on a regular basis. I felt that if we got to know our neighbors perhaps we could count on them if things got sticky.

I mentioned to Sinclair that I thought we should do a Sweep-In, a general clean-up of the neighborhood. We could get the whole neighborhood out to clean up the alleys, sweep the streets, and talk to each other. We might even put speakers in the windows, get some groceries and have a party. Sinclair thought it was a good idea; encouraged, I went ahead and organized it.
Once a week, the Detroit Free Press, the more liberal of Detroit’s two daily newspapers, ran a column on the front page called Action Line! It was a consumer advocate sort of thing; they would cut through governmental red tape and overcome obstacles for people who could get no satisfaction through regular channels when dealing with large corporations or institutions. They would intercede for the little guy. They would also perform good deeds for families in dire need—like the little girl who wanted to see Mickey Mouse just once before she died of leukemia.
I wrote to Action Line! and told them of our plan to have a neighborhood Sweep-In. We needed some brooms and shovels; we needed water and trash containers. Within a couple of weeks, they printed my request and reported they had made the following arrangements: Public Works would provide a garbage truck, the Fire Department would put a “reducer” on two hydrants and provide 400 feet of garden hose, and Acme Brush and Broom would provide 100 brooms and detergent. I made the necessary calls and set everything up. The Sweep-In would take place Saturday, July 23.

I went banging on doors in the neighborhood, talking up the Sweep-In. The Chicanos, who lived next door to us, on Warren, didn’t speak English. I said “Fiesta! Fiesta!” several times and pantomimed sweeping. They gave me an odd look and were polite though noncommittal. The poor whites next door to them—skinny, southern Appalachian folks with red necks and white ribbed chests—didn’t know if they would be around or not, though a passel of kids said they would show up. Several black families on the block showed interest but would wait until Saturday to decide. Two blocks down, near Trumbull, Wayne Kramer, lead guitarist and driving force in the MC5, had a room in a house with a handful of other hippies. There were always a bunch of musicians hanging around whose participation I could count on.
Down the service drive from our place was the Castle. A three-story monstrosity, the Castle was half-block long and made of cut stone with four turrets overlooking the Service Drive and the John Lodge Expressway. It was full of a parent’s worst nightmares: out-of-work musicians, poets who heard voices, co-ed cuties, dime bag reefer dealers, speed freaks and stone junkies. I could count on their participation as well. Of course the staff and volunteers at the Mobe and Fifth Estate would be at least somewhat eager participants.

With the Sweep-In on Saturday, Emil and I decided to pick up the brooms on Friday morning. Emil was a filmmaker who lived at Trans-Love. He was a funny guy with a full, bushy beard and black, rather stringy hair that hung to his shoulders. He wore short-sleeved, cotton, buffalo plaid shirts tucked into Wrangler jeans hitched up high in the crotch and held up with a leather belt a foot too long, so that the end would pass through the buckle and dangle like a subway strap from his cinched waist. He could also get this look about him: With his hand to his chin and his fingers rubbing his nose, mustache and beard, he would appear bewildered and bemused as if the occasion required special, concentrated thought.
Emil had a ‘64 VW bus, the stereotypical hippie van, we drove over to the East Side, off Jefferson, where we found Acme Broom and Brush down by the river in an old waterfront warehouse. Damn! A hundred brooms is a lot of brooms. They had them boxed. House brooms were five to a box. Push brooms, three to a box with the handles unscrewed. The boxes were 4 feet long and 6 inches high. They took up the whole back of the van with several boxes tied on top. Acme Broom and Brush also donated a hundred pounds of heavy-duty concentrated cleaning detergent so we could actually scrub the streets. We signed the bill of lading and split.
We returned to TLE and removed the boxes from the top of the van but left the rest inside since we would be using them the next day. I was excited as I went to sleep with the windows open to the midnight breeze and the city slowing down; all was peaceful.

The next morning I saw Werbe, one of the Fifth Estate editors, on the sidewalk outside the paper’s offices. “Did you hear about the riots over on 12th and Clairmount?” he asked. I hadn’t, so we went inside the paper’s office to listen to the radio and watch the TV they had set up.
Overnight, 73 black folks had been arrested by the Detroit police at a blind pig (an after-hours, unlicensed bar, often located in a private home). The police, employing their usual thuggish ways, had raised the ire of the crowd that had gathered to witness the mass arrest. Someone threw a wine bottle, then another one. Shots rang out. The cops took up defensive positions and called for backup. More cops arrived to a rain of bottles and bricks. Tear gas was fired, round after round. People in the neighborhood heard the shots and smelled the tear gas; sirens screeched through the night.
The Tactical Mobil Units or TMUs, of the Detroit police were a new division, expertly trained and highly mobile with all white cars. They were a high-profile force, specialized in rapid response which guaranteed quick results, the predecessors to today’s SWAT teams.
There were a thousand people or more in the street by the time the TMUs arrived like Cossacks on horseback, trying to push the crowd back. But it was too late. The crowd had power. With bricks and bottles and the occasional pop of pistol shot, they forced the TMUs to turn tail and run.

The morning papers had the complete story with pictures. The local TV stations were interrupting regular scheduled programming to cover the ruckus, which was still in progress. The Detroit police, they were reporting, had lost control of the northwest side. Throughout southeast Michigan, police and sheriff departments were being mobilized. We could see several columns of smoke rising to the northwest, just 15 blocks away. The Sweep-In was off, supplanted by the current crisis, which was a lot more interesting.

By now more people were out and about; word was spreading. Around noon Emil and I decided to take a drive over to 12th and Clairmount, where the riots started, and check things out for ourselves. We hopped in the VW and made our way up Trumbull to Clairmount. A lot of people were on the streets. Cars full of black kids tooted horns, while riders leaned out of car windows to holler encouragement and thrust fists in the air. Groups were gathering in front of barbershops, liquor stores and barbeque joints and returning salutes to passing carloads of revelers.

We turned on Clairmount and the whole scene changed. Bumper-to-bumper traffic crawled along at a snail’s pace and cars parked on both sides of the street left barely enough room for traffic. Clairmount is a residential street of WWII vintage, with brown brick houses and big front porches. Large oaks and maples shade the street and the postage stamp lawns. Each porch, house after house, was filled with whole families of black folks: grandma in the rocker, mom keeping an eye on things while getting lemonade for neighbor ladies, children riding tricycles on the narrow sidewalk that led to the street, staying close. Dad and some of his buddies from the plant, it seemed, were sucking down a few cold Stroh’s, the beer of choice for loyal Detroiters. House after house, block after block, it was like this. Occasionally knots of teenagers could be seen strolling up and down.
There was no music here; just the sullen stares of the homeowners, their lives, homes, and families in jeopardy from the fires that raged through businesses just down the block, to say nothing of the all-white police forces of occupation stationed in their neighborhood.
I was surprised by the number of white couples, with children in the back of their station wagons, who had obviously come from the suburbs to tour 12th and Clairmount. In fact, more than half of the cars contained white folks, which made me uneasy. Suddenly I was ashamed as we found ourselves in a traffic backup with gawkers and rubberneckers, who were apparently insensitive to the lives and suffering of these people. As we eased down Clairmount toward 12th, we began to see more cops in heavy riot gear: black jumpsuits and boots, dull black helmets and face shields, carrying carbines and pump shotguns and wearing ammo harnesses across their chests. Their tear gas canisters clanked together as they marched in formation.

For a block before 12th, there were no civilian cars parked on the street. Police armored vehicles, TMUs, “black and whites,” sheriffs’ cars from surrounding counties and various paddy wagons and command vehicles took all available space, narrowing the street to a pinch point. For the last half of the block, traffic was directed between a gauntlet of cops, badges taped over with black tape so the number couldn’t be read. They poked their guns and their white porcine faces through the windows of cars with black occupants to snarl and ask where they lived and their destination. The whites, of course, were just waved through.

As we neared the corner of 12th, Emil got “that look” on his face. His hand went to his chin as he fiddled with his mustache and beard, his lips were pursed as he breathed noisily through his nose. His head listed just seven degrees left, his jaw tilted five clicks past horizontal as he stared through the bug encrusted window of the off-white-over-aquamarine VW bus. At 12th, the cops had the intersection blocked; we had to go left or right. With our side windows slid open we had spoken to dozens of cops as we passed through the gauntlet. They all told us to get the hell out of there, and if they saw us again today they’d arrest us. We inched along.

Just as we got to the corner and were turning left, we were stopped. Several cops approached the bus. Sticking his head in and looking around, one of them asked me, “What’s in the bag under your feet?” Another cop asked Emil, “What’s in all those boxes?”

“Soap,” I answered.

“Brooms.” Emil said.

“Hey captain! Check this out,” one of the cops called out.
They made us pull over. Cops surrounded us. Ordered from the bus, they made us lie face down on the pavement. One cop stood on my wrist: “So I know where you are.”

A whole squad attacked the bus. They pulled out the boxes, tore them open and emptied the brooms onto the street. They tore up the floor mats and looked in the ashtray and engine compartment. The captain was focused on the hundred pounds of detergent, discussing it intently with several other officers. Meanwhile the large crowd of black citizens gathered at the corner began getting agitated. “Hey look! They got the hippies!” I could hear people yell. “Hey hippies! Black Power!” someone else shouted. The crowd was picking up energy, I could feel it.

“Hey hippies! Free Love!” someone bellowed.

The captain came over to us, his gold shield and insignia on his helmet peeking out from behind the black tape. “Show some ID, boys. You’re in big trouble,” he said.
We handed over our IDs and Emil got that look again.
“You boys are going to be charged with possession of explosive-making materials,” the captain continued.
Emil snapped out of it and began talking real fast ”We’re students at Wayne; we live on Prentiss. We just came by to see what was going on,” he lied.

Then I spoke up, “The brooms and detergent were to be used to clean up our neighborhood today.”
Just then I remembered the bill of lading, “We have a receipt for this stuff,” I said. The captain had one of his men escort me to the bus and after some looking, I found the receipt amid the refuse on the floor of the front seat.
Just then a bottle crashed in the middle of the intersection. People started chanting, “Black Power! Black Power.” The crowd had grown larger.
The captain looked at my paper—another bottle smashed somewhere close. “Load up your shit and get out of here—if anything comes up, we have your names.”
Blam! A block up 12th, the cops were shooting tear gas. Blam! Another one. The captain and his squad rushed off. Blam! Another one. All the cops were on edge, standing spread-legged, guns at the ready, watching the rooftops.
Emil and I were left with 75 brooms scattered around the street; the cops kept the detergent. Quickly I started picking up brooms and throwing them in the bus. Emil got that look for a moment, put his hands on his hips, and then hollered at the cops, “Hey! Who’s gonna clean up this mess?”

All the attention was focused up 12th Street. The cops that weren’t running in that direction were in defensive positions, looking ever so nervous. I threw a dozen or so brooms into the bus and told Emil, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” We piled in, and lickety-split, we were gone, leaving the rest of the brooms and a pile of torn cardboard in the street. Out the back, I could see folks from the neighborhood beginning to pick up the brooms. I was near exploding with excitement as we drove away. Emil and I laughed hysterically, slapping our knees and each other on the back. We weren’t afraid of the crowd, just the cops.When we returned to TLE, radio and TV were reporting that rioting had broken out on the east side and that looting and arson was taking place in isolated parts of the city.

Mayor [Jerome] Cavanaugh took to the airwaves to plead for calm and reassure the public that everything was OK. He announced that surrounding cities and counties had sent forces to Detroit and that the Michigan State Police were in the process of being mobilized and would be in the city by nightfall.

Later that afternoon, I found Sinclair in the Workshop at the mimeograph machine printing up flyers. The headline read; THE FIRST ANNUAL DETROIT LOOT-IN! Then in two-inch letters ”GET THE BIG STUFF!” Grimshaw had drawn a cartoonlike graphic that showed hippies and blacks carrying off TVs, couches and refrigerators.
Sinclair printed up about five hundred flyers and he and I took off in the Opel. We drove down Woodward and Cass and some of the cross-streets. Every time we saw a group of people gathered, I’d toss out a handful of flyers, and we’d speed off. With our work done, we returned to TLE to make ready for the expected Saturday night rumble.

Our building had a flat roof with a 3-foot parapet three stories off the ground. There was an access door to the roof in the ceiling of the hallway. I ran an extension cord to the roof and brought up a TV and radio and set them on the chimney. Emil had a pair of field glasses; I took them to the roof too. I went to the Lebanese-owned liquor store to get some snacks for the upcoming evening ruckus, only to find the store closed by order of the mayor and chief of police. When I returned, The Prez, several others and I climbed to the roof and took up our positions.

By now you could see smoke and the pink under-glow of fire toward the east side. The northwest quadrant was fully involved. Cops rode four to a car with the windows down, rifles and shotguns sticking out. Fire engines raced to and fro, the screech and scream of sirens and horns and the acrid smoke of burning asphalt filled the evening air like the groan and stench of hell.

When night came, it got scary. The mayor ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Gas stations were ordered to pump gas only into vehicles, no containers. The only cars on the streets were cops driving slow, lights out, long guns bristled from doors propped open with a foot or a piece of wood wedged near the hinge. Cop cars moved in groups of three, quietly. Every time we saw cops coming, we’d duck down below the parapet, knowing we shouldn’t be up there at a time like this.

This was exciting stuff. Nobody liked “the man” the cops. Tonight, “the man” was getting his ass kicked. We wanted to watch.

It was getting worse all the time, or better. Around the clock TV and radio reportage kept our rooftop observation post well informed. It was clear the fires were spreading, especially on the east side. What before had seemed like a localized plume of smoke, now seemed to stretch for ten miles to the north. On the northwest side, the fires were spreading south, a wall of smoke 15 miles long could be seen from our hippie “command center.”
Gunfire was sporadic; we’d hear single shots from small arms fired by snipers, followed by outbursts of automatic fire that lasted perhaps five minutes, followed by maybe thirty minutes of calm, if you can call standing in the center of hurricane-fed inferno, with sirens wailing and the streets full of smoke, “calm.” Then we’d hear several single rounds from small arms again, followed by bursts and the rat-a-tat-tat of the cops carbines and heavier weapons, then calm again. We came to know the difference between the automatic and semi-automatic fire of the police forces and the single shot “crack” of the snipers.

On the 11:00 news, Michigan’s Governor, George Romney, begged for calm and announced he was mobilizing the National Guard with the first troops arriving the next afternoon. TV had footage of black citizens, unaware of the curfew, being pulled from their cars. Middle-aged, middle-class blacks were shown being thrown to the ground, kicked and cuffed, generally roughed up and carted off to jail. Rumor had it that Tiger Stadium and the bathhouses on Belle Isle were being used as temporary holding facilities since the police lockups were all full. We stayed on the roof all night, taking speed to keep us on our toes. The electronic media was reporting that the police had given up and withdrawn from large areas on the northwest side and the east side. ”No Man’s Land,” they called it. “Liberated Territory,” I called it.

Sunday, the second full day of rioting, broke hot and humid. By noon the temperature was in the 80s. The stench of burning plastic and tarpaper hung heavily over the neighborhood. The National Guard was yet to be seen. Sinclair and I twisted up some joints and went out driving around in the Opel. The streets were all but empty, with the cops busy at the scenes of looting and burning. We tore up Woodward, blowing through stop signs, disregarding red lights. In Highland Park we drove for miles in the wrong direction on the empty one-way streets. Oh what a feeling! To be in a place where absolutely no law was valid, where government had no control or meaning. This, I realized, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Granted, it was brief and shallow, and came at a terrible cost in life and property, but it was real, and I felt blessed to be a part of it.

At Grand Boulevard we stopped at a corner while another group of drivers cleared a barricade from the street. A car carrying four black cats, all wearing black “doo rags” on their heads pulled up next to us. It was common knowledge on the street that Black Liberation Fighters wore “doo rags” in the “color of the day” to identify themselves and avoid getting shot by other snipers. I was mildly distressed as all four scowled at us. Then the driver started hollering, “Hey! That’s Sinclair, the king of the hippies!” referring to the handle with which the local media had tagged Sinclair. The other cats all chimed in, ”Cool man, ‘king of the hippies!’” Sinclair laughed, gave the “V” for victory sign and held a torpedo joint out the window. The cat in the passenger’s seat leaned out, took the joint and said, “Right on brother—keep your head down.” The barricade was removed and we sped off and returned to Trans-Love.

I was upstairs, in our living quarters along with Sinclair, his wife and baby, The Prez, and eight or so other commune members and friends. From the sill of an open window I was sitting watching troop carriers, military jeeps and heavy hardware drive up and down the John Lodge. Suddenly, on the service drive on the northbound side of the Lodge, I noticed six or more “black and whites” moving at a high rate of speed. They squealed around the corner onto Warren and sped across the bridge over the expressway toward our place. At the corner they whipped onto our service drive and screeched to a halt right below me. The first cop out of the car pointed his shotgun at me and hollered, “Stay where you are!” I jumped back and ran down the hall toward the door. Already I could hear the heavy thud of boots on the stairs. I just got the security chain latched when the door opened to the length of the chain. Instantly a rifle barrel came through the crack and simultaneously a butt of a rifle smashed the door at chain level sending splinters and screws flying.

What seemed like twenty or more cops came rushing in, pointing guns at people and knocking some to the floor. I was jacked against the wall with a shotgun jammed under my chin so I was standing on my tiptoes. By now other commune members came out of their cubicles to see what the commotion was about. They were slammed to the floor or held against the wall at gunpoint. Suddenly Sinclair was there holding his infant daughter. “What the fuck are you motherfuckers doing in my house?” he raged. “Shut the fuck up!” the commanding officer snorted. “Get the fuck out of my house!” Sinclair bellowed, his face red, eyes bulging.

I was much taller than God had intended, stretched as I was with the shotgun under my chin. It was pressed so hard there that my tongue was pushed against the roof of my mouth, causing me to salivate and drool copious amounts of spittle out of each side of my mouth.
Sinclair screamed again, “Get the fuck out of my house.” I remember wishing he would calm down; he is going to get us all killed, I thought. “We had a report of a sniper on the roof,” the commanding officer said. “There are no snipers on our roof—get out! Get out!”

Other cops were snooping around, looking in closets and cubicles, tearing tapestries and posters off the walls, flipping over mattresses and generally behaving in a hoggish manner.

Sinclair wouldn’t let up. “Get the fuck out of my house!” Then, in a burst of rage he shouted, “Go ahead and shoot me, shoot me! I don’t want to live in a place where the cops can bust your door down anytime they want. Shoot me! Here, shoot my daughter, shoot Leni, shoot all of us. You’re the ones who will have to answer for it.” On and on he raged.

Jesus Christ! I thought, I wish he’d shut up; he’s going to get us all blown away. Drool was beginning to puddle at my feet. Then, just as suddenly as they came, they left.
A short time later we got a call informing us that Wayne “MC5” Kramer had been arrested. His house on Warren had been raided and he was carried away in chains. It seems he had aroused suspicion by setting up a spotting scope in the big bay window of the second floor master bedroom to keep tabs on the action.

I recall going with Sinclair to a lawyer’s office downtown. The massive gothic police headquarters at 1300 Beaubien was surrounded by troops in heavy armored vehicles with 30- and 50-caliber machine guns mounted on tripods. We somehow got Kramer released and settled in for the night’s action.

Between June and August of 1967 there were riots in more than 125 cities across America. Parts of Newark, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Cambridge, Minneapolis and Detroit had gone up in flames. There were 380,000 troops in Vietnam and though they told us America was winning, the Pentagon reported that 5,008 Americans had died in the war in 1966. Muhammad Ali was arrested for refusing induction into the Army. The Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement and Hippie culture were sweeping the country like wild fire. With troops in Vietnam and Detroit, could the Empire survive?
Sunday night we stayed at the commune with all the lights out so we wouldn’t be seen, but we kept the windows open to hear the battle and watch the light show of tracers and flares. To the east the entire horizon was shrouded in smoke; occasionally, bright flashes would illuminate the underside of the smoke, like fireworks on a cloudy night. To the west, the scene was the same, only closer. The most vivid memory I have of that Sunday night is of the 50-calibers, as they “thumped,” “thumped,” “thumped” out rounds, every fourth one a “tracer” that looked six feet long as they shot like falling stars across the eerie night illuminating the smoke clouds and occasionally tumbling, end over end, as if in slow motion.
Local news reported that municipal and state police forces, and now the National Guard, were unable to maintain order or quell the disturbance and had been driven from a 144-square-block area of the east side with a similar retreat on the west side. President Johnson appeared on TV to plead for calm and the “rule of law” and announced that he was calling out the 101st Airborne, which would arrive the next day, Monday. Mayor Cavanaugh, having toured the riot-torn area said “the festival atmosphere” surprised him.

Monday was hot again. I walked down the service drive a mile or so to Grand River Avenue. Whole blocks of businesses were smoldering ruins. Abandoned houses and many occupied dwellings were put to the torch, or caught on fire as the conflagration spread. Police and National Guard were stationed every hundred feet or so along both sides of Grand River. Fire crews, guarded by troops crouched behind fire engines, still battled flames up and down the avenue as far as the eye could see.
On returning to Trans-Love, I found Sinclair and we walked the four blocks over to Trumbull and Forest. We got there just as a crowd had smashed the large windows of the A&P. I saw little black girls in plastic sandals, shorts and tank tops helping grandmas who had hitched up their print dresses, revealing stockings that only went to the knee, and clamored through the broken windows—no one used the doors. Sinclair and I joined the crowd inside. People of all ages and several races were grabbing everything in sight: canned goods, meat, bread, floor wax, packages of rubber bands and tooth paste—it didn’t matter, they took it all. These people who had been ripped-off, robbed, scammed, gouged and cheated by A&P were taking back what was theirs. Like a thousand Robin Hoods, they stole from the absentee landlords who had been stealing from them for a lifetime. Sinclair found a 25-pound bag of dog food for Pharaoh, the commune terrier, and split for home.

Across the street was a Ben Franklin five-and-dime. The 8-by-8-foot windows had been smashed and neighborhood residents were flooding the store. I went inside and looked around for something to take. I noticed a “fish eye” mirror in the far corner, used to monitor shoplifters. It was attached high on the wall, next to the ceiling. I climbed up the shelves and ripped it right off the wall, bracket and all.

The Ben Franklin was in an old, single story, brown brick building, the kind I remembered from childhood. Inside, in the back of the store, was a balcony, surrounded by a railing with balusters. Three or four desks, presumably those of the bookkeepers and manager, occupied the space. A group of cats were up there working on a large, antique safe. Pretty soon they shouted out “Clear the building, we‘re torchin‘ it!” People scattered. Thick black smoke filled the store as orange tongues of flame began licking the wall and moving across the ceiling. I took my mirror and cruised home, holding it above my head like the championship silver tray at Wimbledon.

For the record, though I won’t bore the reader by repeating the familiar details, the commune was raided again that Monday, this time by the National Guard. I have a fuzzy recollection of that raid: I recall looking out the window and seeing a jeep with a 50-caliber mounted in the back that was pointing up at me, and two or three other parked military vehicles on the street below. The sound of many boots stomping up the stairs I will always remember. The door was smashed from the raid the day before and I remember the troops filing right in. “Of course there is no sniper on the roof. We are pacifist hippies,” The Prez told them. I don’t remember them leaving, but no one got killed or arrested, so good riddance.

Later that day, while playing frisbee on the service drive, we noticed fire trucks, police cars, and military vehicles two blocks down on Forest. A couple of us walked down to see what was going on. The 101st Airborne had arrived; rumor had it that they were just back from Vietnam. At the corner of the service drive and Forest sat an old house with a green sign declaring it a state historic site and explaining that it had been the birthplace of Charles Lindbergh. The sign was splattered with vandal’s paint. In white paint, in foot-high letters across the front porch, someone had scrawled, “LINDBERGH WAS A FASCIST!” Now that historic house was in flames. A fire crew pumped water on the blaze while the 101st watched their backs, M-16s and jeeps with mounted guns at the ready. Since the battle in Detroit had begun, fire crews had been taking rounds from snipers as they tried to bring the blazes under control.

After ten minutes or so, my friends left. I just sat on the curb, watching the action.

A soldier, not as old as I was, walked over and stood above me. “Didn’t I see you at another fire today?” he asked in a Georgia drawl.

“Nope”, I answered, “this is the first fire I’ve been to since this all started.”

“No . . . I think I saw you at another fire,” he said, standing with legs spread above me.

“Nah,” I said, “I just live down there,” pointing. Suddenly he ratcheted a round into the chamber of his M-16. “I saw you at another fire today!” he hollered. Jesus Christ no! I thought. Instinct drove me to get up and start running straight down the sidewalk toward home. I could feel him aiming at the middle of my back. I wondered if I’d feel the bullet. Then I thought, I hope I don’t die in these pants. They were full of holes from battery acid I’d spilled while changing the battery in Sinclair’s Opel. The soldier never shot; I made it home.

Sinclair, Leni, Grimshaw, Emil, The Prez and others had been talking about leaving the city until this riot blew over. We needed someplace to go. We couldn’t go to Cleveland where there were also riots or threats of them. Chicago was the same. In fact, any large urban area was under threat and most of our friends lived in big cities. I suggested we head north to Traverse City and wait out the riots in the sand and sun of Northern Michigan, which we did.

The last image I had of the riots was of three huge Army tanks charging north up the southbound side of the Lodge at full throttle. Their huge bulk was rocking to and fro as they sped along at nearly 50 m.p.h. Seeing vehicles traveling the wrong way on the expressway was shock enough, but three tanks, each taking up a lane and a half of the highway, was beyond anything I could have imagined.


Lost from the Ottawa: The Story of the Journey Back is the dramatic autobiography of Pun Plamondon. Plamondon was conceived and born in state mental hospital to mixed-blood Native American parents in 1945. He was raised by an adoptive family and went to Catholic reform school at age 15. He has been a union organizer of migrant farm workers, a bodyguard and security director for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. In 1968, he co-founded the White Panther Party in Detroit. In 1969, he was indicted for bombing clandestine CIA offices in Ann Arbor, and he became a fugitive from the F.B.I. when he fled to Algeria seeking political asylum. He was captured upon return to the U.S. and spend 32 months in Federal prison, but the trial revealed the use of illegal wiretaps by the government and Plamondon was released.
He recovered from years of drug and alcohol abuse with the help of an Ottawa holy man. He reconnected with the Ottawa Tribe, writing radio features on Native American culture, helping found a theatrical group, and working on archaeology digs in Michigan. He now lives on a small farm in Michigan, where he builds fine furniture and pays taxes.

visit www.punplamondon.com








The Michigan Issue

Michigan Represent
50 Reasons to Embrace the Mitten

Michigan, I Love You
by Jason Gibner
Who's going to clean up this mess?
The story of the Detroit riots as told be a hippie in the midst of it
An excerpt from the memoir Lost from the Ottawa by Pun Plamondon

Deep Background
Say whatever, Michigan. Why the Mitten should adjust its attitude.
by Drew Franklin
Girl on Love Crazy spells: an analysis of the hissy fit.
by Anonymous
Single Serving From Tricycles and Redpop to uncouth clowns, Faygo remains a Detroit favorite
by Jennifer Bagwell

My Life in Ypsi
by Anonymous

Michigan author Paul A. Toth discusses his new novel, Fishnet
by Steven Gillis
A few words with
Aaron Burch, editor of the literary journal Hobart
by Laura J. Williams

Watch Me Now

The Pit,
wish fulfillment for Michigan kids
by Jason Gibner
The Cinebitch on Michigan movies
by Laura Abraham

July/August Movie Preview

by Jason Gibner

The Muggs
The Detroit blues rockers are back
by Jason Gibner
Tally Hall
Overacheiving recent UM grads make a bid for rock stardom
by Rick Lax

Benoit Pioulard Enge (A2P rating: 4.5)
Brian Eno
Another Day on Earth (A2P rating: 4.0)

A2 Astrology
by Emily Baker

What's Going On
A2P's selected events of the month

Snapshots from Ann Arbor, Ypsi and Detroit