Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INTERVIEW WITH BILL FRAPPOLY
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me how you got into the Red Squad?
BILL FRAPPOLY: I was a police cadet at the time, which was basically a civilian member, and you'd work four hours a day and go to college full-time, or part-time college, full-time in the police department. You were basically clerical help. I had taken a class earlier, and one of the guys in the class came out of the police department and then went to the Red Squad. We had another class about a year or so later; he came up to me and said, "There's a meeting tomorrow at the college we're going to. Can you go to it, because I can't? They'll recognize who I am." I said, "OK, but you have to get me out of work." So we cut this deal and I ended up going to the first meeting, and then meetings after that. And about June we had Rennie Davis come out, give a speech, and he was signing up people for the convention. They said, "What we need is just volunteers to work the Democratic Convention in '68. Fill out this form." [I] filled it out. Four or five weeks later, I get a phone call: "Come to a meeting," and became one of the organizers of it. It was sort of lax in security on their part, but... that's how it started.
INT: What kind of activities were they planning, and what did they expect you to be part of in this meeting?
BF: The planning was to work with the hippies, call them, see what they were doing, decide how they were going to run the demonstrations. The main thing was, no matter what, they wanted a focal point, and the focal point would be the park. Davis said, "You can't sleep in the park." They said, "We're going to sleep in the park." That was their main focus, because they knew there'd be a confrontation. Once they had the point set up at the park, then it was to draw the people that were coming there and try to get the McCarthy delegates there, keep them in the park after closing, and have a confrontation with the police. McCarthy delegates would be sacrificed, their heads would be bloodied, and it'd make nice TV. Their point would be across.
INT: Was there any discussion during these meetings about people actually committing acts either which were illegal or indeed not only illegal, but also violent?
BF: Not in the beginning. As the convention came on, yeah. I think... what was it? Wednesday or Thursday of the convention, there was a plan to bomb the Grant Park underground garage - it's a multi-level underground garage. They actually caught... who was it?... (2 unclear names) were stopped down there, getting ready for it. That was one of the main things. The other things were, when the police would come to clear the park out, they'd have the golf balls with the nails in them, toss those - just create a confrontation, usually whichever way possible.
INT: To what extent were people like Rennie Davis and the other leaders, like Tom Hayden, actively involved in planning such things, in terms of tipping things over perhaps into areas of violence, in your knowledge?
BF: Their focus mainly was to let it happen: "We're going to get people there, we're going to have the confrontation." They predicted a police response, and in predicting a police response they knew that people were going to get hurt, because there would be fighting between the police and demonstrators. So, in overt planning no, we aren't going to go tip things over, but you're just going to subvert people into going out and let things run their course. Hopefully, the demonstrations would be as violent as they turned out to be. And of course, the city went along with it - you know, they let the police react, and it was just what everybody wanted.
INT: How would you report back this information?
BF: Basically I'd do a report, a handwritten report, identify people who were at meetings, summarize the meeting, and then turn the report in. And my report would then be cleansed, somebody else would rewrite it, look at the names, and there were probably other people at the meetings, so they'd compare names, delete some, add some, and do a combination report and turn it in.
INT: Were you aware of anybody else who was acting under cover with you at these meetings?
BF: Mm...one guy went to pick up a check one day. I walked in the office and he happened to be there, and I went, "What are you doing here?" And he says, "Oh, what are you doing here?" And I found out that his girlfriend was the secretary there, so he had a fairly good idea of who was working for the police department and who wasn't. That was about the only person I really ever knew.
INT: Were you aware of any sort of FBI or military intelligence interest in monitoring the anti-war movement?
BF: I knew they had people there, because I was told by the people that were handling me, you know, "You're going to have military intelligence there, the FBI is going to be there." And yet, from what I understood, the FBI really didn't have anybody there deep in the organizations. They were peripheral and not really that well involved, from what I could find out. And it was always an intelligence... the... people guarded their intelligence; they didn't want to share it a whole lot with the other agencies.
INT: Was it expected that you might be put into a position where you yourself, as a would-be demonstrator, would be committing an illegal act or illegal acts?
BF: Basically, it was told to me, you know, "Don't do anything wrong, just watch what's going on." Well, that's easy enough to do in a crowd: you can stand back; you can boast afterwards of things that you didn't do, or things that you should have done if you were really a radical. But in a crowd situation, nobody knew what you did. You know, they didn't have videotape, you know, that much. You know, you had film crews. You could always say, "Oh, gee, they didn't get me in the picture," or "Did you see this?" "No, I didn't." "Oh, yeah, he did that," and people would just believe you, because in a crowd mentality nobody was really watching anybody else, so you could get away with telling fibs here and there.
INT: Were you involved in any of the situations where the police did attack the demonstrators?
BF: No - I usually ran pretty fast. (Laughs) In the first few days in the park, police would start coming in, I'd stay till it was time to leave, because the police were getting close enough. I had the information I wanted and who was doing what, and it was time to go somewhere else.
INT: Bearing in mind you were supplying the police with all this information, why do you think it was that they reacted in the way they did?
BF: I don't know. They knew what the demonstrations were going to be, they knew what the focus was, but I think their ideas and the city's ideas were: "If we give them the park, then we're going to have a march and a convention center. We don't want a march and a convention center, so we're just going to sit there and say, 'We're not going to give you the park, because if we do that, we're going to have to keep on giving everything up'," and they didn't want to do it. And it was a political process at the time. You know, you didn't want the hippies ... you didn't people fornicating in the park. You know, it's a public park - gee, we can't have this. You know, a family might be there at 11 o'clock at night. They just didn't want it, they didn't want a rock festival going on late at night. So that was their thing: "We're just going to stop it at the park, and we won't have to concede the park. And if we don't concede the park, we won't have to concede anything else."
INT: What sort of guy was Richard Daley?
BF: Richard Daley was... mm... what can you say? Basically a family man, you know, devout Catholic, definitely a politician - been around for years; you know, came up through almost an Irish ghetto, came up through power, worked his way through the Democratic machine, and, you know, was a very good politician, could run the city, took care of city services; taxes weren't exorbitant, costs were down. And basically he wanted things run very quietly. The Democratic machine in the city worked very well. You know, your garbage was always picked up, your street was always clean. If you needed a garbage can, you called the alderman and got a 55-gallon drum, and everybody was basically happy because the services were there. They weren't exorbitant; streets were clean, parks were clean, and that's what he was running.
INT: When you were first instructed to sort of get into the movement, was there a feeling, or were you given any idea that perhaps there was a fear that this protest movement was a front for some kind of communist subversion?
BF: Well, that you found out, you know, once you started going to the splinter group meetings. Once you got into a peace movement, there were other groups. Progressive Labor Party would have a peace initiative. The history of Progressive Labor Party goes back to the Fifties, to the Communist Party - it was an offshoot of it. Socialist Workers' Party's another offshoot. So you did see a relationship back to the old-line Communist Party, but you were dealing with mainly splinter groups at this point, because the Communist Party had slowed down. I think they'd been around for so long, they were not... they were accepted but not accepted. They were just old. And with the splinter groups, they could go into a peace movement and draw some legitimacy and get some new members.
INT: What did older members of the Red Squad think, the people who could remember when the Communist Party was active?
BF: Some people had been there a long time, and they were worried of the communist threat. I don't really know... you know, what the Communist Party was doing. I'm sure that, you know, if they were a front, there were other people... you know, you had espionage on both sides. So they had remembered... you know, and been told, you know, there were communists out there, you know, there were some subversions, so they were worried on that part. And I think a lot of people were, because you know, Russia was still a power at that time, and I think people were just worried that, you know, gee, the communists might take over.
INT: Were there particular aspects of the preparations that the protesters were making for the convention that were particularly alarming? I mean, there was some discussion of some kind of pseudo-military training that some elements and the hippies were doing in the park. Was that true?
BF: Oh, the Great Snake Dance - a lovely, lovely thing. The only problem is, when it's done in Japan... the pictures I've seen... have to be... I'm guessing... 15 people across, long... maybe a block, two block long. People in the front line are carrying a wooden rod, they're holding... everybody is linking arms, they're all in unison, and they'll go through police lines, they'll go through anything; just from the pressure of people building up on each other, they'll burst through a line. The only problem is, the ones in Lincoln Park - if you've seen pictures of it (Laughs) - they're not a pretty sight, they're not at all. It this was something they thought would work, and turned out to be a completely useless thing. People didn't have the stamina to go for a long period of time. Plus you didn't have enough people to make it work. You probably needed 1,000-1,500 people, you know, (and you) practice it before, and then it would be effective. Fifty-sixty people wasn't going to go anywhere, it really wasn't. They could be encircled, they could be held, nobody would probably stay in step - that'd be the war snake - so you wouldn't get the force out of it. That (you're doing) karate training - that was another thing for the cameras. But I didn't see anybody that would really use it, I really didn't.
INT: Did you see any of the demonstrators actually making these weapons, the golf balls?
BF: No, but I ended up in possession of some of them. They were made up and brought to the demonstrations. Then I think I handed over about three or four other golf balls and (they said?), "Hey, here - well, these are nice." (Laughs) And... fairly effective. I don't know how many people were hit with them, but they'd be scary to think about coming at you.
INT: Was there any participation that you recall by members of the Black Panthers in these demonstrations?
BF: The Panthers... the Panthers had almost a "wait and see" attitude, even before the convention. I think they looked at the peace movement as, mm, a bunch of white kids with money. That's what the Panthers looked at it as - and they were right: you know, the leaders of the peace movement were mainly upper-middle-class or upper-class kids, and the Black Panthers, for the most part, were, you know, guys from the ghetto, so there was a real mistrust there. And I think the Black Panthers stayed out of the convention for the most part, because they saw it as a losing proposition, and that wasn't their support anyway. Their support was going to be in the black ghetto, not in the white media TV.