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Outlaw Sheriff

Outlaw Sheriff image Outlaw Sheriff image
Parent Issue
Month
October
Year
1970
OCR Text

(Note: Stew Albert, longtime Berkeley activist and Yippie organizer, ran for sheriff of Alameda County last summer. He nearly won.) SUN-DANCE: Why did you decide to run for Sheriff? ■ Stew: I was on trial and I chose not to make _ deal but to defend myself act as my own lawyer. . And I was doing really well, and it was the break in the trial, and I was talkingto the bailiff, and in California, all the . bailliff's in the courtroom are connected with the Alameda County Sheriffs department. I was feeling very confident and together, and I could see that the bailiff was kind of soared, by what he saw me doing: long-haired freak actingin the courtroom and doing well. So I got in a conversation with him and he told me that, the Sheriff was elected; I didn't know that up until that time. I thought the Sheriff was appointed. So I just told him, my gut reaction, "I'm going to run for Sheriff." And the guys face turned white. I just instinctively knew it was a good idea because it treaked him so much. So I gave him this whole rap about how I was going to run for Sheriff, and how if I were Sheriff I'd reallykeep these guys in line and let the prisoners run the jails and have the Sheriffs help us take over buildings at the University and so forth. And he really got freaked; so a few of my friends were around and they said, "Hey, are you just kidding, or are you going to do it?"And it just seemed so good, I said, "Yeah, I'm going to do it." The idea got reinforced when I spent 65 days in the Alameda county jail. The Sheriff controls the jail, and the Sheriff is the warden of the jail. I discussed it with prisoners in there, mostly black people, and they thought it was a great idea. So I decided that it would be a great way for a Berkeley radical to hook up with the people in the jail who are the most oppressed by Sheriff because he's the warden. And to hook up with the student-prisoners alliance. Projecting that through my campaign for sheriff SUN-DANCE : When you ca mpaigned for Sheriff, when did you start it and what kind of things did you hit upon? Stew: I guess the election was last June 6 , and I guess I started it a couple of months before. When I went down to file to run, I was on the ballot, officially, but when I went down to file the Red Squads of Berkeley and Oakland were there to photograph me just filing. I saw as the main purpose of the campaign was to get the Berkeley radicáis and freaks to relate to the prisoners. So we set up a campaign" committee, and out basic activity was going out to Santa Rita on visiting day, which was Sunday, and leafletting the family and friends of the convicts, who had been lining up outside the jail waiting to be admitted to visit. And of course they're treated abominably', they're made to wait for hours, they hate the pólice and so forth, so they were very open, mostly black people, very open to the type of politics that we were projecting. And at one point we got these campagin buttons printed up with M-16s on them, and the slogan, "Smash Santa Rita, Stew Albert for Sheriff. "And they put them on and they wore them inside the jail, and the deputy sheriffs in the jail really frèaked out, started screaming at the people, take them off, but alot of them refused to do it. Then the prisoners saw the campaign buttons, and they really dug it. Do I think the main activity was relating to the prisoners. Wehad a numberof people in the jail who were veryfriendly to the campaign. I got a number of letters from prisoners, and they carried on various campaign activities in the jail. Like a full page campaign poster was printed in the Tribe and I got a report that 14 of them were smuggled into Santa Rita and were put up on the wall. Of course the prisoners loved it, and the guards freaked out and ripped it down. Relating to this linking up of Berkeley with the jailhouse, it's a natural thing because so many Berkeley people wind up spending time in jail anyway. So it's our second home, we might as well make it a better one to live in. SUN-DANCE: You did other campaigníng, though, aside from the jail; like you were talking one time about going before labor unión leaders? Stew: Yeah, I had a very inceresting experience. I went before the AFL-CIO political endorsing committee, and I gave them my rap and I asked them to endorse me for Sheriff. And I was really getting along very well with them. They don't like Madigan because of course the Sheriff's department are used for strike-breakers, they help the scabs. So I was doing fine, andthenl casually said that I thought the working people should begin to arm themselves, because the system was cracking up, and that the working people were going to lose their right to strike, and I pointed, as an example, what happened with the federal mail delivery strike, where the army was moved in. to sort the mail. I said the military would take over the factories at some point in the future with the system cracking up, and forcé the workers to work, so the only way the workers could defend themselves was by arming; and these guys, you know-labor bureaucrats, they freaked out. They were absolutelyfrightened, petrified, at the thought that the people that they were suppoSed to represent mignt oegin to arm themselves. And they said they started attacking the workers . And the AFL-CIO would endup endorsing Frank Madigan, the fascist candidate in Alameda County. SUN-DANCE: What was your campaign platform, what would you do if you'd been elected? Stew: Well, I always made clear to people that running for Sheriff wasn't like running for City Council. If you're revolutionary and you run for city council and you win, ok, they let you sit on the City Council, it's just not as powerful; Butif you're Sheriff, you control the guns, and like Mao says, political power begins at the barrel of a gun. And the sheriff has a lot of guns: So make clear to people that if I were elected Sheriff, they would either find some way to say that the election didn't count, or, if they let me besheriff, take all the real power of the sheriff away frome me. And then say, OK Stew, You can lead the Rodeo, when it comes to town. But no real power. So I make that very ciear. However, I did try to make the point of what, if people had a real representative for Sheriff, what he woulado. And what I wouldhave done, or what I think any representative of ihe people as Sheriff should do, I spelled out a program. And first thing I would have done would be to remove all the guards from Santa Rita County Jail, and then let the prisoners give total selfdetermination to the prisoners. If they wanted to turn Santa Rita into a peopleïs farm, they could do that; if they wanted to leave, they could do that. But it wouldbe total prisoners power. I woujd have disarmed the regular pólice forces. And favored the creation of a people's militia. And the people's militia would have been the true pólice power, in the county, you know, the people. We would have begun growing food in the park, for the Panthers' breakfast-for children program. We would have disbanded the University pólice forcé, and created a student's militia, for the University of California. We would have had the Sheriff's department not protect the landlords when it came time for evictions, but actually help the tenants stay there, by keeping the landlords away from the buildings. And we would have had a general program. I mean I basically think that the basic function of a sheriff's department is to help old people across the street., bring down kittens from trees when they climb up trees, and teach kids how to play ótickball. SUN-DANCE: What was your reaction to the incredible vote you did get? Stew: Well, it was about 30 per eent of the vote. And I got 65.000 votes and some hundred, I don't remember. My reaction was I turned white and almost fainted. Because I didn't run with the expectation of a big vote. I ran to politically orieni, to change the politica! consciousness at Berkeley so that they began to relate much more closely to the problems of Santa Rita, the prisoners at Santa Rita. And that was the main reason for running. I considered the main job of the campaign completed before election day. But naturaliy I was shocked of course I was very happy. Because the big vote proved something that's very important That there is a sizeable number of straight, middle class, working class people in AlamedaCoun who think that the pólice are getting out of hand. Define the vote as an anti-police vote. I don't cali it a pro-Stew Albert vote. SUN-DANCE : Who do you think voted for you? Stew: Well, I know that the whole Berkeley student-freak community voted for me, overwhelmingly, and were very enthusiastic about the campaign. And then, 1 think, just regular folks around the county who think the pólice are getting out of line. A lot of blacks voted for me, I had a black vote, but not just that, but also white middle class people who are sick of the war and woald vote for an anti-war candidate, and are also getting sick of the pólice, and voted for me as an anti-police candidate. SUN-DANCE = K everybody under 18 had been allowed to vote, you probably would have been elected. Stew: Oh I have no doubt, tiowthepoint that I made was that my hig vote proved that, see like Eldridge always said that there are more people than pigs. And my big vote proved that in Alameda County, that's absolutely right. Because if you take my vote and then let's say high school students, junior high schools students could have voted, and if felons could have voted, and if all thft people who didn't know about my campaign and would'have voted for me but forgot to register would have voted, we would have won overwhelmingly. I woulddebate Frank Maddigan in any high school in Alameda Conty, and 1 certainly know who would, win and who'd get run out of town. SUN-DANCE: Well, ifs beert kind of an inspriration for other people, because there are at least two other freaks running for Sheriff, one in Lawrence Kansas. Stew: Oh, It's a real tidalwave we've started. Tt's more than two I firstannouneed my intention to run for Continutd P. 1 8 Sheriff sheriff about a year ago, and there was a big story in the old Berkeley Barb. Of course now that we ve created the Tribe, the Tribe was my main organ of i propaganda during the campaign. But I announced it about a year ago, and even then I started getting a lot of reaction from people, so, I know there's also someone running in Virginia and a number of people in California and around the West. I think U's a great idea. It attacks the pólice. You know what it's like1 It's like how do you think a religious cathohc wouldfeel if an avowed atheist announced he s going to run for Pope. The pólice tried to laugh it off at First and they treated it as a big joke. But when they started seeingme comiijgMitto the jail every week end, and saV who I was relatBhey got a little uptight, and then of course theifcttE freaked them out. SLN-DANCE: Howyïfcuiing class, the prosecuting attorney, how ajgct to your Stew: Well, I bumped into a D.wTfcMapt me to jail and he said it was a real happy day for hira whe n I went off to jail. but of course he didn't know I was running for sherift. After the votehe said he wasn t so happy And I bumped into a deputy sheriff who, when I was in jail, one time sent me to the hole and made me get two haircuts in one day, and he was actually freaked out, very nervous when he spoke to me. He almostsaid, "Yessir." It really got them up tightThê prisoners loved it. About two days after the vote was in there was a riot in Santa Rita and fire was startejJI ■ foür barracks. They dug it. I mean we had PejJ working on the inside and the prisoners really dug it SUN-DANCE: Well off of that, there's sti"T movement of freaks and just plain folks going out to Santa Rita every sunday to see the prisoners, ngll. ■ Stew: Well, the committtee that formed arouiM the campaign is still continuing to opérate. The decisión that we made was to actually starting OW concéntrate more on infütrarioa on making contaci with the prisoners throughvisitiïi, them. You see, a mu number of prisoners wrote to me duiing the campaign.f I and when we got the maü and then we got on theirl fl visiting list, and campaigr have been visitinM them. So we're working on a less ODen level, tryingtn actually build up a core of political organizingr 'J Also I'm involving myself against Santy"a terms of their medical facilities, which arf2fWfj non-existent as their rehabilitation prograTM iX SUN-DANCE: You world encouMgjer people from other cities to run for Sheriff? WT' Stew; X)eíiniteíy. Eventually we're goinw' wefeep doing it. I think that as the genera tion of high school kids reaches the voting age, especially if the voting age is lowered, I believe that in a number of areas we can actually win. I think that will créate a major crisis fore the ruling class in any given area. For instance, in Berkeley especially, Beikeley isn't just any area, it's théhomenf a major student movement, a majorfreekmovementand the Black Panther Party. And not only is the FBI interested in Alameda County, but so is the CIA, so if a revolutionary becomes sherriff, it threatens the whole functioning of their empire. The university of CaliforiuaJimajorenergy source of imperialism. They're parof a"pcess that manufactures lies . The cfcnjerg% the university ojftlifornia pfcrfarn W5uñgrinsurgency pfograThall over Be w0!1 periments gl on therelïologicj#warf art lPN shefiff contro the pólice TmF that I"#lt SeN J university. IJ4 revolijtonary wehefiff,bvray , those compuM-f wouldwi sa.ved. WCTfctf)t swq. iWg them to de Jlol ber aöjafer formlLSD; fc certainly I ncounter7rnsurgency tCjPI Sowhat Plfi? isíiS wouldprVni a major crisis, and that uisome ways the ruling class would have to remove the freak sheriff But then that would be good because it world show the people the true V' class nature of the state. That they could elect somebody to a powerful position, and he's removed by order of the king. . SUN-DANCE: You've been deep into out laws and sheriffs for along time. Who don't you Ulk about some of the great outlawsf. -- - Ê Stew: We make a mistake sometimes in confusing ganters and outlaws. I think its gangsters presiding over large corporate syndicates, and ...part of the capitalist system. But outlaws are dropouts. They drop oat of the functioning of the system and they seek their sarvival by ripping off the system. People like Pretty Boy Floyd, John DHlinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Ding back, people like Butch Cassidy, were actual! belojld figures During thei930's banks were closlni x Re farmers, taking their land; maay times the tjarifi-s fought back with shotuns WeU naturally TlpTklike Pretty Boy PTaKfclin Üühnger who iJbbbing YiTTTniS ""v V VOKeros. They set kWfJW 82 ' wireloo busy rippineögflfe tojapstofiapTv r-JnwÊte accountsPIflrarJpBar.Hoover has. LMlwathJaeoatóthe people have always dug them and seen them as doingrt for them. People like Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger, if they killed anyone. they killed pigs. SUN-DANCE: How about that one time Pretty Boy Floyd got away up that hill, and all the people prepared a big feast for him? Stew: Oh yeah, Pretty Boy Floyd robbed two banks in one day in Oklahoma and that was considered a bad luck thing to do, because the Dalton gang tried it back in the heavy Old West days, and got blown away. WeH, Pretty Boy Floyd did it; he robbed two banks, got away with it, came back to the Oklahoma hills, and the people told him they would sit down and have a meal with them. When the FBI went in there to try to fmd him, everyone said, "Oh we don't know him, we don't know L wherehe's living." And they were hiding him out. The Jtepple were hiding him out because he hit the banks. LXSlkthe people hated the banks. It was sort of like Nnflkcan soldiers looking for Viet Cong among I kiftAnese peasants-they're not going to find them. EPi.7Ed.iIe FBI couldn't find Pretty Boy Floyd. So the 1 ouöaK-they weren't revolutionaries , they knew ' vh5eir enemies were: big business, the politicians, Wice, and they fought them. They fought them L Neally. But they didn't have a sense of how they Nvcq ultimately overthrow their enemy. That it wasn't just a continuous war, but that they could actually win, that they could overthrow their enemy. So they didn't have a sense of arming the people, a political philosophy to take to the people, to organize the people. In a sense they provided a kind of an exciting entertainment for theirpeople that for the people that the people could dig and support. But not a revolutionary philosphy. So we gotta view them as heroic rebels, but not as revolutionaries. SUN-DANCE: Are you going to run for Sheriff again in a couple years? jSNj stw: l was inking of moving t0 Ann Arbor and running against Shefiíf Harvey, as a matter of SUN-DAMK. Ctolhe'ü be around. TO Stew: But thenlB thinking maybe Pun should ' fjWtBMnk my days as an active politician are RP&ci, but 1 think that in future years all the antijgpRenorcesTnemeda County have to be brought jj0together, a candBate has to be found that they can all support, aiiSimi gotta run to win. And I'd be for that. ropUWBsnt, but 1 don't think I'm that candidic-líj ih ■ Mifii WjiBears I won't bc sheriff, IT1 be an . outlal Mmm J'll be the outlaw.