May Day in America 1969. “Free Huey.” A personal look back at a different time

Lee Heidhues – 5.1.1969

May 1, 1969 finds many folks at the Federal Building in San Francisco singing the praises of Huey P. Newton who is serving a long jail sentence for allegedly doing in an Oakland policeman in 1967.

Many folks were there holding aloft “FREE HUEY” placards and several strolls were taken around the block as some 4000 folks chanted many slogans, including “Off the Pigs!!!” … “Free Huey!!!” and it was contagious as young blacks and whites did vent their anger at the outrages of society and discussed the revolution which will come sooner or later in some form.

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“Free Huey” Rally at SF Federal Building – May 1, 1969

In one sense it’s very depressing to see how far down society has come that the only redress for grievances is in the streets and that’s what occurred today as Tactical Squad folks were called in to quell a small disturbance and these cats, as in the strike at SF State, do look mean and ugly, running down the block … true pigs. 

During this time, I talked with an old Black man who chatted about the insanity that is America, then told me to get away since I was putting “up tight” his nice stroll in the country and, “This country is fucked anyway.”  A sobering moment.

Little Red Book 5.1.1969
The Little Red Book

Many Blacks passed out Mao’s Little Red Book and at the proper moment held them high aloft.  At this moment I could see why so many folks like Mao.  Afterall, he took his cause and won over the biggest land mass next to Russia. So, he’s something of a hero.  This was not the typical friendly type march. There were many angry folks ready, willing and able to “off the Pigs!!!”


Later I went over to City Hall and watched the trials (of several students arrested during the Strike at SF State) with six folks in the Docket, and in this Trial is John Webb, one other man and four women.  So, life goes on and a horrid woman as District Attorney  mercilessly grilled all the suspects, especially John … The DA with blonde hair all done up probably hates men and could have been an adequate Nazi to be sure.

Free Huey Poster
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – 1969: A poster showing a Mass Rally on May Day 1969. The Black Panther Party held rallies across the nation demanding the jailed minister of Defense Huey P. Newton be set free circa 1969 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)