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Page 16
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<< 15. Memories of Ann Bailey17. Annie Bailey: In Her Own Words >>

Ring Around the Red Squad: Memories of Annie Bailey

By Joe Petzel

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I was the VVAW coordinator for Northern Illinois and Iowa. I can't remember the year, I think it was 1972, but we were hosting the national meeting of VVAW. The large meeting was in the Wobbly Hall on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Yes, the Wobbly Hall, the same Wobblies who were so important in struggles long before VVAW was in existence.

John and Annie attended, as did many of the members and supporters from Milwaukee and Wisconsin. I always loved being around John and Annie. Annie in particular was down-to-earth, friendly, strong, and fearless.

Those national meetings were great but after a couple of days, everyone was tired.

I had left the hall to get something and upon arriving back I saw members of the Chicago Red Squad taking pictures of people entering and leaving the meeting. They also were writing down the license plate numbers of those who parked on Lincoln Avenue.

I recognized two of the Red Squad cops. They had arrested me at a demonstration when Spiro Agnew visited Chicago. After arresting me they worked me over in an elevator at the police headquarters in Chicago. I became a member of a lawsuit against the illegal practices of the Red Squad. We were victorious in the lawsuit and the Red Squad was officially disbanded. Notice I say officially. Whether the Red Squad was truly disbanded I do not know.

I was upset. Here we were, veterans who had served, and we were being surveilled as we exercised our constitutional rights of free assembly and free speech. I entered the hall and loudly said to Annie that the red squad was outside the hall.

She yelled, "Let's go play ring around the Red Squad!"

About 10 of us ran outside. The 4 cops were inside their unmarked car. We held hands and circled the car chanting, "Ring around the Red Squad." You could see the steam rising from the red faces of the 4 cops. Someone yelled, "They are parked in a no parking zone."

I can't remember his name, he was a former Marine, from a southern state. He said let's write them a people's ticket. He scribbled something on a piece of paper and began to put it under the windshield. The cops jumped out of the car, one of them pulling out his revolver and putting it under the chin of the ex-marine telling him he would blow his brains out if he put the ticket under the windshield wiper.

One of the cops gently moved the hand of the cop with the revolver away from the VVAW member. No arrests were made.

We left and marched back into the hall. An argument ensued in which some VVAW members chastised us for this guerrilla theater. Both Annie and I argued back.

To me, that was Annie, dedicated, fearless, but usually, when I was around her she was finding humor. There was a way she was absolutely serious and at the same time found the absurd in many situations. I laughed a lot around her, always feeling comfortable.

Ring around the Red Squad we chanted, a huge smile across her face. I would have followed her anywhere.

Joe Petzel is a Vietnam Veteran, who served as Regional Coordinator for Northern Illinois and Iowa VVAW, after returning from the war. He was a teacher and psychotherapist. He still teaches and lectures about men's issues.

Annie Bailey in action.

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