Judy Collins

By Dickens, Tad | The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA), December 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Judy Collins


Dickens, Tad, The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)


Rioting in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests in New York City. Disagreements about citizens' deaths and authorities' tactics.

Things in the United States of today are similar in some key respects to the 1960s, when social change was accompanied by public turbulence, with police and protesters often eying each other suspiciously.

Judy Collins, whose career began to take off in the 1960s, said there is no difference in the eras.

"People have the responsibility to take action and try to participate in a democratic fashion," said Collins, who plays Jefferson Center in Roanoke on Wednesday. "I was involved in many of those times with protest marches and went to jail on the steps of Washington, D.C., over a peace movement.

"It's the same kind of issue. You're up against a force that doesn't want you to do what you're doing. Simple. But that's what democracy is supposed to be about. It's supposed to allow peaceful dissent. Or at least we still have that illusion [laughs]."

Early in a career that has included such crowd-pleasing hits as "Both Sides Now" and "Send In The Clowns," Collins testified in the trial of the so-called Chicago Seven, a group of political activists charged in the 1968 Democratic convention riots. When defense lawyer William Kunstler asked her what she did at a New York City news conference announcing the formation of the Yippie movement, Collins began to sing.

"Where have all the flowers ...." she sang, but Judge Julius Hoffman cut her off before she reached the word "gone," according to a trial transcript found online at the University of Missouri- Kansas City website.

"We don't allow any singing in this court. I'm sorry," Hoffman said.

That last sentence was not an actual apology, Collins remembered in a phone call earlier this month.

"He was sorry to think that he had to be faced with anything more disruptive than what was already going on," Collins said.

It was another part of a generally disheartening time, she said.

"The Democratic Convention of 1968 was a disaster," she said. "It was the end of the peace movement as far as I could tell, because everybody was beaten to a pulp, and [it was decided] maybe some other routes were more effective, less dangerous."

Protesters, including such people as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden, were charged in that case with breaking what at the time was a new federal law against crossing state lines to incite a riot. In complex daily scenes during the presidential nominating convention, police and protesters clashed.

"It was very hard on everybody in the movement, and these guys were real heroes," Collins said. …

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