Rev. Andrew Young recalls King’s first march in Memphis erupting in mayhem

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rev. Andrew Young was present for the chaos unfolding in Memphis in 1968.

Young was a pastor, former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He says the demonstration on March 28, 1968 was meant to be peaceful — but it was anything but.

"The march began to move, from Clayborn Temple, at Pontotoc and Hernando, about 5 minutes till 11 o'clock," Young recalled. "Face it — he came to have a march with the sanitation workers. They were very non-violent."

He continued: "Windows being broken, more windows being broken on Beale."

Some say police started the mayhem. Others say black protesters started rioting.

"This has been a wild unruly crowd. Broken windows, shouts of black power. Those who were in charge of this, have no control over it whatsoever."

Eventually, Martin Luther King left the march.

Events from that day went down in history as the reason King left Memphis in March. But he vowed to return in April, not knowing his life would end in Memphis, Tennessee.

"It was very clear from his last speech that he was prepared to move on up a little higher," Young said.

Busted windows, looting, fires and more of the mayhem halted the March 28 demonstration.

Dozens of people were hurt in the chaos and police arrested nearly 300 people.

Unrest was stirring across the nation because of the unfair treatment of blacks.