It was supposed to be a routine campaign stop. In a poor section of Indianapolis, 40 years ago Friday, a largely black crowd had waited an hour to hear the presidential candidate speak. The candidate, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, had been warned not to go by the city’s police chief.
Staff members scrambled to cancel the event. Ghettos were sure to explode in violence across Indianapolis and America. But when Kennedy chose to ignore the warnings, the Indianapolis Chief of Police weighed in.
His men could not provide protection. It was simply too dangerous.
As his car entered the neighborhood, his police escort left him. Once there, he stood in the back of a flatbed truck. He turned to an aide and asked, “Do they know about Martin Luther King?”
They didn’t, and it was left to Kennedy to tell them that King had been shot and killed that night in Memphis, Tenn. The crowd gasped in horror.
Kennedy spoke of King’s dedication to “love and to justice between fellow human beings,” adding that “he died in the cause of that effort.”
So Bobby Kennedy went in alone that night to deliver the greatest speech of his life.
He told that broken crowd of Americans how it was not the time to embrace violence but rather to live the very values for which Martin Luther King had died.