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Shattered by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Tank Williams, an unemployed Negro steelworker, gets drunk and is unable to assist his best friend, Johnny Wells, and two confederates, Rick and Larry, in the robbery of a Cleveland ammunition depot. Hampered by Tank's absence, the trio is discovered, and Johnny kills a guard while making a getaway. Tank tries to explain his actions to black militant leader B.G., but he is informed that he has been expelled from the organization, along with Negro moderates and all whites. Convinced that the death of Martin Luther King has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of non-violence, the militants advocate the use of guns as their only means of liberation from white oppression. Later, Tank is approached by Clarence, a homosexual police informer, who reveals that there is a $1,000 reward offered for information leading to Johnny's capture. After a depressing visit with his girl friend Laurie, who has become a prostitute in order to support her children, Tank is once more rejected by his fellow blacks, including Johnny, Filled with despair, he gets drunk and betrays Johnny's whereabouts to the police. They immediately surround the black ghetto and gun down the fugitive. The next day, Tank is seen recklessly buying drinks at a local bar and making a large donation at Johnny's funeral; and the militants quickly deduce that he is the informer. After futilely trying to pass the blame onto Clarence, Tank takes refuge in a cheap hotel room and telephones Laurie. Although she consoles him briefly, Tank is forced to accept the fact that he is doomed. Pursued by Rick and Larry, he races to the steel mills where he once knew security, climbs to the top of a steel bridge, and signals to his former friends until he is finally killed by a rifle shot.