Skip to comments.THOMAS IS ROUTED AS RIOT HALTS SPEECH IN NEWARK; 400 POLICE END FIGHTING (RT+70)
Posted on 06/05/2008 5:26:21 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
They pelted Mr. Thomas with rotten eggs and ripe tomatoes, drowned out his efforts to speak and his appeals for fair play with howls and band music, and finally forced him to abandon the attempt.
In rioting around the speakers stand three persons were hurt. One of them was taken to a hospital. Four were arrested. Mr. Thomas was knocked to the ground but not injured when a policemans horse, frightened by the band, bumped into the stand. The crowd tried to rush Mr. Thomas as he was leaving the park, but the police surrounded him and escorted him safely away. Numerous fist fights occurred between Thomas sympathizers and demonstrators.
Mr. Thomas had intended to deliver here tonight the speech he was prevented form giving in Journal Square, Jersey City, on the night of April 30, when he was deported by the police after trying to speak without a permit. The twice frustrated speech was an attack on Mayor Hague of Jersey City on the charge of violating the constitutional guarantees of C. I. O. organizers by depriving them of the rights of free speech, press and assembly in their drive to organize Jersey City workers.
Before tonights riot a committee representing war veterans organizations and American Federation of Labor unions made an unsuccessful attempt to have Mr. Thomass permit revoked. The permit was granted some time ago by the Commissioner of Parks and Public Property.
Mr. Thomas arrived here from his New York home at 5 P. M. and went to an office building at 34 Park Place, where Newark headquarters of the Socialist party are located. He conferred with members of the party until 5:30 when he walked to near-by Military Park.
About 400 persons were present, including Thomas sympathizers, curious spectators, and some who carried small American flags and appeared to be hostile although they remained quiet at this time. In the rear of the crowd a man handed out flags, calling, Are you afraid of socialism? Numerous policemen were present.
When the meeting started a speakers platform had not arrived, so Miss Clara Handelman, Essex County secretary of the Socialist party, and chairman of the meeting, mounted a park bench to make the opening speech. She announced that sound equipment could not be used because Deputy Police Commissioner Leo Cluesmann had denied a permit for it.
Asking the crowd to keep order, Miss Handelman said the meeting was a demonstration to the whole United States. I hope everybody will remember that Americanism is not hooliganism, she added. She then introduced Mr. Thomas, who took her place on the bench amid applause and cheers from his followers and derisive sounds from some of the others.
Mr. Thomas had hardly started to speak when his words were drowned by music from a uniformed band of twenty-five pieces, which marched out of Treat Place, a side street, into the park about 100 feet away from the speaker. The band was followed by about fifty marching men, many of them wearing veterans overseas caps. Some looked to Newark observers like tough boys belonging to one of the ward gangs.
At the same time six mounted police galloped into the park from the opposite side. They forced back the crowd in front of the speaker, clearing a space into which the parade marched. The band, playing loudly, stopped directly in front of Mr. Thomas, with the fifty men behind it.
The mounted police, together with other uniformed men and plain-clothes men, surrounded the speaker. Cheers, boos, jeers and hisses mingled with the band music. The first of a series of scuffles began in the crowd. The platform arrived and Mr. Thomas mounted it As he continued his effort to speak, a veteran near the front yelled: Youre all wet.
This appeared to be the signal for the first of a series of barrages, with eggs, tomatoes, apples and pears being thrown from the crowd. Mr. Thomas was struck in the face by two eggs, on the shoulder by another and in the chest by another. Jack Palangio, Hudson County organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, standing beside him, was cut slightly on the face by a breaking egg-shell. Another egg hit Deputy Police Chief Philip Sebold, standing near the stand.
Trying to ignore the continuing shower of eggs, Mr. Thomas made repeated efforts to speak, but each time the band struck up again and the hostile part of the crowd howled him down. Reporters at the stand could barely make out the few words Mr. Thomas managed to get out during momentary slackening of the din.
In any city of the United States, he shouted, a man has the right to present both sides of a story. Wont you please let me present mine? Listen to what I have to say
It was at this point that the policemans horse backed into the platform, knocking Mr. Thomas down. The speaker got up again while his antagonists jeered.
Police reserves, bringing the total police detail to 400 men, now arrived in answer to a riot call sent in by Deputy Chief Sebold. The crowd had increased to more than a thousand.
How many of you people believe in fair play? Mr. Thomas demanded. More boos and jeers. For a moment the band stopped and Mr. Thomas tried to speak again, only to have his voice drowned out by a resumption of the music.
I hope you are being paid union wages, he yelled at the band.
Mr. Thomas turned to the reporters and told them that this must be a manufactured disturbance, for this crowd never paid for that band.
Deputy Chief Sebold several times urged Mr. Thomas to leave while youve got a chance.
This crowd is likely to get out of control, he warned.
Mr. Thomas as often insisted that he had a permit to speak and intended to remain. Finally, after another conference, the deputy chief mounted the platform and held up his hand for silence, and announced:
Mr. Thomas has authorized me to say that if you wont listen to him hell go home.
Mr. Thomas protested.
Wait a minute, he shouted. Youre misrepresenting what I said. Get me order for just half a minute.
Deputy Chief Sebold stepped down from the platform, and Mr. Thomas asked him to come back.
Youre responsible for the conduct of this meeting, Mr. Thomas argued.
No, Im not. You are, replied Sebold.
They conferred again, after which the deputy chief returned to the platform and announced: Ladies, Gentlemen and Legionnaires: On my advice this meeting is disbanded.
This was at 6:11 oclock, less than half an hour after the meeting began.
After Mr. Thomas left the stand it was overturned by some of the crowd, who seized and carried away the American flag that had been fixed to it.
Mr. Thomas started to walk away with members of his party. A group of men with weapons improvised from wood from the speakers stand started toward him, but police kept them back, while Deputy Chief Sebold detailed six mounted policemen and a group of detectives as an escort for Mr. Thomas. They took him to the Socialist party offices.
Sporadic fighting continued for some time in various sections of the park. The police made four arrests, charging Joseph Siza, 22 years old, of 355 North Sixth Street, Newark, with assault and battery and malicious mischief in throwing eggs at Mr. Thomas. While they were arresting Siza, according to the police, Ralph Giazobbe, 43, of 101 Leslie Street, East Orange, interfered. They arrested him and took him to the City Hospital for treatment for an injured eye.
Two men arrested at the park on charges of disorderly conduct said they were Eugene Rutzler, 54, of 27 Davis Avenue, Kearny, and Stephen Kolovitz of 750 Huntington Street, Newark.
Two others who reported injuries were associates of Mr. Thomas. They were David L. Clendennin of New York, national treasurer of the Workers Defense League, and Morris Milgram of Jersey City, New Jersey State secretary of the same organization. Both said they had been struck in the face by members of the crowd while standing alongside Mr. Thomas in the park, and that the police had refused their requests to arrest their assailants.
Both were witnesses for the C. I. O. this week at hearings before Federal Judge Clark here on its application for an injunction to restrain the Jersey City authorities from interfering with civil rights.
After the Thomas party left, the men who had broken up the meeting continued to march around the park behind their band. Their leader identified himself as Adam Cassell, adjutant of Good Fellowship Post 189 of the American Legion, one of the organizations which had tried to have Mr. Thomass permit canceled earlier in the day. He said his group had hired the band and organized to break up the meeting.
The veterans carried signs reading: The working people of our city are contended. Reds, keep out, and Let all Russian radicals and Red foreigners go back to Russia.
Deputy Chief Sebold said that detectives escorted Mr. Thomas by automobile from the Socialist headquarters to the Newark Athletic Club and then took him to the tube train for New York. The deputy chief added that Mr. Thomas twice during the meeting asked him to quite the disorder. The first time, he said, at Mr. Thomass request, he (the deputy chief) addressed the crowd, after which it became quiet. When Mr. Thomas then tried again to speak, the disturbance started again.
He then asked me to get up on the platform with him, but I couldnt see my way clear to do that, said the deputy chief.
According to the deputy, Mr. Thomas then agreed to leave if the crowd were brought under control again. The officer said this was when he announced that he was authorized by Mr. Thomas to disband the meeting.
Police Chief John F. Harris said that the police went to the park to prevent disorder, not to prevent the meeting.
Before leaving for New York Mr. Thomas said that it was up to the people of Newark and to Governor Moore of New Jersey to make amends for tonights trouble.
But Im afraid we wont get much satisfaction from the Governor, for hes only Mayor Hagues Charlie McCarthy, added the Socialist leader.
This is the way tyranny grows in the guise of patriotism, he went on. I certainly shall add the name of Newark to that of Jersey City unless the people of this city do something about this state of affairs.
When it is possible to go from election frauds to downright violence in any city in the country, he continued, the liberties of this nation are in great danger. Tonights demonstration is a serious indictment of Newark police and public officials.
Mr. Thomas charged that the police acted in concert with the men who broke up the meeting, instead of protecting it in the exercise of its permit.
This riot was inspired from Jersey City, he went on. I recognized banners and signs carried by the marchers here tonight as exactly the same as those borne in Jersey City several weeks ago.
Mr. Thomas, who said that his speech was to have been a civil liberties anti-Hague one, called conditions in Newark as bad as in Jersey city as far as civil liberties were concerned, but said he did not indict al Newark.
This whole thing had the earmarks of connivance with the co-operation of the police, he said. The police could have prevented violence.
Mr. Thomas said the demonstration was carried out in the same way Hitler brown shirts work, by a comparatively small mob intimidating a crowd and being aided by either the indifference or collusion of the police.
He pointed out that his opponents had had no permit for a parade or a meeting.
As he left for New York, Mr. Thomas said bitterly:
I expect I will be given safe conduct back to America. I want to go to Pennsylvania Station.
He rode to the station in a police radio patrol car, preceded by two motorcycle policemen and followed by a riot squad car containing six policemen.
I expect to come back, were his parting words. Another meeting will be arranged by nonpartisan citizens of Newark interested in civic welfare, and I will be there.
Later Mr. Thomas sent from New York the following telegram to Mayor Ellenstein of Newark:
I call on you as Mayor of Newark to apologize for disgraceful mob violence in Newark when a small mob, obviously instigated from Jersey City with the help of the active friendship or incompetence of Newark police, broke up in truly Hitler-like fashion a peaceful meeting for which the Socialist party had a permit. Has Newark turned Nazi? If not, I expect apology and guaranteed protection for a great nonpartisan meeting of protest.
Mr. Thomas also made this comment:
Ellenstein was once an enemy of Hague but he supported Hague in the last election. He did it out of fear for himself. I watched this disturbance for ten minutes and at any time the police could have broken it up. I dont believe the disturbers were Legionnaires. Most of them were just bums and drunks.
Mayor Ellenstein, when informed early this morning of Mr. Thomass telegram, denied being in sympathy with those who provoked disorder at the meeting.
I am no more in cahoots with Hague than Mr. Thomas is, Mayor Ellenstein said. I am fully in accord with the principles of free speech so long as it does not incite to violence. I have no charge of the Police Department. Im only chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Newark.
Mr. Ellenstein said he would reply to Mr. Thomass telegram when he received it.
Michael P. Duffy, Director of Public Safety, who was out of the city at his shore home, announced an investigation in the following telegram: I deeply regret the occurrence in Military Park and have ordered Police Chief Harris to make thorough investigation to ascertain whether or not there was nay laxity on the part of the police.
The Rev. Joseph Kernan, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bayonne, who was scheduled to speak at the meeting, said he felt so ashamed at the demonstration that I want to crawl in a corner and die. The meeting was to have been held under the auspices of the Socialist party, which obtained the permit.
Before the trouble occurred a group representing veterans organizations and A. F. of L. labor unions failed in an attempt to have Mr. Thomass permit for a meeting canceled. Michael Brietkopf, former assistant prosecutor of Essex County, spokesman for the group, told Police Chief Harris that the veterans organizations had made a survey of the sentiments of the citizens of Newark and were convinced there was danger of riot and bloodshed if Mr. Thomas were allowed to speak.
Chief Harris replied that he could not cancel the permit because he had not issued it. He explained that the park in which the meeting was held was under the jurisdiction of Joseph M. Byrne Jr., Commissioner of Parks and Public Property, who was the only person who had authority to cancel the permit.
Although he had no jurisdiction over the parks, Chief Harris added, he did have jurisdiction over the streets, and would see that the meeting was properly policed. He immediately ordered all police to stand by.
The delegation then went to Commissioner Byrnes home, where they found he was attending a track meet at Randalls Island in New York. They then abandoned efforts to have the permit canceled.
Mr. Brietkopfs delegation included John J. Connelly, Disabled war Veterans; Vincent C. Carson, past commander of the Good Fellowship Post, American Legion; Thomas E. Durkin, president of the Patrolmens Benevolent Association, representing the Catholic war Veterans; Joseph Heimberg, Jewish War Veterans; Edward T. Durning and Bernard A. Ward, Irish War Veterans; Joseph Mitcho, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Fred Scholl, president of the New Jersey State Building and Construction trades Council; William E. Carter, member of the executive board, New Jersey State Federation of Labor, and Michael Condron, vice president, New Jersey State Federation of Labor.
Later Mr. Brietkopf said that the affair was disgraceful, and that the veterans would ask the City Commission not to allow any similar meetings in Military Park hereafter.
He said that the veterans delegation at the meeting intended simply to listen and ask Mr. Thomas questions after he finished speaking, and that it hired the band to play patriotic music at the end of the meeting. He insisted that the trouble started because some of Mr. Thomass followers jumped our men when they marched.
If it had not been for the splendid work of the police, he said, the veterans would have taken a good shellacking, because, he said, they were heavily outnumbered. He said that the veterans organizations chipped in to pay for the band.
Mr. Breitkopf is an active organization Democrat. He was assistant prosecutor for Essex County from 1932 to 1937, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the city commission last year. He was once a professional prize fighter, and now is a lawyer. He served in the war as a corporal of the 112th Field Artillery, Twenty-ninth Division, and is past commander of the Blue and Gray Association.
Joseph Basile, whose band was used, said he received $175 for the job, and was employed at 3 oclock this afternoon by six men who said they represented veterans organizations and asked him to play at a rally in the park.
Carl Banwart, Shade Tree Commissioner of the Department of Parks, which issued the permit for the meeting, witnessed the disturbance. He said afterward:
We issued the permit for the Socialist party, not for the band, which was a bunch of hoodlums.
A joint committee of the veterans in Essex County, including representatives of various organizations, adopted resolutions saying Military Park was hallowed ground and should not be desecrated by Communists, Nazis, Fascists, Socialists or any other anti-American agitators.
A similar resolution was adopted by A. F. of L. groups. Both resolutions were presented in the form of petitions to the city commissioners and the police authorities in support of the request for cancellation of the permit.
State Senator Lester H. Clee said in comment:
I never believed such a thing could happen in Newark and I bow my head in shame.
Senator Clee, who is also pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Newark, went on to say:
What happened in Military Park was not caused by Norman Thomas. It was the creation of a riot and the breakdown of law and order, evidently organized by the same vicious power which is bringing ruin to this State.
This was the front page lead in the Sunday edition.
Get rid if all the fascists? A good trick if you can do it. But I doubt that all the demorats (and most of the pubbies) will leave voluntarily.
Back when the "right wing" had some balls...
Are we in a day when more of the same will be necessary? I don’t think the American people in General can tell the difference anymore. Now they would cry, “More socialism; down with the Republic.”
Because the political spectrum in this country has moved so far to the left, Norman Thomas would be considered moderate or even slightly conservative today, at least on matters other than economics and foreign policy. As far as I know, he did not favor the cultural radicalism that has been a hallmark of the Democrats since the rise of George McGovern and has made inroads into the GOP.
EVAN THOMAS of Newsweek is the grandson of this Norman Thomas.
More examples of the concept that kristallnacht was an exercise in free speech
Thanks for posting - I love reading “at-the-time” news articles to get a feel for what it was like (without the benefit of hindsight).
I wonder if Nelson’s opponents could have invoked Godwin’s law when he accused them of acting like “Hitler’s brown shirts”. :p
National Socialist German Workers' Party.
I have read that conservative theorist Russell Kirk voted for Norman Thomas because of his opposition to intervention abroad.
Nah, Americans are too concerned with who wins 'American Idol.' Bread and circuses.
I agree. The mob rule aspect of this incident is disturbing. I got the same feeling from a story I posted a couple months ago about an American Legion group who broke up a meeting of the German-American Bund in upstate New York.
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