The Insolence of Office


(Ed. Note--The Crimson does not necessarily endorse opinions expressed in printed communications. No attention will be paid to anonymous letters and only under special conditions, at the request of the writer, will names be withhold.)

To The Editor of the CRIMSON:

On Thursday, May 17th last, some thousand persons representing a diversity of religious faiths and political creeds assembled in Charlestown, Mass., intending to meet on a vacant lot near the Navy Yard in order to protest the presence of the Nazi propaganda ship, the "Karlsruhe," in Boston harbor. This protest they deemed very necessary in view of the fact that the excessive cordiality of the reception given the German cruiser by Mayor Mansfield and Governor Ely could searcely be distinguished from an expression of approval of the Nazi philosophy and practices.

This meeting, sponsored by the Boston Committee to Aid Victims of German Fascism, and supported by many anti-Fascist organizations, such as the Marine Workers' Union, and the Irish Workers' Club, was to consist of speeches and the adoption of resolutions. Several hundred students from Harvard, Radcliffe, M. L. T., and other universities were present. But before the meeting could begin, the police brutally attacked the people present, driving them off the lot where they were peaceably gathered, into the streets, where the onsuing congestion provided the mounted police with an excuse for charging their horses into the crowd, riding down innocent and helpless men, women, and children. People sitting in their cars were cursed and slugged in the same manner as those who were driven along on foot. Some hundred and fifty patrolmon pushed, kicked, cuffed, clubbed, and arrested all who could not got out of their way quickly enough, as well as those whose arrests had been planned because of their previous political activities. In the police station heating were administered to many of the twenty-one persons arrested.

When they were arraigned in court the next day, the prisoners found themselves facing the grave charge of inciting to riot, and were held in the exorbitant bail of one thousand dollars each. The trial held in the police court presided over by Judge Charles S. Sullivan, could hardly be matched for its farcical character. Exposures of perjured testimony for the prosecution were systematically ruled out by the judge as "incompetent," photographs of police violence were barred as evidence, pointed questions asked by the defense attorneys were overruled as often as possible, and in general every effort was made by the judge to shield the police and to intimidate and incriminate the defendants and the witnesses. In spite of these handicaps, the defense was able to refute, by means of witnesses and trenchant cross-examination, every one of the component charges that together constitute a riot according to legal definition. The defense proved that the assembly was lawful, that there was no violence or intention of such except on the part of the police, that the people were unarmed, that the neighborhood was terrorized not by the demonstrators, but by the police, and that there was no concerted effort to override the authority of the officers of the law. Judge Sullivan brazenly disregarded the preponderance of evidence and found all defendants guilty. Sentences ranging from six to eight months were imposed upon most of the prisoners, with a few receiving a one hunred dollar fine or six months probation.

An outstanding feature of the whole episode is the role played by the students. Three of the defendants are Harvard students, three are enrolled at M. I. T., and one is a high school pupil. Despite the support given the arrested anti-Nazis by the faculty and students of Harvard, and by various organizations, especially the International Labor Defense, the defense is badly in need of funds. The sentences have been appealed, and a new drive for funds is necessary. Contributions will be gratefully received, and may be addressed to the undersigned. Every dollar sent us will not only help prevent the railroading of the defendants to jail, but will also be a direct blow at Fascism.

Also protests should be sent to Mayor Frederick Mansfield of Boston, urging the release of all the defendants.

Charlestown Anti-Nazi Defense Fund,

Dr. William Tuthill Parry, Treasurer.

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