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June 20, 1968, Vol. XIII, No. 36
Summer’s a Bummer When the Heat’s On
by Don McNeill
Summer comes on Friday and, true to all predictions, it’s getting hot on the Lower East Side. The summer heat fills the streets. At night, in the far east, the poor pour out of the sweltering tenements for the cool and company of the sidewalks and stoops. Farther west, St. Mark’s Place is already jammed with sightseers and a growing pack of resident longhairs whose thing it is to hang out on the block. But now, there’s another kind of heat on the East Side, dispersed all over but most evident keeping people moving on St. Mark’s Place. Lately the police heat has been getting heavy.
During the last few weeks on the East Side, the police have cracked down on several elements in the hip community. Esso, the East Side Service Organization, and its militant core, the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, famed East Side chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, have been under hard police pressure. Two of their members were busted several weeks ago for conspiracy to riot — a felony — during a demonstration to close a block on 6th Street for children to play. Another U.A.T.W.M. was arrested a week ago Friday on St. Mark’s Place on charges of inciting to riot. A dozen others have been busted on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to harassment.
But the most spectacular bust to date was last Thursday when Jerry Rubin, a founder of the Yippies, a veteran leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the Pentagon March, and a member of the Esso board of directors, was arrested by narcotics detectives in his apartment and charged with possession of more than one ounce of marijuana in the first degree, a Class C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Rubin was released on $1000 bail Thursday night and held a press conference on Friday. He said that two narcotics detectives in plainclothes came to his apartment at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday. According to Rubin, they called through the door that they wanted to question him about a homicide in the Bronx. He opened the door and the police pushed their way in, he said, and showed him “What looked to be a search warrant…with my name and a judge’s signature.” Then a third cop came in, and Rubin said they began to go through his apartment, saying they were looking for guns and drugs. “They never stopped talking,” he said, “and all their talk was about politics, nothing about drugs…They ripped off a poster of Fidel Castro from the wall, cursing, shouting, threatening me, and calling me a communist.”
Rubin said that the police remained in his apartment for a half hour, going through his papers and correspondence, asking him about his activities at Columbia and his trip to Cuba. Then, he said, he was handcuffed and taken to a private car.
When Rubin arrived at the Ninth Precinct, Nancy Kirschner, his girl, was waiting for him. She said at the press conference that she had received a telephone call telling her to come to the Ninth Precinct. She followed Rubin into the station. “The cops asked me if I was the girl he lived with,” she recalled. “I was the only one who was to be permitted to see him. I said yes, and was told to follow them up the stairs. I began to climb the stairs when Jerry shouted out, ‘why are you coming?’ I realized what was happening, and began to split, when two cops grabbed me and placed me under arrest.” Charges against her were dropped that evening in court.
Rubin and his girl were taken to the courthouse at Centre Street by the same police who had arrested them, and he said that the harassment continued. “One of the cops in the car said he wanted the chance to get at me, and the other said, ‘Nah, don’t do it.’ As I got out of the car he grabbed me by the neck and started pressing, pushing me along. The other cops left him alone with me and he walked me down a long corridor, shouting ‘You hate America.’ At the other end of the corridor, there were two uniformed cops. In front of these cops he hit me twice in the head, and then told me to go to the cell. As I moved to the cell, to await arraignment, with my back to him, he kicked me at the base of my spine, knocking me to the ground.” After his arraignment, Rubin went to Bellevue Hospital where, he said, doctors learned from an X-ray that he had suffered a probably fracture of the coccyx.
Rubin’s preliminary hearing was set for July 2. His attorney, William Kunstler, said that the warrant, and the grounds for it, could be a key factor in Rubin’s case. Kunstler sees political connotations in the case. “There seems to be a lot more behind this than a bust on possession of drugs,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that someone was after him.”
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