Protest

New York’s Finest: Busting Out All Over

“Plainclothesmen seized some 50 demonstrators, slammed them against parked cars, and tossed them head first into paddy wagons”

by

New York’s Finest: Busting Out All Over
May 2, 1968

WASHINGTON SQUARE — While the good John Lindsay praised the peace parade in Central Park, the bad John Lindsay had the peace parade busted in Washington Square Park. While the good Sanford Garelik passed out flyers of “principles to guide police officers at demon­strations,” the bad chief inspect­or gave the order to attack the demonstrators. While the good William Booth looked on, the bad human rights commissioner looked away. While the good Jay Kriegel and the good Barry Got­tehrer privately deplored the police action, the bad mayoral aides publicly condoned it.

Saturday was a fair, gray day. At 11 a. m. the Anti-Imperialist Feeder March began to form in Washington Square Park. Its marchers, some 400 strong, had split with the Fifth Avenue Viet­nam Parade Committee because, according to an ad, “the Parade Committee leadership arranged for strike-breaker Lindsay, whose police regularly attack the black and Puerto Rican commu­nities and break up anti-war and Yippie demonstrations, to greet the anti-war rally in the Sheep Meadow.” So the dissidents — ­mainly Youth Against War and Fascism and the United States Committee to Aid the National Liberation Front — planned their own march.

As police and city officials met under the arch, plainclothes heavies massed on Washington Square North. Cheaply dressed, each cop sported a red hat pin and secreted a sap. City officials also wore hat pins. Tethered by Garelik’s glance, the plainclothesmen waited hungrily at the edge of things, ignoring the far-off challenges of their enemies and prey.

Aryeh Neier, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, leaned against the arch and waited for the bust to begin. Earlier, Neier had sug­gested to Kriegel that the march­ers, two or three abreast, be given a sidewalk route. “You’re telling me what’s legal, I’m tell­ing you what’s practical,” responded Kriegel, who had evi­dently already decided on the bust. So there was nothing to do but wait.

At exactly 12 noon the march­ers hoisted their banners (“Poli­ticians lie — Vietnamese die”) and Vietcong flags, marched out to the sidewalk on Washington Square North, and turned west.

An aged police lieutenant with a bullhorn intoned a warning: “Atten-Shun! There are two authorized parades. This parade is unlawful, having no poi-mit. You are in violation of the law and subject to arrest.”

“The streets belong to the people. The streets belong to the people,” responded the marchers, inching forward on the sidewalk.

The cop with the bullhorn con­tinued to urge marchers to join the Loyalty Day Parade down Fifth Avenue or the Vietnam Peace Parade up in Central Park as plainclothesmen led by Assist­ant Chief Inspector Sidney Cooper seized some 50 demonstrators, slammed them against parked cars, and tossed them head first into paddy wagons. Other cops chased would-be marchers west on 4th Street and north on Seventh Avenue. They caught a few at Perry Street and beat them bloody. The plainclothesmen worked in teams, shielding their colleagues from the press while they pummeled their prisoners. One photograph­er was so carried away by the action that he joined the police in seizing a demonstrator. Aryeh Neier objected, and he too was arrested and thrown into a van. Kriegel watched Neier’s arrest, made a feeble attempt to stop it, failed, shrugged, and went back to directing the bust.

Within a few minutes some 80 persons were arrested and hauled off to various precincts. It took hours to book them and longer for arraignment. At 100 Centre Street, the cops, claiming the court rooms were filled, closed the criminal courts build­ing, denying access to attorneys and bail bearers. It took the DA to re-open the place.

On Monday the New York Civil Liberties Union called for a dep­artmental trial of Chief Inspectors Garelik and Cooper on charges of brutal conduct by plainclothesmen in dealing with the Anti-Imperialist marchers. The NYCLU also said it would bring suit in Federal Court against the Police Department for deprivation of civil rights in Saturday’s incidents and during earlier demonstrations.

“The Police Department be­haved abominably … with the active support and the agree­ment of the Mayor’s office,” said Neier. “Either Lindsay is poorly served by Kriegel and Gottehrer or he is complicitous.”

Neither the Mayor’s office nor the Police Department could be reached for comment. They were busy busting Columbia.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 8, 2020

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