Bronx CORE (pt 2)
Bronx CORE supported both of the 1964 City Wide School boycotts. One of its members, William Deutsch, was even arrested for passing out fliers in front of a school for the second boycott. The chapter created its own ‘freedom school’ to teach regular classes in Negro history at the nearby Bethany Lutheran Church on Saturday afternoons. There was also a specific Bronx CORE youth group for ages 11-21. Judy Jones and Judy Howell were its first chairs. It should be noted that Judith Howell was one of the CORE members arrested at the start of Harlem riots and one of the speakers at the initial rally that led to the riots.
Bronx CORE vs. Police Brutality
Jesse Roberts (Black), the owner of an auto repair shop, showed up at the 48th precinct to report a stolen car. Instead, he was arrested on a narcotics charge, hung in a ‘crucifix position’ in an upstairs room in the precinct and beaten by 3 officers, causing several broken ribs. As dramatized in a scene from The Education of Sonny Carson, this was a torture method used by NYPD at the time. Such stories were not uncommon in the Bronx.
One hundred people picketed the precinct as a result in what was just the beginning of a series of actions and direct campaigns against police abuse. Vice chair Yaphet Kotto also alleged he had been a victim of police brutality later that year. In a document sent to the national CORE office, Kotto detailed how a security guard at a Philadelphia bus station, unexplainably threatened by Kotto's presence, called the police on him. The police robbed and beat him unconscious on the way to the precinct and then again at the precinct when he awoke. The next day he was charged with being drunk but the charges were dismissed.
On March 6th, 1964, the same day as East River CORE’s Triboro Bridge demonstration, Bronx CORE sat in at Police Commissioner Murphy’s office in Police Headquarters, 240 Centre street. Callender, Quander, Rafael Martinez and Revernd L. Walker, along with Isaih Brunson from Brooklyn CORE and two members of Progressive Youth for Puerto Rico, handcuffed themselves to a grill on a door near Murphy’s office. Other CORE members protested outside. All this was after their attempt to give Murphy’s office a fact sheet with demands to stop police brutality failed.
The action led to tighter procedures on who could enter Police Headquarters.
It also led to Callender, along with Malcolm X and rent strike leader
Jesse Grey, being singled out by Police Commissioner Murphy in the press
as one of the ’three most irresponsible civil rights leaders in
the city’. Callender was accused of having a ‘lust for power’,
‘sinister motives’ and ‘no real concern for the fight
for equality or for the people waging this battle’.
‘We’ll have to shock the officials and the public to get
the city to face up to the realities of the day. So far, we have been
unable to bring about the changes we want. ”
Snake In The Garden
At the same time, the group arrested for the March 6th sit-in at police headquarters were given thirty day suspended sentences. Some were given fines. Callender and Quander were convicted for resisting arrest.
When these initial demonstrations did not work, Bronx CORE filed suit charging misappropriation of public funds. It alledged discriminatory hiring practices were being allowed at a city construction project the union was involved in. Summonses were served on the mayor and city controller and made for the governor and plumbing contractor. This evolved into an announcment that citizen’s arrests would be made on the mayor, governor, city and state comptrollers.