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Late 1949: ACLU Finds Peekskill Riots Caused by Anti-Communist Rioters, Also Fueled by Anti-Semitism

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases the findings of its investigation into the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After). The report concludes, in part:
bullet “There is no evidence whatever of Communist provocation… on either occasion.”
bullet “While the demonstrations were organized to protest against and express hatred of Communism, the unprovoked rioting which resulted was fostered largely by anti-Semitism, growing out of local resentment against the increasing influx of Jewish summer residents from New York.” Some of the violence was triggered, the ACLU finds, by resentment left over from earlier attacks on a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. One of the buses used by the rioters carried a bumper sticker that read: “COMMUNISM IS TREASON. BEHIND COMMUNISM STANDS—THE JEW! THEREFORE, FOR MY COUNTRY—AGAINST THE JEWS.”
bullet “The local press bears the main responsibility for inflaming, possibly through sheer irresponsibility, Peekskill residents to a mood of violence.”
bullet “[Leftist activist and singer Paul] Robeson’s concerts were not an intrusion into Peekskill but were private gatherings held five miles outside of Peekskill, which were disrupted deliberately by invading gangs from nearby localities.”
bullet “Terrorism was general against all who advocated freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and preservation of constitutional rights.”
bullet “The evidence proves beyond question that the veterans intended to prevent the concerts from being held.”
bullet “Effective police protection at the first concert was deliberately withheld.”
bullet “Preparations to police the second concert appeared adequate; therefore, there was reason to believe that the concert-goers would be protected.… These preparations were largely a sham insofar as the Westchester County police were concerned and left the concert-goers undefended.”
bullet “The wounding of William Secor, rioting veteran, occurred while he was assisting in the commission of a crime.” Secor, one of the rioters who attacked the concert-goers, was apparently the victim of an accidental knifing by one of his own colleagues.
bullet “The evidence indicates that at least some of the state troopers honestly tried to preserve law and order while county police fraternized with the rioters.”
bullet “There is strong indication that the initial violence was planned and was carried out according to plan.” The report details eyewitness accounts of veterans and locals filling the trunks of their cars with rocks. “The wide extent of the stoning indicates careful planning on the part of some person or persons. It can hardly be coincidence that, as cars with broken windows streamed down the county towards New York, they were met with volleys of stones in community after community through which they passed.”
bullet “Terrorism spread over the whole area and included threats against private individuals, against their safety, lives, property, and business.”
bullet “National condemnation has been the chief factor causing residents of the Peekskill area to question this action. The local clergy have joined in this denunciation.… Sentiment in the area is now sharply divided and there is evidence that the legal authorities are moving toward restriction of freedom of speech and assembly, presumably in violation of the Constitution.” [Atkinson et al., 1949 pdf file; Fast, 1951]

Entity Tags: American Civil Liberties Union, William Secor, Paul Robeson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

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