« AnteriorContinuar »
Who knows, if things are well planned, the kids will have a good time (like Ft. Lauderdale). The riots have lasted only for a weekend. Was it the weather? By the way kids, what are you doing this summer???
The commissioner disclosed that three bookstores operating in the Negro district of Buffalo prior to the outbreak of riots were stocked with large quantities of “Communist, revolutionary, and black nationalist literature with a strong and inflammatory racial content.” They were called the Afro-Asian Book Stores and were managed by Martin Gonzalez Sostre. The Afro-Asian Book Store on Jefferson Street was raided by police on July 15, 1967, and Sostre was arrested for the possession and sale of narcotics, among other charges.
At the time of this raid, just 2 weeks following the Buffalo riot, the bookstore was offering for sale publications distributed by the W. E. B. DuBois Clubs of America, Workers World Party, Youth Against War and Fascism, and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Moreover, police found that the bookstore was stocked with literature from Guozi Shudian, an official distributor of publications emanating from Communist China. Commissioner Felicetta read into the record a paragraph appearing in one of the books written by Mao Tse-tung which was confiscated by police. It stated: “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'
The committee counsel introduced into the record the following excerpts from two issues of Workers World, a newspaper published by the Workers World Party, a Trotskyist Communist splinter group, relating to the Afro-Asian Book Stores:
The idea of the bookstore was to prepare Black youth for the liberation struggle. [Workers World, March 15, 1968)
Martin Sostre operated the Afro-Asian bookstore and sold a variety of literature for liberation fighters that you could find no place else in Buffalo. His customers were the Black youth of Buffalo. They had learned to know and to admire this man who wanted them to question, think, and learn.
And as the rebellion raged many of them took refuge in his store where cops on the street could not, for the moment, reach them and where they could, now in excited, eager tones as they sensed the potential of the revolt, discuss what had happened so far and what could be done. Even as the confused battle went on, young men bought books like Negrocs With Guns, by Robert Williams and read them. (Workers World, September 14, 1967]
The witness testified that the Buffalo Youth Against War and Fascism distributed a highly inflammatory flyer in the riot area on June 29, 1967. Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF) is the youth arm of the Workers World Party. This flyer stated that YAWF has condemned the United States Government, the New York State government, and the Buffalo government for their "continual repression of the aspirations of the black people.” It called for “a demonstration of solidarity with the oppressed black people of Buffalo" to be held that same day in Lafayette Square, Buffalo, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
According to police reports, the YAWF demonstration was held as scheduled at Lafayette Square on June 29, 1967, and was attended by approximately 25 persons. Among those who participated in this demonstration were Karl Meller, Gerald J. Gross, Jeanette Merrill, Edward Merrill, George Provost, Joel s. Meyers, Anna Sterling, James Johnson, Rita Johnson, Edward A. Wolkenstein, Rachel Wolk
enstein, Naomi Wolkenstein, William Yates, Peter Hartmen, and Gerald Coles. Commissioner Felicetta testified the theme of this demonstration was that “the disturbances in Buffalo were not a riot, but a rebellion, and the police had no right to interfere with the rebellion.” At this point, the committee counsel presented the following information about some of the aforementioned individuals named by Commissioner Felicetta as participants in the demonstration staged by YAWF during the Buffalo racial disturbance:
Gerald Gross, as chairman of the Martin Sostre Defense Committee, * * * wrote a letter to the editor of the magazine Liberator, which was published in
the November 1967 issue. Liberator was identified in the initial phases of these hearings as a magazine
engaged in racial agitation, edited by Daniel H. Watts, and published by the Afro-American Research Institute, Inc., in New York City.
Jeanette and Edward Merrill made arrangements for the appearance of Mark Lane in Buffalo when he went to that city in the early part of 1964 to speak on the Oswald case.
George Provost was president of the Buffalo Progressive Citizens of America in 1947 and 1948. The Progressive Citizens of America was the immediate forerunner of the Communist-organized Progressive Party.
March 9, 1948, it was reported in an issue of the Daily Worker, Communist Party newspaper, that he was cochairman of a delegation of Communist Party and trade union leaders [Provost is not a trade union leader] who took a memorandum to the Buffalo district representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, protesting the detention of Charles Doyle, who had been arrested for deportation as a Communist and was then being held without bail on
Ellis Island in New York City.
policy in South Vietnam. * * *
in Communist-organized antidraft agitation. A December 16, 1967, article reveals that he was then under indictment for violating the selective service law by disruption at an induction center.
Rita Johnson took part in a demonstration protesting the Cuban blockade, which was held in Buffalo on the evening of October 25, 1962. The hearing disclosed that Martin Sostre played a significant role during the Buffalo riot. Commissioner Felicetta read into the record an affidavit submitted to the Buffalo Police Department by a 15-yearold Negro youth who testified that Sostre advocated the use of Molotov cocktails during the riot. The affidavit revealed that Sostre instructed Negroes on how to make Molotov cocktails and on how to use them. According to the affidavit, Sostre paid the sum of $50 to an individual identified only as “Bernard,” who in turn gave certain Negro youths a few dollars each to throw Molotov cocktails during the rioting. Commissioner Felicetta provided the committee with the following information with respect to Sostre's background: Martin Gonzalez Sostre, also known as Martin X, Martin Ramirez, and Martin Santos, has been identified as a former member of the Nation of Islam, also known as the Black Muslims. Sostre has a lengthy criminal record dealing primarily with narcotics. He was born on March 20, 1923, in New York City and is a Puerto Rican Negro. His mother, Crescinia Gonzalez, now deceased, was of Puerto Rican extraction. He resided in New York City until his entrance into the United States Army in 1942. During his Army career, he was arrested for possession of and dealing
in illegal narcotics. He received a dishonorable discharge and has been confined almost continuously in various prisons since 1946.
Sostre was released from prison when his sentence expired on September 18, 1964; and after serving 30 days in the Erie County jail on a contempt of court charge, he decided to make his future in the city of Buffalo.
He is considered a cured narcotics addict and has undergone treatment in the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.
Sources indicate that he became a Black Muslim in prison, but later left the Black Muslim movement.
The testimony of the police commissioner disclosed that members of the Youth Against War and Fascism demonstrated on July 1, 1967, the day after order was restored in the riot area. This demonstration, composed of the same individuals who participated in the Lafayette Square disturbance on June 29, was held outside the jail in which some of the rioters were being detained following their arrest. The YAWF demonstration was staged for the purpose of demanding that the rioters be set free.
As the witness previously testified, police conducted a raid on the Afro-Asian Book Store on Jefferson Street during the early morning hours of July 15, 1967. Sostre was arrested with his girl friend, Geraldine Robinson, and both were charged with possession of narcotics, sale of narcotics, and for assault upon a police officer. During his arraignment, Sostre loudly protested his arrest and argued in court that the judges and police were trying to take revenge because only he was distributing Socialist-oriented black nationalist literature when the attempt to burn down the East Side was made. Sostre told the judge that “we're going to break up your world, Whitey, so you'd better rot in that chair as long as you can.
Commissioner Felicetta testified that as soon as Sostre was arrested, the Youth Against War and Fascism and the Workers World Party immediately came to Sostre's defense and members of both groups picketed the Buffalo police station in protest over his arrest. YAWF formed an organization called the Martin Sostre Defense Committee and used as its mailing address Post Office Box 382, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, N.Y. Commissioner Felicetta stated that Gerald Gross, chairman of the Martin Sostre Defense Committee and a YAWF organizer, appeared at Sost re's arraignment and offered to vouch for Sostre's good name so that he could be released without bail. In spite of these efforts, the judge refused to comply and continued Sostre's bail, which had been set at $25,000.
The commissioner then read into the record several pieces of agitational literature distributed by the Martin Sostre Defense Committee. One leaflet disclosed that YAWF had been joined by the Students for a Democratic Society, Student Mobilization Committee To End the War in Vietnam, and The Resistance in sponsoring a demonstration in Buffalo on February 17, 1968, for the purpose of generating support for Martin Sostre.
Throughout his jury trial, which began on March 4, 1968, Sostre constantly harassed the judge by engaging in disruptive tactics. Sostre's trial lasted 3 days and resulted in his conviction. Prior to sentencing, the judge remarked:
Everybody knows from your actions in this court that you are a vicious and violent person and you are motivated by nothing more than hate.
You have now been unmasked, defrocked and your plan to disrupt the jury system and pervert our laws has miserably failed. You are, plain and simply, a narcotics peddler and you have been preying upon your own people and the people of this community.
Sostre was given a prison sentence of a maximum of 41 years and 30 days. Commissioner Felicetta said that the sentence imposed upon Sostre comprised four separate counts, namely: Count 1, sale of narcotics, 25 to 30 years; count 2, assault of a policeman, 5 to 10 years; count 3, misdemeanor, possession of narcotics, 1 year; and contempt of court, 30 days.
Commissioner Felicetta testified that John Wilson, the national fundraising chairman for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was the main speaker at a meeting of young Negroes held July 18, 1967, at the JFK Community Center on Clinton Street. In quoting from a police report regarding Wilson's appearance at this meeting, the witness stated:
His whole approach was one of hate and to appeal to the worst in the young audience. He impressed upon the kids that the black men in America don't want integration * * * He insulted all white people in the audience and called Dean Rusk a “Hunkey Fool”, Robert McNamara, a hunkey warmonger. He appealed to the Negro boys to refuse to serve in the armed services. * * *
At this point in the hearing, the general counsel of the committee read into the record the following information on John A. Wilson, which was based on material from committee files:
John A. Wilson was born on September 29, 1943, in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been active in militant Negro organizations since he was a student at Maryland State College, Princess Anne, Maryland, and served as chairman of the Student Appeal for Equality at that college in 1964. In 1964 John Wilson was one of six individuals who met in Chester, Pennsylvania, and formed the militant Negro organization called ACT. (This organization, ACT, has been described in part 1, pages 917, 918, of this committee's hearings on this subject.) Wilson has been an active member of SNCC for the past several years and has served that organization as its New York field organizer. He has also been cited as a national spokesman for SNCC. John Wilson was one of a group of Americans who visited with representatives of the National Liberation Front and North Vietnam in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, last summer. When he returned, Wilson served as cochairman of the National Mobilization Committee To End the War in Vietnam, which organized the march on the Pentagon on October 21–22, 1967. In late January 1968, the National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union was formed. John Wilson was elected its national chairman.
Commissioner Felicetta provided the committee with information regarding a newly devised substitute for Molotov cocktails which he identified as “traveling jelly.” He then proceeded to describe this sub
stance in detail. Commissioner Felicetta concluded his testimony before the commit
tee by making the following statement:
I have traveled all over this country, attending conferences and seminars on civil disturbances in the last couple of years, and many police departments throughout the country seem to have similar problems.
Groups which advocate the destruction of our society have been making the police their major target.
We become natural enemies because of the fact that we are called upon when these civil disturbances take place, and we don't move in by choice; we must move in because this is our job. So, because we are present there, we become the natural enemy.
Since many of these organizations cross State lines, perhaps the Federal Government could provide the legal tools to cope with these activities. Their directions must be reversed.
In congratulating the witness for his excellent presentation, Mr. Ashbrook stated:
These facts that you have cited make it clear that subversive elements are and have been at work in Buffalo in the area of racial agitation prior to, during, and since the riot which took place at the end of last June.
You have shown links between these elements and Peking and Communist organizations outside of Buffalo itself. Your testimony and the exhibits you have presented have demonstrated that Communists and other organizations are actively promoting the dissemination of inflammatory racist literature and that groups of this type in Buffalo have the cooperation and support of similar groups in other cities.
TESTIMONY OF HERBERT ROMERSTEIN
Herbert Romerstein, a committee investigator, provided the record with additional information regarding Joel S. Meyers and Gerald J. Gros, both Youth Against War and Fascism leaders who were iden. tified by Commissioner Felicetta as having been active in YAWF demonstrations. With the arrest of Sostre, Mr. Romerstein testified that a number of organizations involved in racial agitation immediately came to his defense. The committee investigator referred to newspapers published by the Workers World Party and the Trotskyist Communist Socialist orkers Party which contained considerable amount of propaganda material in support of Sostre. According to the committee investigator, one of the most interesting groups to spring up in Sostre's defense was an organization called American Coordination Committee of the Left, of Post Office Box 5, Station C, Buffalo. The telephone number of this group was listed in the name of Edward A. Wolkenstein, who was previously named in this hearing as a participant in a demonstration during the Buffalo rioting. winstein had appeared before the committee as a subpenaed witness on April 29, 1964, in Buffalo, N.Y., in the course of hearings on Communist activity in the Buffalo area and attempted to disrupt the hearing in much the same manner as Martin Sostre had during his appearance in court. Mr. Romerstein stated that Wolkenstein has been identified as a member of the Communist Party, U.S.A., by a former FBI informant who testified before the committee that Wolkenstein was expelled from the party because of his support of the pro-Peking faction within it. Wolkenstein invoked the fifth amendment in response to committee questions regarding his activity in the Communist Party and concerning the circumstances of his expulsion from the party.