82A not on the basic cause of die problem: poverty."

In document Political movements : three case studies of protest (Page 167-172)

Attacks on the use of particular methods of direct action assumed that the leadership could dictate explicit guide lines for acceptable demonstra­ tions, which could apply at different times and in different locations. Senator Javits had asked the leadership to issue s statement on the "proper limits of protest" so as to ease racial tension and assure the public that protests were not heading in the direction of unlawfulness and violence. Robert Gore, assistant community relations director of CORE, had pointed out earlier: "The time is past when any person or group of persons can assume the prerogative of determining the time, place or type of demonstra­ tion which should be held to break down segregation - Northern or Southern style - often, if not always - the only way to accomplish this is through


Socratic gadfly techniques...." 02



Quoted in Warren,

op. ait.,

p. 162. Italics ln the origin a i.


June 11, 1964, p. 1.

- 162 -

Farmer argued against Javits* position that allowances had to be made for situational changes which made certain tactics correct in one

case and inappropriate in another. Even with respect to the stall-in, which he had opposed at the time, an occasion might arise when such a

tactic would be acceptable:

I was not opposed in principle, I was opposed in tactics and timing. 1 consider a stall-in to be an essentially revolutionary tactic which requires a revolutionary situation - to be in the same category as a general strike, a general work stoppage - and it has certain prerequisites. First, unity in the Negro community. Second, an almost absolute polarization between the races. It would be a desperate measure. For instance, in Plaquemine, Louisiana, I have

recommended to the Negro community that they explore the idea of a general strike. There you have the total polarization, and the absolute unity, so that such a measure would be justified; while in New York it would be neither justifiable or workable. Also there is the extent to which you have been able to get dialogue, and in New York at least we have had dialogue. 85 The protests of the northern civil rights movement, in spite of their militancy, were disciplined, organized, and executed with a minimum amount of "provocative nonviolence". In contrast to these were the riots which erupted in New York and other northern cities in the summer of 1964.

The riots followed a similar pattern, but were not connected organizationally. Routine police behaviour provoked crowds to gather; there were voiced objec­ tions to the police’s behaviour, followed by interference with the latter’s duty. Mob action began; law and order broke down; ill-assorted weapons were thrown at the police; store windows were broken, looting followed. White persons visiting the neighbourhoods were attacked; fire alarms were


pulleci; cars were overturned, 71hs- civil rights leadership within the coesounity was unable to restore order; only the authorities* superior force was able to do that.

A Harle» rally, called by CORE to protest the killing of a Negro boy suspected of robbery by an off-duty policeman, set off a week of


rioting, looting


stealing in the area. Appeals by local aud national Negro leaders, asking that Negroes get off and stay off the

streets, were offset by the call of scan local Negro leader» for "100 skilled black revolutionaries who are ready to die” ,, to correct

conditions in ilarlea. Similar riots were touched off by other instances of alleged police nauhandllug in the Negro section of Brooklyn and

throughout the summer months spread to Rochester, New York, Chicago,

Illinois, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jersey City, Paterson, and Elizabeth,


New Jersey.

Sraelser characterizes a riot a» ✓ form of hostile outburst


within which participants are mobilized on the basis of a hostile belief. He suggests that "the degree of overt expression of these lover-level components in norm-oriented aicvetaents depends largely on the conditions



July 19, 1964, p. 1.


Quoting Jesse Gray,


July 20, 1 % 4 , p. 16.


See comparative reports of riots in


Sept, 27, 1964, p. 61,


- 164 -

o f s t r u c t u r a l c o n d u c iv e n e s s and th e b e h a v io r o f a g e n c ie s o f s o c i a l c o n t r o l . ” I n th e H arlem r a c e r i o t , one f a c t o r w hich s e t t h e o u t b u r s t i n m o tio n was t h e k i l l i n g o f th e Negro boy and t h e f a i l u r e o f th e p o l i c e co m m issio n er to re p rim a n d th e p o lic e m a n . T h is was j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r many o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s t o f e e l t h a t th e y c o u ld n o t e x p e c t a f a i r d e a l from phe a u t h o r i t i e s . The n o r t h e r n r i o t s , a l l o f w hich had begun o b s c u r e ly , w ere c h a r a c t e r i z e d by t h e i r u n d e f in e d g o a ls and t h e i r l a c k o f a c l o s e l y K n it, i d e n t i f i a b l e l e a d e r s h i p . A tta c k s on p o l i c e b r u t a l i t y w ere a t t a c k s r a t h e r th a n dem ands. Form al demands f o r a c i v i l i a n re v ie w b o a r d , f o r ex am p le, w ere made e i t h e r b e f o r e th e r i o t began o r a f t e r t h e r i o t had s u b s id e d .

Tne r i o t e r s th e m s e lv e s w ere by no means a c r o s s - s e c t i o n o f th e Negro com m unity. They w ere composed l a r g e l y o f te e n a g e r s and young men, many o f whom w ere e i t h e r on s c h o o l v a c a tio n o r i n th e ra n k s o f th e unem ployed; th e y b o re a re s e m b la n c e to th o s e who had r e t a l i a t e d a g a i n s t C o n n o r's men


d u r in g th e Birm ingham d e m o n s tr a tio n s . T h e ir a g g r e s s io n was n o t n e c e s s a ­ r i l y c l a s s a g g r e s s i o n , a lth o u g h i t h as b een s u g g e s te d t h a t i t m ig h t have been s in c e th e l o o t i n g o f lu x u ry ite m s p re d o m in a te d . The r i o t e r s a p p e a re d


I b i d . ,

p . 272. Q 1

ATT, J u ly 2 0 , 1964, p . 1 ; J u ly 2 5 , 1964, p . 8 ; J u ly 2 6 , 1 9 6 4 ,IV , 3 . See a l s o B ayard R u s tin , "The H arlem R io t and N o n v io le n c e " ,

WEL News,

J u ly - A u g u s t, 19 6 4 , n . p . F o r f u r t h e r l i t e r a t u r e on r i o t s , s e e H. O tto D a h lk e , "R ace and M in o r ity R io ts - A S tu d y i n t h e Typology o f V io le n c e " ,

S o c ia l Forces,

XXX (May, 1 9 5 2 ), 4 1 9 -2 5 ; A .D . Grimshaw, "U rban R a c ia l V io le n c e i n th e U n ite d S t a t e s : C hanging E c o l o g ic a l C o n s id e r a t io n s " ,

American Journal o f S o cio lo g y,

LXVI (S e p te m b e r, 1 9 6 0 ) , 1 0 9 -1 9 ; K. S m e l lie , " R i o t " ,

Encyclopedia o f trie S o c ia l S cien ces,

X I I I ( 1 9 3 1 ) , 3 8 6 -8 8 .

to be aggressive towards the symools of their version of the white power structure, such as the police and white storeowners. The looting was indicative also of a substantial lawless element within the riots.

This latter point, in addition to the riots having been spread exclusively by grapevine and not by local or national civil rights organizations, separated them from the main body of the civil rights movement. The national Negro leadership was powerless, on the whole, to aeal with the violence. What leadership was asserted on the side of pacification was mainly by local figures. If there was a positive effect of the riots for the civil rights movecient, it was that the established Negro leaders could point to them as a possibility for the future when putting their case for positive and immediate beneficial action from the authorities,

Rustin, himself a disciple of non-violence, argued that the civil rights leadership had to understand the reluctance of suppressed Negroes to rely upon non-violence. The latter regarded it as a tactical weapon that often was inadequate to deal with their objective needs, "[IJt is wrong," Rustin argued "to turn one’s back on people who have been so demoralized and trampled on that they literally have no choice except to

91A fight bacR, and then turn to them and say that was naughty,”

Non-violence was more acceptable as a pragmatic political weapon by those who saw it as consistent with their religious training in Christianity or their tradition of minimizing offences to whites. In

this sense, it was more applicable to southern Negroes for whom it was

Q 14

Bayard Rustin, "Nonviolence on Trial", Fellowship^ XXX (July, 1964), 8.

166 -

"a natural outgrowth of the traditional passive and submissive role in the face of white domination and potential retaliation"• In addition, the philosophy of non-violence could be understood by the educated and sophisticated: "But it is unlikely that it can be accepted with full understanding by the masses of Negroes, Their very attempt to cope with this type of philosophical abstraction in the face of the concrete injustices which dominate their daily lives could only lead to deep and


In document Political movements : three case studies of protest (Page 167-172)