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The Militant, 17 August 1946

C. Howell & H. Hill

Police Terrorism Rages Against Harlem Negroes

(12 August 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 33, 17 August 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


NEW YORK, Aug. 12 – Jim Crow brutality is rampant in Harlem. In the last few weeks a campaign of terror and intimidation has been unleashed by the Police Department against the Negro people of New York City.

On the morning of July 14, Mrs. Jossie Stewart and two women friends were refused service by a white cab driver who called the police when they insisted upon their rights. The policeman, Carmello Perconti of the 28th Precinct, yanked Mrs. Stewart out of the cab, kicked her and beat her with his nightstick. He split her lip, knocked out a tooth and shattered four other teeth and abused her with vile language.

Mrs. Stewart was dragged off to the Sydenham Hospital where seven stitches were taken in her lip and medical treatment applied to her bruised abdomen and legs. From the hospital Mrs. Stewart was taken to a police station where she was booked for “assaulting an officer!”

Woman Beaten

In the police station Mrs. Stewart was again beaten by two cops in a back room of the station house. They forced her to remove some of her clothing and kicked her and beat her with their clubs while subjecting her to a series of vile oaths. She was then thrown into a cell. Later her two women friends were seized and arrested when they attempted to visit her. Bail was arranged by Mrs. Stewart’s husband and the three women were released at midnight.

Another case is that of Bonis E. Byrd who accidentally brushed against a cop while walking on the street. Byrd tried to apologize but was beaten on the head and body by, the cop who swung his nightstick unmercifully. Mr. Byrd’s eye was cut open so severely that he will lose the full use of it.

Still another case – there are many more – is that of a musician, Mr. C. Powell, who was so savagely beaten by a cop that he is still in the hospital after several weeks. A member of the National Maritime union, Clyde A. Taylor, had an arm fractured by the police. These cases occur almost daily.

Protest meetings have been organized by many groups in Harlem. The Harlem Branch of the Socialist Workers Party has held several street meetings at which speakers denounced the police brutality and raised the proposal for the people of Harlem to organize a one-day stoppage of work to demonstrate against this police brutality.

At a meeting called by the Stalinist Benjamin J. Davis in the Harlem YMCA, representatives of the SWP proposed that a mass demonstration and a one-day stoppage of work be called. This proposal was enthusiastically endorsed by the meeting.

Representatives of many Negro church organizations were present and pledged their support to this motion. So did representatives of the Packing House Workers, CIO, Local 253 of the Council of Negro Women, United and Allied Veterans of America and other groups.

The Stalinists at this meeting made only one proposal and that was to send a delegation to Mayor O’Dwyer to protest the action of the police. O’Dwyer, who received the unqualified support of the Stalinists in the last election, passed the buck to his police commissioner and refused to see the delegation.

The police commissioner, Arthur W. Wallander, met with the delegation headed by Rep. A. Clayton Powell. Wallander denied that there was any brutality and said there was no race bias in the Police Department despite the evidence presented by the delegation. The Stalinist representatives accepted this statement “at full value” and even announced that they were convinced of the commissioners “sincerity.”

The Socialist Workers Party, however, will continue to work for a mass demonstration to protest police brutality and for full justice for the victims of discrimination.

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