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Edward Frank

An Open Letter to LaGuardia
on Hounding of Anti-Coughlinites

(May 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 37, 30 May 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

May 25, 1939

Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia,
New York,
New York.

Honorable Sir:

Last Saturday evening, May 20, at approximately 8:30 P.M., four individuals were arrested on Times Square while selling an issue of the Socialist Appeal which carried an exposé of Father Coughlin as a mouthpiece of Fascism in America.

The technical charge placed against them, as is the police custom when they wish to infringe upon civil rights, was “disorderly conduct.” It is a matter of witness that the defendants were selling their newspaper and in no conception of the term conducting themselves in a disorderly fashion.

At exactly the same time and in the same location, Times Square, numerous followers of Father Coughlin were selling their magazine, Social Justice, which is loaded with venomous attacks against the Jews, Negroes, and other racial minorities, and which carries a program identical with that of Hitler and Mussolini just before they seized power.

These followers of Father Coughlin were left entirely unmolested by the police.

Yesterday, on May 24, an exactly similar occurrence took place, when the police arrested eleven individuals who were peacefully selling the Socialist Appeal in the Bronx at Tremont and Marmion Avenues, and booked them on the same technical charge of “disorderly conduct.”

This is not the first time that your police have shown tender solicitude and partiality for the fascists, protecting them while bringing police clubs down on the heads of the anti-fascists. On February 20 at Madison Square Garden your police protected a huge mass meeting of the Nazi German-American Bund. The greatest police force in the history of New York was assembled to make sure that those vultures enjoyed a successful meeting. Those who protested this insulting provocation to American labor were brutally attacked by your police.

The arrests on May 20 and May 24 are only the latest indication of the partiality of the police in attacking the anti-fascists and protecting the fascists. You, as Mayor, are directly responsible for their actions, and we hold you accountable lor these police violations of the elementary rights of free speech and free press.

Why is your police so interested in protecting free speech for the fascist forces in America? Why are they so interested in denying free speech to the anti-fascist forces in America? And above all, where do you yourself stand?

On Wednesday, May 31, at 10:00 A.M., the case of the eleven Bronx defendants is scheduled to be heard in the Magistrate’s Court at 161st Street and 3rd Avenue. On Thursday, June 1, at 10:00 A.M., the case of the four Times Square defendants is scheduled to be heard in the Magistrate’s Court at 54th Street and 8th Avenue,

If you are genuinely interested in safeguarding civil liberties and democratic rights, as you maintain in your public utterances, then you will show it by conducting a personal investigation of these cases where civil liberties and democratic rights were so flagrantly violated.

We demand, moreover, that you instruct your police Commissioner, Mr. Valentine, and his Department of your City Administration, to desist from provoking, attacking, and arresting anti-fascists who are courageously attempting to expose the insidious and great danger of fascism to the American people, particularly at this time, the danger of Father Coughlin.

It is high time you brought your opposition to Fascism down from the nebulous clouds of oratory to the sidewalks of New York where fascism right now is fanning race-hatred and foisting its poisoned literature on the people of New York City.


Edward Frank

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