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Art Preis

56 Released as Leaguemen Storm Court

(January 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 7, 26 January 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio, Jan. 22. – A cheering, jeering, clapping, stamping assemblage of Wood County workers and farmers packed the court room here today and forced the release of 50 Unemployed League members who were arrested last Saturday evening after they stormed the relief headquarters and occupied it for eleven hours in an attempt to obtain relief for 26 strikers in a county-wide strike on relief projects.

The defendants formed solidly into a “56 or None Club”, modeled on the famous “46 or None” trial of the Toledo Auto-Lite strikers, defeated attempts of county officials, acting as agents of “No Work – No Relief” Duncan, county relief czar, to isolate and frame Ted Selander, Sam Pollock and Art Preis, Workers Party members and League leaders, by giving them a separate trial.

The 56 workers, 47 men and nine women, were tried in a body, and by raising the demand “If one goes to jail, we all go to jail”, forced Justice-of-the-Peace Nearing to suspend sentence on all on a charge of “illegal trespass” on the public property of the county relief building. A second charge of “unlawful assemblage” against 55 men and women is set for hearing Jan. 28 with the officials wanting to continue it because they realize what a “hot potato” they had grabbed.

Force Leaders’ Release

At the close of this hearing, when deputies started to take Pollock and Selander back to jail until their hearing on the second charge or until ball of $1,500 was raised, the entire assemblage surged around them while the “56 or None Club” seized the prisoners, shouting their slogan. The police, deputies and officials were helpless: they could not feed or house the hundreds who demanded to be taken to jail with the two prisoners, and the prosecuting attorney and sheriff had to appeal to the prisoners to protect them from the crowd.

Upon assurance by the prosecuting attorney of a drastic bail reduction and release as soon as the legal arrangements were carried out, the two prisoners quieted their defenders. The entire group settled back into their seats to wait until Pollock and Seander were released and pledged themselves to join them again in the county jail if they were not.

Following several maneuvers by the officials, such as an offer to release the prisoners if they would promise not to return to Bowling Green and veiled threats that a “vigilante” group was forming and they had better leave the county – which the presence of hundreds of League members in the court room made laughable – the defendants’ offer of $300 bail was accepted.

Are Back on Job

The released prisoners walked right back to the court room, addressed the assembly, and went at once to the relief headquarters on another grievance committee.

The entire trial was a farce. It. was obvious the verdict had been reached in advance. Fearing organization of a proper legal defense, the presiding justice refused to continue the hearing. Since the new defense counsel was unacquainted with the case, the justice permitted Art Preis and Pollock to cross-examine the witnesses. When Duncan was placed on the stand, the cross-examination became so hot the justice quickly ruled these two could not legally carry on the questioning.

The justice refused to permit any testimony on the matter of relief conditions and administration.

Relief Building “Private”

Unable to find a legal basis for the charge of “trespass”, the justice ruled that the relief building – rented with public funds for a public agency – was the property of the relief administration only and in that sense “private” property. He ruled that the public could remain in the building until the regular closing time.

George McGee, one of the defendants and fighting Negro leader of the Rossford Unemployed League, replied to a question as to why he did not leave the building at closing time, “The closing time of the relief office may be 12 o’clock but when your stomach is empty it’s still open.”

Mrs. Frederick, a militant Leaguer, asked what right she had to walk up the stairs of the relief building, answered, “Because I am a citizen of the U.S. I believe I have the right to remain as long as it takes to get food for starving children.”

Charges are being preferred at once against Duncan before the new state relief administration and a committee of the Ohio Unemployed League will demand his immediate removal.

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