Thursday, August 18, 2005

Local Hero

It will soon be the 56th Anniversary of the Peekskill Riots. Leon Strauss is the grandfather of someone much admired in the LES/PS 20 community. I tried to recreate the setting of the concert with a Google Map and pictures. The event was later followed by the beating of the concert-goers (while local police did nothing to stop) Read here: "Many young veterans and union members felt moved to come and protect what they had gone to war for - democracy. Plans were made for two thousand men, many of them wearing uniforms or union hats, to create a living wall around the concert area. They left the city in buses and arrived at the concert grounds early on the morning of Sept. 4, well before the police. Many carried baseball bats.The site was a natural amphitheater with a wooded ridge surrounding sloping hills leading down to a large tree where the stage was constructed. District 67, the Garment and Fur workers Union took the lead in organizing the security for the concert. Leon Strauss assumed command of this civilian army. When the police showed up later in the day there was a confrontation and the police were asked to leave, which under the law, they were required to do since this was a private event. Two thousand men circled the concert area and quite literally stood shoulder to shoulder. Paul Robeson Junior tells the story of how fifteen men were chosen to guard Paul Senior on the stage. They drew straws and the first man to draw a short straw sat down and cried. Other teams patrolled the hills and found two sniper nests. The men in them had rifles with telescopic sights. The rifles were destroyed, the men roughed up and escorted from the grounds."

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