Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hold The Line

An excerpt from Howard Fast's eyewitness account of The Peekskill Riots: "THE ATTACK STARTS A few minutes after I arrived, a boy came running down from the state road and informed us that the fascists had started the attack and that the road was solidly blocked. All the available boys and men--about 25--ran up to the entrance to the grounds. There we discovered that the double entrance had been blocked, one part with a Legion truck, the other with a stone barricade. As we stood there, the fascists launched their first attack, about 300 of them against our handful. There was a brief melee, in which two of our boys were hurt, quite badly. We noticed now that most of the attackers were heavily liquored up; nor were they teen-age boys, as so many stories reported. Most of them were men between 35 and 50--and one of their leaders was identified as a prominent real estate man of Peekskill. At this point, three sheriffs appeared. They were in plain clothes, with gold badges pinned on. Aside from three other men--who were identified as Justice Department agents, and who stood quietly by--these were the only police we on the inside saw for the next two and a half hours. The three sheriffs argued half-heartedly with the fascists; one of them with sufficient guts could have broken up the thing right there; but all three, in all their actions, were against us and on the side of the fascists. While the sheriffs argued, we formed ourselves into three lines, sending the girls back to the bandstand [leaving the males] stretched across the road, which was embanked at this point. There were exactly 42 of us, and we organized into seven groups of six, with a squad leader for each group. We were about half Negro and half white, half teen-age boys, and half men. We had eight trade unionists among us, four of them merchant seamen. From here on, for the next two hours, we maintained our discipline."
I would say even odds that George Pataki's father was part of that lynch mob Here's the full text of Fast's account and as a rare two for one bonus Here's a slide show I put together consisting of archival images of the concert/riots, some recent pictures of the same site (now a luxury Toll Bros. condo with an adjoing golf course). The sound track is the stirring Pete Seeger/Lee Hays song (not to be confused with Toto's), "Hold The Line"

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