Meeting in New York City last month, the general board of the National Council of Churches entered into soul-searching discussion of the role its members should play in the nation's civil rights struggle. Were pulpit pronouncements enough? Could the Christian conscience be satisfied by mere pious expressions of sympathy for the Negro? One who thought not was the Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, executive head of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.'s general assembly, former president of the National Council and one of the U.S.'s most respected clergymen (TIME cover, May 26, 1961). Turning to a fellow board member, Blake said quietly: "Some time or other we are all going to have to stand and be on the receiving end of a fire hose."
Last week Blake, an old Princeton football guard and a man of enormous energy and determination, put his convictions to the testand although it did not bring streams from a fire hose, it did lead to a Maryland police station.
The Choice. Blake was one of 283 whites and Negroes, including 26 Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergymen, arrested in an integration march on the gaudy Gwynn Oak Amusement Park outside Baltimore, which has long barred Negroes from its 64 acres. Arrested with him were Bishop Daniel Corrigan, director of the home department of the national council of the Protestant Episcopal Church; the Rev. Dr.
William Sloane Coffin Jr., chaplain of Yale University; Rabbi Morris Lieberman of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; and Msgr. Austin J. Healy, who marched as an official representative of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the march against Gwynn Oak was carefully planned. The demonstrators, most of them white, first gathered in Baltimore's Metropolitan Methodist Church, prayed and sang hymns until an appointed hour, then broke up into several groups and headed for the park.
The first group to arrive included Blake and nine other clergymen. Awaiting them at the park were Baltimore County Police Chief Robert J. Lally and a large contingent of cops. The demonstrators had previously warned the police of their intention to march on Gwynn Oak; the police, in turn, had warned the demonstrators that they would be arrested under Maryland's trespass law.
Ugly Shouts. Moments after Blake and his group entered the grounds, a park owner stopped them, read the trespass law aloud. The marchers remained silentbut they did not leave the premises. Said Chief Lally: "You can leave or you can be arrested." Still the group was silent. Police moved in, placed them under arrest, led them politely to a waiting patrol wagon.
So far the proceedings had been almost stately. But then the situation began to get ugly. Wave after wave of demonstrators moved toward the Gwynn Oak entrance. Police arrested most of them peaceably and drove them to district stations in waiting school buses. But some demonstrators sat down on the ground and refused to budge; they were hauled off bodily. The white crowd of some 1,000 inside the park turned mean, and there were shouts of "Dump 'em in the bay," "Black nigger, white nigger," "Castrate 'em" and "Send 'em to the zoo." But the police, in firm control, prevented actual violence.