Races: Explosion of Hate

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In his seven years as Washington bureau chief for Ebony, Tan and Jet magazines, Simeon Booker had never written words that pained him more. Yet the facts were clear, and Booker set them forth in a letter sent last week to three Washington newspapers. "What I saw at the District of Columbia Stadium," he said, "easily could have duplicated what I saw covering the Little Rock school desegregation case, or the bus station mob during the Freedom Rides to Birmingham, or the Emmett Till case in Mississippi. The difference, ironically, was that the predominant number of offenders were Negro. The explosion of hate stemmed mostly from my own people."

What Booker saw at the District of Columbia Stadium was Washington's worst race riot since 1910.* It took place the previous week—on Thanksgiving Day—at the city's high school championship football game between Eastern and St. John's. Eastern, the public school champions, has only ten whites among its 2,400 pupils; St. John's, the Catholic League winner, is predominantly white. Of the nearly 50,000 fans who jammed the new stadium, about 80% were Negroes.

The Countdown. Won by St. John's, 20-7, the game was well and cleanly played until late in the fourth quarter.

Then an Eastern tackle went haywire—for no apparent reason he started slugging everyone within fists' reach. He was subdued by three of his teammates, strapped to a stretcher and carried off the field.

Even before that outbreak, there had been spectator problems. A few white students yelled at Eastern's Negro players: "Back to the woods." At the same time, groups of teen-age Negroes, plainly having been drinking, began belligerently roaming the stadium. A white girl was knifed in the buttocks in a ladies' room; a Negro boy was hit on the head by a bottle thrown by a person of unknown color. Many Negro and white parents anxiously began shepherding their children toward the stadium exits. The game neared its end; the remaining spectators began counting down the last seconds: ". . . Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" As the gun sounded, hell broke loose.

River Refuge. A mob of some 2,000 Negroes, most of them ranging in age from about twelve to 20, rushed across the field to attack the St. John's band and rooting section. Some of them wielded chair legs, broken bottles, lead pipes and knives. Three teaching brothers at St.

John's were beaten by six Negroes as they tried to protect six girl cheerleaders.

Negroes lifted the dresses and pinched the breasts of some white girls. A St. John's freshman, Lawrence Linson, 15, was beaten by ten Negroes, who knocked out three of his teeth and broke his jaw in two places. One 14-year-old boy was chased a quarter of a mile by a group of Negroes until, in desperation, he plunged fully clothed into the Anacostia River.

The First Step. Nearly 100 persons were injured; ten were arrested (nine were Negroes). Rayton Gerald, president of Eastern's student council, climbed aboard the St. John's team bus to declare: "I want to apologize for the whole school. There are 2,400 students at Eastern, and most of them are good students. A few are hoodlums. Today, you saw the hoodlums."

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