“If I am not for myself, who is for me?” — Rabbi Hillel
“If I am not for myself, who is for me?” — Rabbi Hillel
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
An $18 contribution would help:
Antaeus Mobility, the disability rights and equipment organization I have established here in Central Pennsylvania as an homage to Antaeus the mythological Greek hero who represents earthly power and who– like the community where we live–will ascend again.
Another victory like that and we are done for. --Ulysses by James Joyce. When it comes to disability rights: Say it ain't so.
The Birmingham campaign began on April 3, 1963, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The nonviolent campaign was coordinated by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC). On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.” Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested with SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy, ACMHR and SCLC official Fred Shuttlesworth and other marchers, while thousands of African Americans dressed for Good Friday looked on.
Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Protest observer (Walter Gadsden, 17) in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, on 3 May 1963, being attacked by police dogs during a civil rights protest. See Birmingham campaign.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham.
On August 11th, my second granddaughter--soon to be Cosette Lilian--was two months overdue. I was worried. I wanted to go to synagogue to pray for her safe arrival.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate this probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?”
We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
Why now? For me, now was my 70th birthday. A new restaurant had opened up across the street from my apartment. A vegetarian restaurant. What a great location to celebrate this significant occasion: I had survived cancer three times to arrive at the Biblically significant three score and ten. Each of my daughters is a vegetarian. Perfect. new place. Clearly a new restaurant thirty-seven years after adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Acct would be wheel-chair accessible.
Thanks in no small part to the autocratic rule of PA Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards, I had to take the cripple's course and crawl in. Way to go, Leslie.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.”
I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolence to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
VA Delegate Jay Jones sits on the shoulders of that giant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who wrote his letter from the Birmingham Jail. In so doing, Del. Jones has himself become a giant
On February 21st, Delegate Jones delivered his Black History Month speech from the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates and shared his personal and family experiences with racism in the Commonwealth.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham.
While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”
But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Caution: Loaded with spoilers.
The prime minister’s press secretary attempts to console his boss (as is true of every cast member: played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes) after our anti-hero, a secret service agent, progresses with eventual success with his campaign to remove the autocratic and corrupt Fiennes from office. The secretary says, “You are under a lot of pressure.” The would-be tyrant replies, “Pressure like whiplash does not exist.”
A hallmark of the Worricker Trilogy is the captivating quality of David Hare’s writing. “Pressure like whiplash does not exist” is a good example. As every schoolboy knows both whiplash and pressure do exist. Yet we the viewer are told it does not and for a brief moment we become nihilists and believe him. The conundrum; namely, how something can exist and not exist at the same time is the hallmark of the brand of British spy fiction that John le Carré’s Smiley series turned into the political action/thriller genre to which I am most attracted.
Before le Carré, authors of espionage novels presented us with good guys and bad guys. James Bond was a good guy. A hero. The ones implausible Bond was licensed to kill were bad guys. This was axiomatic.
By comparison David Hare’s Johnny Worricker (played by Bill Nighy) is an anti-hero who left his wife when she became pregnant. Despite Johnny severe character flaws (or perhaps because of them) we are nonetheless sympathetic to Johnny’s continual questioning of a world where the good guys do bad things; bad guys do good things. Concepts like good and evil (much like pressure and whiplash) are presented as mythological.
For me, this brand of existentialism bordering on nihilism consistently has been compelling. This is the way to hook me as Johnny Worricker and his Dickensian colleagues, lovers, enemies and friends did. From frame to frame The Worricker Trilogy stops time with its presentation of a world that appears to be true. Verisimilitude serves as catnip for me.
I am the kind of person who craves catnip given my personal circumstance. Yesterday, when I watched the series from start to conclusion without pause, my objective was distraction to the point where I no longer felt relentless pain–a consequence of surgery for kidney cancer. As with Ralph Fiennes’ ability to transfer pressure and whiplash from the real to the non-existent, the realization of David Hare’s words was entirely successful.
–Joel Solkoff is the author of Learning to Live Again, my Triumph Over Cancer
COMMONWEALTH : NO. OTN X 198324-0
JOEL SOLKOFF :
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS (Preliminary Hearing)
BEFORE: Thomas Jordan, MDJ
DATE: August 15, 2018
PLACE: Centre County Courthouse Courtroom No. 3 102 South Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823
FOR THE COMMONWEALTH: Amanda Chaplin, Esquire Assistant District Attorney
FOR THE DEFENDANT: Patrick Klena, Esquire Assistant Public Defender
NOTES BY: Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Court Reporter Room 208, Centre County Courthouse 102 South Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823 814-355-6734 OR FAX 814-548-1158
INDEX TO THE WITNESSES
DIRECT CROSS REDIRECT RECROSS
INDEX TO THE EXHIBITS
P R O C E E D I N G S
THE COURT: This is the Commonwealth
versus Joel Ezra Solkoff. Mr. Solkoff’s case is
identified by OTN No. X 198324-0.
Does the defense waive the reading of
this complaint? MR. KLENA: Yes, we do.
THE COURT: Is the Commonwealth ready to
THE COURT: All right. Then you may go
ahead and call your first witness.
was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was
examined and testified as follows:
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
name and then spell your last name for the record?
B-r-a-u-s-e-r. I’m a lieutenant with the State College
lieutenant at the State College Police Department?
relations division of our department.
9th of 2018?
this matter, Joel Solkoff?
today? A. He’s seated next to his defense attorney.
THE COURT: I’ll note that he identified
the gentleman to Mr. Klena’s right.
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
your involvement with Mr. Solkoff has been leading up to
the events that occurred on August 11th of 2018?
police that on the 6th, which was the Monday, that
Mr. Solkoff was at the borough council meeting that
night and was complaining about the condition of the
downtown sidewalks and the inability that he was having
with his electronic scooter to get around downtown and
that the borough was not making proper accommodations
for him to be able to get through the downtown. He at
that point had requested the chief arrest him during his
arguments in council. The chief declined to do so
stating that Mr. Solkoff was just exercising his rights
of free speech. Mr. Solkoff was very insistent on being
arrested and informed the chief that he was going
downstairs to get arrested.
He subsequently, Mr. Solkoff, rode his
device out into the middle of Beaver Avenue at the
intersection of Allen Street and blocked that
intersection for vehicular traffic. Our department
responded to that report from civilians that the roadway
was blocked by Mr. Solkoff. Officers on scene spent
approximately 15 to 30 minutes trying to convince
Mr. Solkoff to leave and securing an ambulance for him
to be removed from the roadway.
As a result of that, we later in the
week — I believe it was Thursday — were contacted by a
defense attorney representing Mr. Solkoff who wanted to
inform us of Mr. Solkoff’s wishes that we be aware that
on Saturday, the 11th, he was planning to repeat the
blocking of Beaver Avenue in protest for better access
for persons with disabilities on downtown sidewalks.
As a result of that notification, I was
assigned to reach out to Mr. Solkoff and his attorney.
I did so and on Thursday of that week, I spent
approximately an hour with Mr. Solkoff going over his
concerns about the sidewalks down there. I informed him
that in the time between the notification that his
attorney provided us and speaking to him that I had
arranged for free public transportation for him to reach
specifically religious services that he was going to get
County transportation services, and his synagogue to
arrange those — free transportation for him to get to
and from services.
I also provided him with an alternative
route if he wished to still take his own means there.
Instead of coming out of his building and heading east
on Beaver Avenue, he could turn west to go half a block
and basically continue the exact same route that he
would have taken and avoided all the construction. He
advised me that that was not his wish; that he was at
this point protesting and demanding to speak to the
secretary of transportation for the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania in order to bring light to his cause and
insist on State Route 26, Beaver Avenue, be converted to
a pedestrian walkway either in whole or at least the
right travel lane being shut down and converted to a
Like I said, I spent pretty close to an
hour with him and also a little bit of time with him and
his attorney during that time trying to convince him to
either protest peacefully on the sidewalk, even
mentioned I think going to Bellefonte where their office
was and protesting there, or using our alternate means
of transportation. And Mr. Solkoff was very polite
stating that those were not options that he wanted, just
being that he was very set on doing his protest in the
roadway and blocking traffic and very insistent that he
was to be arrested.
During the police’s first encounter with
him on the Monday prior, he was actually not arrested.
He was taken to the Mount Nittany Medical Center for an
evaluation to see if it was something that he was a
danger to himself or others for. He was very upset that
that was the process that was taken on Monday and
adamant that he wanted to be arrested and put in jail.
destinations were provided?
want that. He wanted to be arrested and put in jail.
College Borough to protest in the street or to close
down the street?
borough or PennDOT, to block the roadway.
protest, I actually reached out to the jail and made
them aware that this was a potential person coming in
with disabilities so that they would be prepared for
that. I contacted the District Attorney’s Office and
spoke to the district attorney about appropriate charges
for the case and actually pre-typed a criminal complaint
with the charge on there to provide to the day shift on
Saturday to expedite the removing him from the roadway
so that it was less of a safety hazard for himself and
the general public.
That information that I typed up was
provided to the day shift supervisor and officers
working for that Saturday where the protest was planned,
and we had arranged with Centre LifeLink EMS to
transport for us so that it was a more comfortable
transport for him and his electronic device.
describe it for the record?
to get around town. That’s seated right next to him.
11th or is your involvement everything before?
THE COURT: What day? It’s August.
THE COURT: I thought she said October.
I’m paying attention actually. August.
THE COURT: All right.
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
actually secured the video from the patrol cars and
brought those into evidence and also took still shoots
from the downtown cameras that showed the defendant in
the middle of the roadway.
office of the aging. He has a caseworker with them to
try and see what services we may be missing to provide
or that they’re able to fill in the gap. That was one
other resource we reached out to.
further questions for this witness.
THE COURT: Mr. Klena, would you like to
ask the lieutenant any questions?
BY MR. KLENA:
charges, is he charged under Title 18 the Crimes Code
obstructing highways and other public passages, correct?
the first time, that’s what makes that offense a
misdemeanor of the third degree, correct?
the police at the day of. It doesn’t have to be a prior
incident. Just consistent or continued after being
ordered by police to leave the roadway while being
provided an alternate venue.
misdemeanor and a summary section.
alternative route was not satisfactory or essentially
nonexistent? Did you have that conversation with him?
downtown State College in terms of the sidewalk does
prevent him from traveling his route to his synagogue,
to that location. It prevents him from getting on
Beaver Avenue to that location, but there’s alternate
routes that he can take.
of the alternate route is dangerous?
verified that it is not. The route going down Beaver
Avenue to Allen Street, Allen Street down to Waring
Avenue and Waring Avenue across, every one of the
sidewalks has been replaced at the corners by the
borough to be ADH compliant with handicap ramps and
anti-skid plates on each one of those sidewalk corners.
the roadway the — I guess the second incident — and
that was on the 11th; is that correct?
attorney, that would be Matt McClenahen, that was on
August 9th that both these things, correct?
would have been one of the side streets?
block directly across from Uncle Eli’s.
Addison Court and right out into the roadway from their
complaints from the public that Mr. Solkoff was making
Beaver Avenue impassable?
pulled out directly in front of an unmarked police car
which was able to stop at that point and turned his
lights on to alert traffic that he was in the middle of
anything — to your knowledge, did he have signs with
currently impassable, that’s not a permanent condition
or you don’t foresee that being a permanent condition,
The south side of Beaver Avenue in the 200/300 block is
under construction due to a building being rebuilt. The
north side is a delay. They initially started to
replace all of the street lights in the downtown area.
The borough obtained permits from PennDOT to rip those
up and after they took out the old ones, an inspector
came in I believe and determined that the new ones —
there was an issue with something they were doing which
delayed the process of getting the new ones immediately
installed. So, it’s on delay that’s causing the
someone in Mr. Solkoff’s condition in terms of requiring
either a wheelchair or a motorized —
They have taken up some of the blocks where there was
solid cement and replaced it with gravel.
would be difficult —
either direction that’s not being torn up at this point.
that he had made during Arts Fest that he stated he
couldn’t get to some venues at Arts Fest. I had pointed
out that the construction was actually the opposite
direction from his house from where the Arts Festival
was. So, I was confused by how he couldn’t get to the
every American, has a right to express grievances
against their government, local, state, or national,
Mr. Solkoff is doing here by his going out onto the
roadway? He had a grievance and this is the way he was
going to bring attention to it; is that your
chief with Mr. Solkoff?
questions of Lieutenant Brauser.
THE COURT: Anything on redirect?
THE COURT: Thank you for your testimony.
THE DEFENDANT: May I ask some questions?
THE COURT: Well, you can’t now. I
excused him so. THE DEFENDANT: Well, that’s
unreasonable. The lieutenant made several errors of
to determine whether or not his errors are fact.
THE COURT: You also have a right to
THE DEFENDANT: Can I testify now?
THE COURT: Well, that’s up to your
but if that’s what you wish to do, that’s your choice.
THE DEFENDANT: I want to testify.
THE COURT: Well then, we’ll wait until
it’s your turn, okay?
THE DEFENDANT: Of course.
THE COURT: There’s a certain protocol.
THE DEFENDANT: I’ll be glad to follow.
THE COURT: We’re going to allow the
Commonwealth to present additional evidence. It appears
they have additional evidence.
THE DEFENDANT: That’s fine.
THE COURT: We’ll let them present their
THE DEFENDANT: That’s fine.
THE COURT: And let you, if you choose,
THE DEFENDANT: Okay. Thank you.
THE COURT: Officer.
was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was
examined and testified as follows:
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
and then spell your last name for the record?
2018? A. I was.
come into contact with the defendant in this matter,
today? A. I do. He’s sitting with defense counsel.
THE COURT: I’ll note he identified
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
that you came into contact with Mr. Solkoff?
is out of the ordinary way things work. — that
Mr. Solkoff had already or his attorney had made our
department aware that he was going to block Beaver
Avenue as I understood he had done earlier in the week.
And we were given a time of 9:30. At 9:15 I drove to
that location going up Calder and then the alley that is
perpendicular to Beaver Avenue facing Addison Court
where I knew his residence was. I was made aware that
this would happen in the area of Unde Eli’s, which is on
that half block.As I pulled up there, I saw Mr. Solkoff
was already in the roadway and an unmarked car of ours
which was driven by Captain Fishel blocked the right
lane which Mr. Solkoff was in the middle of. I went
ahead and parked on the alley and walked across to make
contact with Mr. Solkoff.
lane? A. Middle of the right lane, correct. Right
eastbound lane. That’s a one-way eastbound highway.
East Beaver Avenue? Is it a public roadway or highway?
one-way eastbound. It’s State Route 26 that goes
through the heart of the Borough of State College. It’s
the business district.
the main thoroughfare. There are also a lot of
pedestrians that cross that roadway.
fact, blocking the roadway?
lane of East Beaver Avenue?
right lane. In fact, after he had it blocked, like I
said, for his safety, a patrol car had pulled up there
to also block that lane while we dealt with him.
going over there since we knew this was happening in
was going on?
there and saw this?
I understood that he had a protest and that he had the
right to protest but that he could not block, obstruct
the roadway; that he would have to move off the roadway.
He told me — and he did give me a name. I don’t
remember or know who the person is but he gave me the
name of the secretary of transportation I believe of the
State of Pennsylvania and said that he was blocking the
lane and he would like to speak to the secretary of
transportation of Pennsylvania. This is a female name.
I do not know what it was.
THE DEFENDANT: Leslie S. Richards.
THE WITNESS: Okay. I told him I was
unable to do that for him and asked him again to get off
the roadway, and he said that he would like to be
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
to leave the roadway?
one response was to speak to the secretary of
transportation. The second one was to be arrested. And
following that Lieutenant Smail walked out and greeted
Mr. Solkoff. I believe they shook hands and
introduced — he introduced himself to him. He asked
him to leave the roadway and then read a prepared
statement to Mr. Solkoff which indicated that the
borough and police felt that they had taken measures to
accommodate him and he needed to leave the roadway or
would be arrested. I was there. I didn’t hear
everything read, but I know that he read from the
in the roadway a hazard?
longer a hazard because we had it blocked off for his
safety and the safety of officers dealing with this
incident. He is in a motorized scooter which at any
time he could have pulled into the only lane that was
available and so, yes, it could have been a hazard for
oncoming traffic for a person to be sitting in the
dealing with it.
leave the roadway?
point — when we had initially determined to use the
LifeLink ambulance, we were made aware that they brought
a van specific for a mobility device. And
Officer McDannel offered for him to go over to the
Addison Court parking lot to pull into that and
Mr. Solkoff did not stating he wasn’t leaving the
roadway. He did comply once they pulled the van onto
the roadway. He went unassisted posing no problems into
that vehicle once he was told he was under arrest.
could have made this protest?
I believe is his residence, there’s sidewalk area there
where he could have, without even blocking the sidewalk,
made any speech that he wanted to give. I don’t know
what other areas where provided to him but, yes, he
could have made a speech nearby.
THE COURT: Mr. Klena, would you like to
ask the officer any questions, sir?
BY MR. KLENA:
Avenue in downtown State College is a two-lane one-way
College is what; 25 miles per hour?
stayed solely within the right lane during this protest?
THE COURT: You just got promoted.
THE COURT: Just not yet.
THE WITNESS: Can you strike that?
THE COURT: No, leave that in there.
Patrick wants that in the record.
BY MR. KLENA:
Mr. Solkoff, he was pleasant, polite but insistent upon
his grievance about the sidewalks and wanting that
to me as it had been done prior to other officers. The
demand to me was that he wanted the right lane open or a
lane of Beaver Avenue open and he wanted to speak to the
secretary of transportation.
lanes made into a pedestrian — for solely pedestrian
police been unaware of this occurring beforehand; would
you agree with that statement?
through Attorney McClenahen contacting, saying this is
the date and time that he was going to be entering onto
the roadway, State College Police were able to take
preventative measures to stop any incident from
happening either to motorists or Mr. Solkoff; would you
agree with that?
where he was ultimately then taken into custody on the
11th; is that right?
still — there was still vehicular traffic in the left
lane? A. Vehicles were permitted to continue in
the left lane.
take the keys out of his motorized scooter or anything
like that, correct?
familiarity with them but I did not.
up or drove it forward right into the left lane of
the time when we were dealing with him. He was
broadside to the lane he was in.
THE COURT: Any redirect?
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
hindered public transportation or emergency vehicles in
the event of an emergency?
THE COURT: Follow up?
THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Klena.
You may stand down, officer.
Does the Commonwealth have any other
THE COURT: Commonwealth’s closed their
case. Does the defense have anything?
THE DEFENDANT: I want to testify.
THE COURT: I’m going to let you testify
from there, sir. I’m not going to make you take the
THE DEFENDANT: Okay.
THE COURT: I do have administer the oath
to you though. And I’m going to ask Mr. Klena if he
would pull that microphone closer.
was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was
examined and testified as follows:
THE COURT: Are you going to direct him,
BY MR. KLENA:
desire to testify. You understand what you are charged
charged with this offense?
nor the lieutenant are correct in there having been
provided to me any alternatives. CATA was not an
alternative. I was planning on praying, (inaudible) and
it’s a term that comes instantly to mind as Hubad, which
is an orthodox Jewish service. The reform service which
Lieutenant Brauser made contact with my rabbi did not
have a service at 10:00 o’clock in the morning on that
Saturday morning. The only service that was available
was at Hubad which is an orthodox congregation which
follows the 12th century ritual established by
Maimonides in Cairo in Egyptian, in Arabic. And in
which the entire service is in Hebrew and in which men
and women are segregated and where no automobile traffic
is permitted. Going on CATA and going off CATA would
have been an offense to my synagogue.
And as to the notion that Allen Street is
passable, I have many videos of impassable streets and
the problem with Allen Street was that before the cross
street there where there is, in fact, a tree the
sidewalk was all cut up.
As for other side streets, Pugh, for
example, I have gone on the crosswalks. The street cuts
is what they’re referred to as. On Pugh Street and on
one occasion my scooter went one way and I landed on the
floor. It is true that in many cross areas that is to
say, for example, at the corner of Allen and Beaver, the
cross streets — the street cuts there are in absolutely
perfect condition and they have added to them because —
I mean, I’m a disability advocate, voice of America
citizen disability advocate. I have been a disability
advocate for the 24 years I have been a paraplegic.
Cross street — street cuts these days
also have little rubber things on the bottom if you’ve
noticed them and, therefore, the blind or the visually
impaired so that if, for example, you’re there with a
white cane you don’t go falling down because suddenly
there’s a street cut. But in the interim in the middle,
for example, in the middle of Pugh when you’re going
down Pugh in the direction of Guacamole and Days Inn,
those street cuts are in a situation of considerable
The week before I met at the — at the
borough council. I met with Tom Fontaine who is in
charge of the borough council and is a wonderful person
and we discussed the situation. Now the reason that I
pulled Leslie S. Richard’s name out of the hat is that
she’s the secretary of transportation and she is in
charge of PennDOT and PennDOT owns Beaver Avenue and the
sidewalks on both sides of Beaver Avenue. And they are
in tragedy when it comes to simple issues such as making
Arts Fest available and such as making it possible for
me to go to synagogue.
What I did on the Monday at the meeting
of the borough council was I showed the borough council
the route I took to synagogue a couple years ago when I
went to Rosh Hashanah service and I showed the borough
council the way it is now. And it is not possible to
get from here to either Hubad or to my shul on Hamilton
Brit Shalom in any way that is safe.
And it is my — and to further add insult
to injury, I attempted to celebrate my 70th birthday.
70th birthdays are regarded biblically as matters of
considerable import especially since based on the notion
of threescore and ten in the Solomon’s. I attempted to
celebrate it with my daughters, each of whom are
vegetarians and a new restaurant opened up on Beaver
Avenue called Cafe Vere which is not wheelchair
accessible but complied technically with the — with the
rules in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which requires
that 20 percent of the money be spent on
disability-friendly repairs. So as a consequence the
bathroom in Cafe Verve is wheelchair accessible but the
entrance is not. One reason the entrance is not
accessible is because —
THE COURT: I’m going to stop you here.
We’re way off point about the restaurant. Let’s stay
focused on the street.
I have a question for you. Where is
THE WITNESS: Hubad is on Weaver.
THE COURT: Weaver?
LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Waring.
THE WITNESS: Waring. It’s a small —
LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Bottom of highlands.
THE COURT: Where at?
LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Down by McCormick.
THE COURT: Okay.
LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Between University
Drive and Garner Street.
THE COURT: Okay. I just wanted a
THE DEFENDANT: I was there a year ago.
I celebrated Shabbat there with my friend, Elliott
THE COURT: I appreciate that. All
right. So I don’t need to hear any more about the
restaurant. That’s another issue. That’s an issue that
you can take up with — not with this Court, with
another entity. THE DEFENDANT: Okay. All right.
THE COURT: Are you satisfied that you
got to say what you wanted to say about the traffic
THE DEFENDANT: Well, two things I wanted
THE COURT: Let’s hear them. Go ahead,
THE DEFENDANT: Lieutenant Brauser and I
didn’t just meet on this issue. Which — and this issue
may make it sound like I’m somewhat rattled in terms of
driving my scooter out into the highway and so on.
Lieutenant Brauser and I met at the fire department with
Steve Bair and we were there to protect — to institute
procedures to protect the 89 people in Addison Court.
THE COURT: Okay.
BY MR. KLENA:
LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Last fall I think.
THE WITNESS: Last fall. And then —
THE COURT: This was some time ago?
THE DEFENDANT: But earlier this year,
two months ago, the mayor and the police chief and
Lieutenant Brauser and I were all in the social hall at
Addison Court handing out earplugs.
THE COURT: Okay. All right.
THE DEFENDANT: So, you know, it’s —
this is — I mean, I understand that you don’t want to
talk about anything other than the street and I
appreciate that. But PennDOT is responsible for major
injury to the elderly and disability community that is
on Beaver Avenue and this particular issue, namely
depriving me of the right to go to synagogue finally got
my goat as it were. And there was certainly, you know,
the officer was correct in everything he said. But, you
know, this was a planned arrest. There was no danger at
all to me or anybody on the highway when I went out into
the middle of the road with two police cars here, an
unmarked police car there which I knew was an unmarked
police car, and several officers there, and an ambulance
I mean, you know, I’m not — I am not
certifiable and proof that I’m not certifiable is that
the police chief and an officer sent me to the hospital
to try to certify me and they wouldn’t do it so.
THE COURT: Point taken.
THE WITNESS: I’m done, unless you have
THE COURT: Dare I ask if you want to
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
to block the roadway that day, correct?
lane? A. Well, no, my van. You know, there was a
right side and there was a left side. The unmarked
police car was on the right side. I knew it was an
unmarked police car. I wanted to block the roadway but
you pulled into the roadway?
arrested and I didn’t want to get killed because I have
a granddaughter who’s about to be born any day now.
road? A. Well, no, I had gotten permission to
protest on Valentine’s Day.
THE COURT: Okay.
THE WITNESS: I did not.
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
out of the road?
Martin Luther King protested in Birmingham, Alabama.
THE COURT: We’re way off course here.
BY MS. CHAPLIN:
the only alternative was to be arrested and that was —
Leslie J. Reynolds there was to get arrested.
THE COURT: Okay.
Mr. Klena, do you have a closing
lane was still open on Beaver Avenue, I would argue it
didn’t meet the definition of obstruct in terms that it
made it impassable.
THE COURT: All right.
Ms. Chaplin, do you have a closing
that for today’s purposes of a prima facie case the
Commonwealth has met its burden on the misdemeanor
charge. The statute says a person, who having no legal
privilege to do so, intentionally or recklessly
obstructs any highway whether alone or with others and
that if he persists after warning by law officer, it is
a misdemeanor of the third degree. I think all those
elements have been established. I don’t think it’s any
questions that the right lane did have to be closed down
because of his protest. I would suggest that does meet
the definition of obstruct because everyone then had to
be moved into the left lane. It did shut down an entire
lane of traffic. THE COURT: Safety is really not even an
element here. It’s whether or not he blocked traffic,
he obstructed traffic, and whether he was officially
told not to do that, and he was. The elements of the
offense are met. Therefore — it’s not my authority
today, Mr. Solkoff, to determine guilt or innocence.
It’s a preliminary hearing, sir. I simply need to
decide whether an offense was committed and whether you
were the person who could have committed the offense.
That’s the burden of proof.
So for today’s purposes, the Commonwealth
has met its burden. I’m binding you over to the Centre
County Court on the obstructing highway and other public
passage charge. Your case is bound over to the Common
Pleas Court. All right.
question about bail. I know you had changed it from —
THE COURT: Bail is ROR right now. He
refused to sign the bail bond but he is released on his
recognizance and if he’ll sign the bail bond today, I’ll
have him sign it. If he doesn’t want to, I’m not going
to force him — I can’t force him to sign it. But bail
— I was involved in this issue yesterday and bail has
been changed by Judge Lachman who was the issuing
authority who granted the complaint to ROR.
wondering is the condition that Judge Lachman had put in
the original bail paper to not go back into the roadway,
is that still — THE COURT: That is not a bail condition.
There are no non-monetary conditions on an ROR bail
THE COURT: That’s right.
imagine the police will respond accordingly.
THE COURT: We cannot — we cannot issue
a non-monetary bail condition on ROR bond.
THE COURT: My pleasure.
E N D O F P R O C E E D I N G S
C E R T I F I C A T E
I hereby certify that the proceedings and
evidence are contained fully and accurately in the notes
taken by me upon the hearing of the within matter and
that this copy is a correct transcript of the same.
Date Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Reporter
C E R T I F I C A T E
I hereby certify that a copy of this
transcript was made available to counsel of record for
the parties, advising they had until
in which to file any
objections or exceptions to the same. That time period
having elapsed without recording of objections or
exceptions, the transcript is therefore lodged with the
Court for further action.
Date Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Reporter
ACCEPTANCE BY COURT
Upon counsel’s opportunity to review and
to offer objections to the record, the foregoing record
of proceedings is hereby accepted and directed to be
Date Pamela A. Ruest President Judge
I took this photograph less than an hour ago. A homeless man is bundled over a cup of coffee as the wind chill factor is 27 degrees F and scattered flakes of snow are beginning to fall. Four blocks away a brand new multi-story Hyatt has gone up where on premium football weekends a single room costs $450 a night.
As the Manhattanization of Downtown State College progresses with abandon, it is no surprise that this month—just in time for Christmas—less than three blocks away one of this community’s homeless shelters shut down. The temperature is dropping rapidly. Will this man be dead by midnight when Santa Claus begins his rounds determining who has been naughty or nice?
1. Wikipedia: “In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Croesus’ wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as “rich as Croesus” or “richer than Croesus” are used to indicate great wealth to this day. “
Santa: In my Yiddisha stocking, please insert a plane ticket to New Mexico, a reservation for a mobility device when I arrive, one $1,00 ticket and enough moolah to make a donation to HIAS,*, pay off my most demanding creditors before dancing the tango at the inaugural ball for Michelle Lujan Grisham, the wonderful new governor of New Mexico, who will embrace refugees from the horrors of central America as the Statute of Liberty recommends.
I am so honored and excited to take office as Governor of New Mexico in just a little over a week. We’re about to begin a new chapter of our state’s history – and I can’t wait to get to work fighting for a brighter future for New Mexico’s families.
I want to kick it off with the folks who made it possible over the last two years – including you! That’s why the inaugural committee is giving away five tickets to one contest winner to celebrate with me at the Governor’s Ball.
This is a chance to celebrate all we’ve accomplished. It was a long, hard road to get to this historic night, and I want to honor the hard work and dedication of my team and my supporters.
If you’d like to join me at the Governor’s Ball at 8 p.m. on January 1st in Santa Fe, you can donate any amount before midnight tomorrow to be automatically entered for a chance to win tickets for you and four of your loved ones.
Click here to give ANY amount to enter our contest to win five tickets for you and your loved ones to celebrate this historic moment for New Mexico at the Governor’s Ball.
Thank you so much for being part of my team,
Michelle Lujan Grisham
P.S. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, you can click here to purchase a ticket to the Governor’s Ball before January 1st.
Contributions or gifts to the Lujan Grisham Inaugural Committee are not tax deductible.
No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by December 23, 2018. Enter by contributing here, or click here to enter without contributing. One (1) winner will receive the following prize: five tickets to the Lujan Grisham Inaugural Ball (approximate retail value of prize: $500). Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. All prizes will be awarded. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and 18 or older (or age of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional restrictions on eligibility. Sponsor: Lujan Grisham Inaugural Committee, P.O. Box 4700, Santa Fe, NM 87505.
Yesterday, at risk to her life, Jane Ferguson reported on the PBS’ excellent News Hour from the only open port in Yemen from which food and medicine can still be shipped to provide relief to millions of civilians . A fragile cease-fire the UN negotiated in Sweden may bring a modicum of hope in a country where tragedy prevails.
Meanwhile, also on the PBS network, Washington Week—once the premier weekly opinion program in the US—exemplifies the dominant isolationism of,the White House Corps. On Friday night Washington Week continued to ignore ( as it has for years) the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen and President Trump’s complicity in Saudi genocide.
PBS should immediately appoint Jane Ferguson Washington Week’s peermant moderator,replacing Robert Costa who covers the White House for The Washington Post. If Ferguson is not available, Reporters without Borders has many brave reporters on the front lines of the world’s humanitarian crises. American politicians tell the public we are the leading power in the world. If that power is to mean anything, it must be used to resolve crises— not hide from them and pretend they do not exist.
Reporters such as CNN’s Arwa Damon bring the news of US complicity or indifference to the millions of children and their parents dying . Meanwhile, their coverage of life and death issues do not receive priority coverage. Instead, the majority of the well-tailored White House Press Corps seems to focus exclusively on the Presudent’s soap opera machinations.
Remember, if the public had to rely on the White House Press Corps during Watergate, Richard Nixon would have completed his second term in office. Woodward and Bernstein were not a part of the White House Press Corps. They were low-level reporters covering night court.
“Once inside, there is an unnerving quiet to the children’s ward. The healthier babies cry, but many just stare blankly. It’s not immediately clear if their eyes look too big or their faces too small.
“Malnourishment can have very few tell-tale signs to an untrained eye — perhaps just a paleness, a smallness. As the scale continues, some children have lost hair or had their hair turn orange, some have swollen bellies, or no belly to speak of, or bones sticking out through wilted skin. Some of them have aged faces, with skin that wrinkles when they cry.
Their parents have exhausted all “coping mechanisms” as the aid organizations would say. To you or I, that’s anything we would turn to if a salary suddenly stopped: savings, relatives, a cow or some chickens in the backyard, a line of credit at the local grocery store. After three years of war, most people have exhausted all of those. Sweet tea and bread is keeping an untold number of people here alive, barely. It’s especially tough on the babies as mother’s cannot produce enough high nutrient milk when they themselves are not eating nearly enough.”
Last week, when the Senate took initial steps to end this the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, this— to its shame—is what the trendy news organizations ignore. CNN, MSNBC, and nearly everyone else on US television have been flogging to death for the previous two days, the same old same old Washington Week’s host decided to repeat yet again on Friday night.
No one at Washington Week saw fit to even mention Yemen. How many more infants have to die in Yemen before Robert Costa decides it worthy of even ten percent of his show’s time?
Shame on you, Washington Week;shame on you.