regarding the actions
of the police
on May 8?
This photograph ran in the Pace Press on May 15, 1970. It depicts several New York police officers standing on the front steps of the main Pace building and a wounded student being aided by two other people. It is one of only a few photographs of the May 8 disturbances published by the Pace Press that includes police officers.
The role of the police during the melee was hotly debated in the days that followed.
Several witnesses expressed their dismay and outrage over what they felt was police passivity, comrodory with the construction workers, and failure to protect the Pace campus and students . Are their accounts supported or contradicted by the above picture of Pace and the following photos taken earlier that day on Wall Street and in front of City Hall?
"In front of the Park Row entrance to the school, I watched in amazement and then horror as patrolmen, and police cars and scooters stood idly by while workers severely beat two students, lifting and throwing them over the guard rail surrounding the park. Other workers then kicked them while they lay helplessly on the ground. I could not believe that the police were doing nothing." --Norman Kaish, Pace College
"What upset me to the point of physical sickness was the fact that the police stood there and didn't even attempt to help the students. A few policement tried to break up a fight only after the students were already beaten up. From what I could see the police didn't seem willing to offer assistance; I got the impression they were indifferent to the whole incident. The rest of the police on duty stood there like tin soldiers around the steps of City Hall watching--they appeared to be protecting the building from damage. While they were supposedly protecting City Hall, all the rioters were tearing up our campus and brutally beating the students." --R. F. Spinelli, Office of the Executive Vice President, Pace College
"Not only did the police officials fail to reasonably dispatch the excessive number of men, who had immediately responded to protect City Hall itself, but they remained steadfastly on the steps of City Hall laughingly joining with the assailants while your students were brutally beaten." --Leonard N. Cohen, Deputy Manhattan Borough President to Pace president Mortola
Lindsay's actions added fuel to the debates over the proper role of the police on May 8, patriotism, and the Vietnam War. Many constituents expressed their views in telegrams to the embattled mayor:
"PROTESTING INACTION BY POLICE LACK OF ARREST BRUTAL CONSTRUCTION WORKERS ON WALL STREET" --A CONCERNED VOTER CLAIRE MARCUS
"ON SATURDAY MAY 9 1970 YOU HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE IN WHICH YOU WERE VISIBLY UPSET BY THE ACTIONS ON THE PREVIOUS DAY OF SOME FIVE HUNDRED CONSTRUCTION MEN AND AT THE FAILURE OF THIS GREAT POLICE DEPARTMENT TO PROTECT THOSE WHO IN YOU OPINION WAS DEMTRATING PEACEFULLY. IT IS VERY APPARENT THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCUSE THE INTEGRITY OF THIS GREAT BODY OF MEN AS HAVE BEEN TRIED WITH THE ARMY AND THE GREEN BERETS IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS. IT WAS VERY OBVIOUS FROM YOUR PAINED EXPRESSION THAT IT WAS NOT THAT THE POLICE DID NOT PROTECT THOSE WHO IN THE PAST HAVE BURNED OUR FLAGS AND CONTINUED TO CALL FOR VICTORY BY THE VIET CONG BUT THE FACT THAT AT LONG LAST THE SILENT MAJORITY ARE NO LONGER GOING TO SIT IDLE BY AND SEE FLAGS BURNED AND OUR COUNTRY DOWNGRADED ESPECIALLY BY THOSE WHO CONSIDER DRAFT DODGERS HEROES. YOU WERE MAINLY CONCERNED ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THIS SHOW OF FEELING ON THE PART OF THESE CONSTRUCTION MEN WAS PLANNED OR SPONTANEOUS. OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE WORRIED THAT THESE PEOPLE THAT YOU ALLOTED AS HEROES WILL BE MET THE NEXT TIME NOT BY FIVE HUNDRED BUT BY FIVE THOUSAND CONSTRUCTION MEN. KEEP IN MIND THAT THESE MEN ARE VETERANS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR, KOREA AND VIET NAM AND WILL BE CONSIDEREED THE HEROES OF THIS NATION WHEN YOU AND YOUR KIND HAVE BEEN DISPATCHED TO POLITICAL OBLIVION BY THE VOTERS OF THIS GREAT COUNTRY." --MICHAEL O'MAHONY, MEMBER OF CONSTRUCTION FRATERNITY, HOWARD BEACH NY
"I WAS A WITNESS TO THE BRUTAL PASSIVITY OF POLICE DURING DOWNTOWN RAMAPGE OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS. FULL INVESTIGATION OF EVENTS AND PUNISHMENT OF THOSE POLICE FOUND NOT TO HAVE PERFORMED THEIR DUTY IS MANDATORY IF YOUR CREDITABILITY AS A DECENT MAN IS TO BE MAINTAINED" --WINFIELD P JONES, NEW YORK CITY
"AS A FORMER MEMBER OF YOUR FINANCE COMMITTEE AND AN OBSERVER OF THE MAY 8TH WALL ST. STUDENT CONSTRUCTION WORKER CONFRONTATION I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE FINE JOB THE POLICE DID UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES THE EXTREME CRITICISM OF THEIR ACTIONS WAS TOTALLY UNWARRANTED" --ALBERT FREED JR