May 31, 1927 ⁠— Two Fascisti Die in Bronx, Klansmen Riot in Queens, in Memorial Day Clashes

The tribute of the city to the heroic dead of the nation’s wars was marred yesterday by three outbreaks of violence, all of which arose directly from the Memorial Day program.

The first was in the Bronx and happened early. Two Italians, both members of the Fascist movement in this country, were murdered. One was stabbed and the other was shot and stabbed as the pair started up the stairs of the Third Avenue elevated station at 183d Street. Their assailants, number two or three, were described by the police as anti-Fascisti. The slain men were on their way to join a detachment of 400 of their black-shirted brethren who marched in the Manhattan parade.

The second episode was a threatened riot on the doorstep of Times Square. When the detachment of 400 Fascisti returned to their headquarters at 145 West Forty-fifth Street, after the parade had disbanded, three anti-Fascisti attacked one of the marchers. A hundred of his comrades piled down the stairs and set upon the attacking trio. The reserves arrived on the double quick and ended the affray.

The next, and in point of numbers and disorder the most serious disruption to a program that hitherto has been synonymous with patriotism, order and reverence, developed in Queens. About 1,000 white-robed and hooded Klansmen, with 400 women relatives and friends, sought to participate in the Memorial Day parade through Jamaica. The result was a riot.

Spectators from the 20,000 along the route of the Queens parade took sides. Women fought women and spectators fought the policemen and the Klansmen, as their desire dictated. Combatants were knocked down, Klan banners were shredded, and at one point the Stars and Stripes, unwittingly, was trampled under foot. In the end the Klansmen covered the route they had set out upon and placed a memorial wreath where they had planned. Five of their number had been arrested, however.

Blame Police for Klan Riot

The clash of the Klansmen of Queens and the police in Jamaica will be the subject of an investigation by Police Commissioner Warren if the Parade Committee carries out its intention of last night. Members of the committee put the entire blame for the affray on the police, and one committeeman, a member of the Knights of Columbus, said that he condemned “the action of the police as atrocious.”

The Queens parade was scheduled to start at 10 A. M. from Jamaica Avenue and Eighty-fifth Street, Richmond Hill, and at that hour the Klan delegation was in line in Eighty-ninth Street, waiting to fall in as the seventh and last division. They were wearing their white robes, and, although hooded, were not masked. They had with them 100 of the Nassau County Rangers, a semi-military organization that performs police work for the organization.

E. A. Watkins, described as a Baptist minister from Manhattan, was grand marshal of the Klan division. The 400 women in line were led by Mrs. Adelaide Price of Jamaica, whose chief aide was Mrs. Emily Smith, also of Jamaica. The Liberty Band of Roosevelt, L. I. was whiling away the wait of the hooded marchers when Inspector George Harley, with fifty policemen, appeared.

The inspector and his men confronted the 1,000 Klansmen and told them he would not allow them to join in the parade because their white robes might cause disorder along the line of march. He said that he was acting under instructions of superiors, but would not disclose their identity. The Klansmen said that the parade committee had sanctioned their inclusion in the parade and that as far as the white gowns were concerned, the Inspector’s interpretation of their probably effect presented a two-sided question.

Break Through Police Line.

Harley stationed his men in a line in the path of the Klansmen and the parade started. When the Klan division’s turn came, the Liberty bandmen struck into “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” The Klansmen got under way. They broke through Harley’s “line” and joined the parade. There was much booing from the spectators, who had chaffed Klansmen and policemen alike up to that time.

The parade went along Jamaica Avenue to 117th Street and turned into Hillside Avenue. At this point tthe parade halted and Inspector Harley again tried to induce the white-robed marchers to leave. The parley lasted thirty minutes and the whole parade remained where it had stopped.

Finally, Captain Arthur Lowe of Jamaica, Adjutant of Alfred M. Wood Post, G. A. R., talked with Harley, and the parade got under way.

At Queens Boulevard and Hillside Avenue, Captain John McQueeney and fifty additional patrolmen, reinforced Harley and once again the parade stopped. Failing in verbal persuasion to convince the Klansmen that they should leave, the police tried to isolate the division from the rest of the procession. The tactics employed to achieve this end was to open traffic in the sidestreets, so that when the parade moved off the Klan was blocked by a stream of trucks and other vehicles.

M. E. Peterkin, one of the Klan paraders, became the target of some of the police partisans among the spectators. A banner bearing the information, “Barnum Said One Is Born Every Minute” had been fluttered in front of him, but friends had disposed of the banner and Peterkin had gone on with his own Klan banner. Suddenly about twenty-five men rushed at Peterkin.

Fist Fighting Starts.

Marching beside the Klan banner-bearer was Arthur Charles Foley Jr. carrying an American flag. Peterkin’s banner bore this inscription, “Major Emmet D. Smith Klan No. 38. Jamaica, N. Y., K. K. K.” The attackers from the sidewalk captured Peterkin’s banner and in the melee Foley’s flag was accidentally stepped on and damaged. This precipitated the first of a series of fist fights. The police were busy trying to separate combatants and end the march of the Klan at the same time.

A man from the sidewalk seized another banner. This individual was coatless and hatless and ready to fight.

“Come on,” he shouted to the white-robed ranks, “Come on, I’ll fight six of you at a time.”

The Klansmen paid no attention to him. A traffic policeman guiding the block traffic waved another batch of trucks and private cars onward.

“Come on,” said a voice from the Klan ranks, “he can’t stop us.”

The traffic officer and the other policemen did not stop them and the Klan doubled marching speed and overtook the parade. The Klan ranks re-formed, and M. D. L. Van Oven, described by some as the Grand Dragon of the Klan, assumed charge of the division. His aide, George Witfu, was mounted. When Witfu wheeled his charged to join his chief, he found that the police had executed another bit of strategy.

Police Use Auto Barricade

Four police autos were drawn up to a line to bar his way. Witfu touched spurs to his horse and galloped directly at one of the cars. Policeman Lease was the occupant of that car. He looked apprehensively at the approaching figure in white. But Witfu and his horse cleared the flivver in one jump, and amid cheers he galloped up to the rest of the division. A few blocks away loomed the reviewing stand, and defeat for the police also began to loom.

Just then a big sight-seeing bus came upon the scene. It was filled with negroes bound for a picnic at Rockaway Beach. Captain McQueeney looked at the retreating Klan and the 100 policemen. He acted quickly. He commandeered the bus and loaded it with policemen. The negro picnickers, luncheons in hand, were indignant and said so. McQueeney and his men reached the reviewing stand coincident with the advent of the Klan division.

The police resumed their efforts to shunt the Klan out of the line. A woman with a religious banner was standing near the stand. A sergeant sought to get her to move on. She protested and he insisted. A woman stepped from the crowd and the woman with the banner remonstrated. In a twinkling they were fighting. The sergeant tried to intervene. The woman with the banner dropped it and slapped the officer’s face. It was a resounding slap. He managed to get her to the curb.

Twelve Klansmen formed a rescue party. They moved in and under cover of one of the melees which were in progress managed to whisk the woman away. Individual fist fights were going on all about and the policemen, holding hands, tried to sweep the Klansmen and the spectators away from the stand. This manoeuvre was not much of a success.

After ten minutes of mixing back and forth the policemen got the Klan division headed out on the Merrick Road. The detached paraders moved into Shelton Avenue, and then back to Metropolitan Avenue. They had achieved their purpose, however, and had marched to and past the reviewing stand. Three arrests for assault were made. [NOTE: as noted in the follow-up story published the next day (see below) one of the three arrested was Fred C. Trump, father of Donald Trump.]

While this was going on, an automobile with three Klansmen in it drove up to the war memorial monument a block from the stand.

They placed a wreath on the base of the monument. The wreath bore an American flag and a card lettered, “K. K. K.”

The wreath disappeared soon after being placed at the monument.

The only serious injury reported in the affray was to Ralph Losee of 130-18 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, who was run over by a police car at Flushing and Hillside Avenues and treated for an injured leg by a surgeon from Jamaica Hospital. Losee was a bystander, taking no part in the fracas. No stones were thrown nor were clubs used by the police, according to observers.

George A. De Vesters, President of the Grand Jurors’ Association of Queens, one of the parade committeemen, said: “Atrocities were committed by the police which were unwarranted and which should be condemned.”

June 1, 1927 ⁠— Klan Assails Policemen: Police Head Declares Neither Fascisti Nor Klan Had Any Place in Memorial March

WARREN CRITICIZES ‘CLASS’ PARADES: No Progress Made in Tracing the Slayers of Two Italians ⁠— Seven Arraigned in Queens Battle.

Police Commissioner Warren announced yesterday that he was in favor of fewer “extraneous” parades in this city. He made this known in discussing the disorders incident to the Memorial parade when two Fascisti were killed on their way to join a detachment of black shirts in the Manhattan parade, and 1,000 Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all battle in Jamaica.

He said that by “extraneous” he did not mean the Memorial turnout, but “class” parades and parades for “this, that and the other thing” which merely took policemen from their main duty of protecting property and solving crimes. Neither the Fascisti nor the Klan, he added, had a proper place in a parade dedicated to the “soldier dead of the United States.”

Charged with being disorderly, Thomas Erwin of 7,062 Reedland Street, West Philadelphia, and Harry J. Free of Westbury Avenue, Carll Place, L. I., were released in bail of $500 each. Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road, Jamaica, was discharged.

September 22, 2015 ⁠— In Interview, Donald Trump Denies Report of Father’s Arrest in 1927, by Jason Horowitz

For a story about Donald J. Trump’s childhood home of Jamaica Estates, Queens, I talked to the presidential candidate about the role his father, Fred C. Trump, played in developing the neighborhood. I also asked him about a 1927 report in The New York Times, unearthed by the website Boing Boing, that listed Fred Trump as being among a group of people arrested, and then discharged, by the police in response to a Ku Klux Klan rally that had turned violent in Queens. The question, essentially, was, “Did you ever hear of this?”

Mr. Trump’s barrage of answers – his sudden denial of a fact he had moments before confirmed; his repeatedly noting that no charges were filed against his father in connection with the incident he had just repeatedly denied; and his denigration of the news organization that brought the incident to light as a “little website” – shows his pasta-against-the-wall approach to beating down inconvenient story lines.

Here is a transcript of our conversation on the subject.

Q. Growing up, you lived on Wareham Place?

A. We lived on Wareham, prior to my father building that one [on Midland Parkway] which was right next door but a street away.

Q. Did your father live on Devonshire Road before that?

A. That was a different one, that’s where my grandmother lived and my father, early on.

Q. Have you seen this story about police arresting a Fred Trump who lived at that Devonshire address in 1927 after a Ku Klux Klan rally turned violent?

A. Totally false. We lived on Wareham. The Devonshire — I know there is a road Devonshire but I don’t think my father ever lived on Devonshire.

Q. The Census shows that he lived there with your mother there. But regardless, you never heard about that story?

A. It never happened. And by the way, I saw that it was one little website that said it. It never happened. And they said there were no charges, no nothing. It’s unfair to mention it, to be honest, because there were no charges. They said there were charges against other people, but there were absolutely no charges, totally false.

Somebody showed me that website — it was a little website and somebody did that. By the way, did you notice that there were no charges? Well, if there are no charges that means it shouldn’t be mentioned.

Because my father, there were no charges against him, I don’t know about the other people involved. But there were zero charges against him. So assuming it was him — I don’t even think it was him, I never even heard about it. So it’s really not fair to mention. It never happened.

Later in the interview, Mr. Trump returned, unprompted, to the 1927 report after expressing dissatisfaction with a previous article about him.

A. And by the way, my father was not involved, was never charged and I never even heard this before. What? It comes out on a website and you are going to write it on The New York Times?

It shouldn’t be written because it never happened, No. 1. And No. 2, there was nobody charged.

-Articles courtesy of the New York Times. Image courtesy of the archive.

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