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Laguardia Holds Coughlin Problem Here Too Complex for “simple Police Action”

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The Jewish National Workers’ Alliance made public today a reply by Mayor LaGuardia to its recent appeal that he take energetic action to curb anti-Jewish provocation by followers of “radio priest” Charles E. Coughlin and members of the German-American Bund.

“The matters set forth in your letter have already been called to my attention,” the Mayor said, “and I am keenly aware of what is going on at present. I am sure you appreciate the fact that no one is more hostile than I am to movements aimed at the persecution or, or discrimination against, religious or racial minorities. I think you will agree with me that the problem is too complex to be dealt with solely by a little simple police action. Nor would you, I believe, after some reflection, favor the forceful suppression of the rights to freedom of utterance of any particular group, in order to do away with the advocacy of a hateful doctrine. The impartial administration of the law must not be altered for a special occasion.

“When those who preach hate, however, do not content themselves with words, but infringe upon the liberties of other citizens of this City, by violence, threats of violence, or any other action which is proscribed by our criminal law, I firmly believe in having the police bring them up sharply for the penalties justly due them, whether it is for assault, disorderly conduct, or any other breach of the law. The Police Department is paying careful attention to every instance and every occasion where demonstrations occur, whether by individuals or groups, in order to make certain that those who claim the privilege of freedom of expression shall not overstep the bounds prescribed by law, and to apprehend them the moment they do so.

“We have previously, on a number of occasions vindicated the wisdom of refusing to yield to panic by denying freedom of expression to those who preach un-American doctrines, while protecting the intended victims of those doctrines, with all the force we command, from any attempt to proceed from speech to unlawful action.”

The Alliance, in a reply to the Mayor stressing agreement with a view that there should be no infringement of democratic liberties, reiterated its appeal for energetic action on the grounds that “this problem is conclusively not one of freedom of speech.” “The shouting of insults, accompanied by the display of provocative, hate-inspiring slogans, with or without other hoodlum tactics are not, as you seem to indicate, within the bounds of proper freedom of expression,” the Alliance letter, signed by Louis Segal, general secretary, said.

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