NEW YORK (Jan. 14)
Judge Grover Moscowitz in Brooklyn Federal Court today held in $50,000 bail, pending Grand Jury action on Feb. 5, 17 members of the anti-Semitic Christian Front arrested over the weekend on seditious conspiracy charges growing out of a plot to overthrow the Government, bomb buildings and institute a reign of terror against American Jews.
Director J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who rounded up the plotters as the culmination of an investigation ordered several weeks ago by Attorney General Frank Murphy, said the inquiry would continue, covering similar activities carried on by other groups and further arrests might be made.
Additional arrests were also predicted by U.S. Attorney Harold M. Kennedy in Brooklyn, who declared that the seizure of the 17 alleged plotters merely “scratched the surface.” Mr. Kennedy revealed that the F.B.I. agents had been “virtually forced” to make the arrests Saturday night in order to prevent possible disaster, since they feared that the alleged conspirators might be ready to launch their campaign of terror with a public bombing at any moment.
The defendants, who were lodged in the Federal House of Detention in default to of bail, were members of an inner group of the Christian Front called “The Sports Club” or “The Country Gentlemen.” They were arrested in their homes to forestall any attempt at dynamiting a public building and were found to possess explosives for the manufacture of bombs, also rifles, other arms and ammunition.
According to Mr. Hoover, the men had been training for their “putsch” at a rented camp at Narrowsburg, NY, where they held rifle drills, planned to start courses in bomb-throwing, addressed their leader, William Gerald Bishop, as “the Fuehrer,” and discussed their plans to overthrow the Government and to eradicate the Jews.
Hoover said the investigation had been ordered by Mr. Murphy, who had been kept thoroughly informed of developments. The Attorney General, at a Washington press conference, recently promised “startling developments” in New York and Boston as result of the Justice Department’s investigation.
What the developments would be in Boston were not yet known, but it is significant that Social Justice, organ of “radio priest” Charles E. Coughlin–who took pains to deny in Detroit any connection with the Christian Front–reported in its Dec. 25 issue, under a Boston dateline, the formation of “Minute Men of 1939, citizen groups trained in the use of arms,” in New England.
Coughlin stated in Detroit yesterday that he “roundly disavowed” the Christian Front and that he had refused a $1,000 contribution from the organization. However, John F. Cassidy, under arrest as a leader of the Front, has always proclaimed his support of Coughlin and has been prominent for years in organizing groups in support of the “radio priest.”
Mr. Hoover’s disclosures gave new significance to a motion by the Christian Mobilizers, self-styled “offshoot of the Christian Front,” before State Supreme Court Justice Louis A. Valente seeking to enjoin the Justice Department from investigating and prosecuting anti-Semitic organizations. The motion, which Justice Valente has taken under advisement, has been contested by United States Attorney John T. Cahill’s office on the ground that a State court has no jurisdiction over a Federal officer.
More than half of the 17 arrested men were members of the New York National Guard, one of them holding the rank of captain, and it was believed the stolen arms came from National Guard stores. Major General William N. Haskell, National Guard Commander, promised an investigation and said courts martial would be ordered if thefts were discovered.
While the defendants had discussed a campaign of violence against the Jews the aspect of their activities which was regarded as most serious was the plot to seize control of the Government. Hoover said the men had laid down a program that was to begin with efforts to recruit a larger force, to augment their supply of arms and ammunition from National Guard stores, to start a terror campaign, proceed to bomb the Jewish Daily Forward and the Daily Worker buildings, the Cameo Theater, which specializes in Soviet films, and the Brooklyn headquarters of the American League for Peace and Democracy.
Their conversations also included plans for the blasting of bridges and the seizure of all utility facilities–power plants, telegraph and telephone networks–docks and railway terminals, the United States Customs House, the General Post-Office and the Federal Reserve Bank.
“Plans were discussed,” Mr. Hoover said, “for the wholesale sabotage and blowing up of all these institutions so that a dictatorship could be set up here similar to the Hitler dictatorship in Germany, seizing the reins of government this country as Hitler did in Germany. Their scheme was to spread a reign of terrorism so that the authorities would become thoroughly demoralized.”