NEW YORK (Jun. 24)
Charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct against 14 Jews who handcuffed themselves to the United States Mission on June 14 were dismissed in Criminal Court today by Judge Leon Becker. After a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, the judge said the government had not proved that its allegations were true. The defendants were 11 rabbis, two professors and Glenn Richter, national coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. It was the “first bust” for all of them, according to Richter. The demonstrators were protesting what they called State Department inaction on aid to Soviet Jewry, specifically in regard to the initiation of Yiddish and Hebrew programing into Russia on the Voice of America. They were also calling on the White House to issue a strong protest against the treatment and prosecution of Soviet Jews and to declare support for the bill to provide 30,000 emergency visas for Soviet Jews. A 12th rabbi, who had participated in earlier demonstrations at the Mission and was scheduled to participate June 14, did not do so and was not charged.
The defendants were represented today by Richard Kurtz, of the National Committee on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), and Rep. Mario Biaggi, Democrat-Conservative of New York. Taking the stand were Rabbis Steven Riskin of Lincoln Square Synagogue, Irving Greenberg of Riverdale Jewish Center and Charles Sheer of Columbia University; Prof. James Burton of Columbia, and Richter. They and their attorneys argued that they should be praised, not condemned, for dramatizing the plight of Soviet Jewry and VOA policy. Asked after the hearing by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency if the demonstrators would act similarly in the future, Richter said it was “up to the State Department,” alluding to its administrative role in VOA policymaking. The Department, he said, had to decide whether to “put rabbis in the position where they have to go back again (to the U.S. Mission).”