On a Saturday morning in early February 1970, a small group of supporters of the UFW went to picket a vegetable market in downtown Pittsburgh which we had been doing for several months. We carried signs and passed out literature informing people of the lettuce boycott of the Farmworkers. We were always peaceful and careful to maintain enough distance from each other so that the shoppers were not prevented from entering the store.
On this particular Saturday we noticed that several Pittsburgh city police cars wer cruising the area. Since we knew we were followng the regulations for picketing, we paid them no mind. However, one police car pulled up close to us and a Lt. smith (not his real name) emerged and went into the store and when he came out he said in a loud, “Arrest all these people.” So 14 of us were put in a police wagon and carted off to the city jail. We did not know why we were arrested since we had been picketing the same way for weeks. We were detained in jail for about four hours and released. We were told to come back in two weeks for a hearing.
When we returned for the hearing, the magistrate asked Lt. Smith to state fhe reason for arrest and the charges. He answered that “I thought they were a threat to the public charged them with disorderly conduct. Magistrate: “Were they harrassing anyone or or using foul language? Answer: “No.” Were they preventing people from going into the store? Answer: “No.” Magistrate: “Were they making a lot of noise and disturbing the public?” Answer: “No.”
Magistrate: “I ask you agiain, Lt. Smith, why did you arrest these people?” Lt. Smith: Silent. Magistrate strikes the gavel and says, “Charges dismissed.”
Promptly all 14 of us plus another 20 people went right back to the market and began picketing. Not a police car in sight!
Knowing how my brothers and sisters were working hard in the fields with so little pay, I was happy to show my support even if it meant I landed in jail.
Sister Betty Sundry