TENSIONS OVER FORCED BUSING already have turned Boston into a hotbed of racial hatred, but they found their ugliest form of expression last week in a brutal beating of Theodore C. Landsmark.
Landsmark, a prominent black businessman and executive director of the Contractors Association of Boston, was rushing across City Hall Plaza to a meeting on Monday, April 5, when he happened to pass by a large group of antibusing protesters who were leaving City Hall after a meeting with City Council President Louise Day Hicks. Without provocation, several South Boston and Charlestown High School students attacked Landsmark, knocked him to the ground, kicked and beat him.
The attack itself and the noticeable absence of police protection at the very seat of the city's government, coupled with so many other incidents of racial violence in the past two years, make clear that Boston has become a lawless city where blacks can no longer safely conduct their lives free from fear of unprovoked assault and certain of police assistance in emergencies. What is even more frightening than the unrestrained violence of a crowd of high school students is the irresponsible reaction of anti-busing leaders and city officials to the Landsmark incident.
James M. Kelly, president of the South Boston High Home and School Association, managed to muster the moral fortitude to call the beating "unfortunate and ugly" before adding in the same breath that his organization would provide "legal and moral" support for the alleged assailants.
Louise Day Hicks, who has frequently used city hall facilities to meet with and rally the anti-busing forces she leads, actually implied that such incidents are unavoidable while busing is an issue and that Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity should be held ultimately responsible for creating the atmosphere that allowed them to occur.
Mayor Kevin H. White, whose weak and ineffective leadership has been criticized throughout the busing controversy, did issue a strong condemnation of the attack immediately after it occurred but failed to provide any indication that specific steps would be taken to prevent further recurrences, protect black citizens in Boston, and defuse the highly volatile situation.
The city's leaders have also remained curiously silent about another aspect of the beating--one attacker's use of an American flag as a weapon in their assault on Landsmark. If the flag is a symbol of America, their silence on this issue will only lend support to a particularly offensive form of desecration.
Only Landsmark, the victim, displayed any sense of civic responsibility. He cautioned against retaliatory violence and denied that safety in the streets was an issue. Justifiably, Landsmark did not entirely "turn the other cheek." He criticized White's leadership; and he noted the failure of city officials to deal with racism in Boston. These city officials should continue to be considered failures until Boston is no longer a haven for racism and violence.
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