Forty-two Yale students arrested in the March snowball riots were granted a reprieve Saturday by the City of New Haven, which postponed hearings until June 1. The move came ostensibly as the result of the city's desire to improve already shaky town-gown relations.
If there is no trouble before the cases come up, they will be dropped. City Attorney Frank S. Meadow, who requested the deferment, said that it was "in the best interest of all concerned.... that these cases should not and ought not to be prosecuted at this time."
While the City stated that it acted out of good feeling toward the forty-two and the University, there has been considerable sentiment among Yale undergraduates that the city actually acted from fear that charges of provocation and brutality would be brought against the New Haven police.
In apparently well-documented accounts following the riots, many townsmen, students and faculty members charged that the police had largely provoked the disturbance and had indiscriminately beaten and arrested both offenders and bystanders. In one incident, police seized a reporter's camera and confiscated his films of the riot.
A "defense fund" was subsequently raised to help sue the police if the town pressed charges against the students. Among those then planning to sue was Carnegie Teaching Fellow Frederic Hammond, who was arrested and manhandled on the steps of Battell Chapel when he emerged after playing the chapel organ. Several students have signed statements claiming that they were beaten while being taken to the station in squad cars.
A Yale Daily News spokesman last night stated that the New Haven police had legitimate charges on only six of the 42 students originally arrested, and that there was little chance of convicting the remainder.