Gangs of Young Lords last month finally ended their takeovers of churches in New York and Philadelphia, but signs of their presence lingered on. Both congregations had to repair extensive damage and remove heaps of debris, including Marxist posters and stacks of revolutionary literature advocating violence.
The radical Puerto Rican youths had held the 135-member First Spanish United Methodist Church in East Harlem since October 18. Although armed with shotguns and carbines, they decided to bow without violence to a state supreme court order in which a Jewish judge ruled their presence violated the “precious constitutional rights” of the church members.
A spokesman for the militants said they did not want to “risk people’s lives at this point over the issue of a building.”
Young Lords in Philadelphia seized the predominantly black Kings Way Community Lutheran Church on November 6. The congregation virtually purchased its way to peace with an agreement to pay $160 a month toward renting quarters elsewhere for the Lords.
The trouble in New York erupted when Young Lord Julio Roldan, 33, being held on an arson charge, hanged himself in the Tombs, a Manhattan jail. Despite a medical examiner’s verdict, fellow gang members claimed Roldan was murdered. (A mayor’s advisory council later reported that he was indeed a suicide, but the victim of an “inhuman” system of criminal justice.) They carried his coffin into First Spanish for a funeral service, then—displaying weapons—announced takeover of the church in protest against jail conditions.
Newly installed pastor Juan A. Velasquez, 57, pleaded with both the police and his angry church members to keep cool. Meanwhile, Methodist and city officials worked behind closed doors for penal reforms. ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more