img_0643img_0463img_0583img_0593img_0053Militant blacks in Detroit founded the Republic of New Africa (RNA) in 1968—eight months after the devastating 1967 riot. RNA leaders demanded that the federal government give blacks five states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina—and pay billions in reparations to compensate for slavery. They were frequently seen as advocating that blacks use violence to get these demands if the government resisted. A similar claim was made for all the Black-majority counties and cities throughout the United States. Second, they demanded $400 billion in reparations for the injustices suffered by African Americans during the slavery and segregation periods. Third, they demanded a referendum of all African Americans in order to decide what should be done with their citizenry. Regarding the latter, it was claimed that African Americans were not given the choice to decide in regard to what they wanted to do after emancipation. These concessions would then form the basis of an independent Black nation.

On March 31, 1968 200 to 300 members of the RNA met at New Bethel Church to celebrate the first anniversary of their organization. The meeting was adjourning about midnight when Detroit police officers Michael Czapski and Richard Worobec saw a dozen or so apparently armed men in camaflogue along Linwood. They stopped to investigate, but Officer Czapski was instantly shot to death and Officer Worobec wounded but managed to call for back up. Twenty minutes later, 50 Detroit police officers attempted to enter New Bethel. The commanding officer claimed the police were fired upon as their tried to enter the church. Once they broke down the door, the police claim they came under rifle fire from the altar and sniper fire from the loft. These claims were disputed.

The police arrested 142 inside the church, found 9 rifles, three pistols and ammunition. Reverend Franklin instantly alerted African American who had risen to positions of power: State Senator James Del Rio and Recorders Court Judge George Crockett. Judge Crockett was not certain that the Detroit police would treat these prisoners well, so he went to the lockup, and by 6 AM, established a temporary court room where he began releasing those who were arrested, either on small bonds or on personal recognizance. By noon, Judge Crockett had released many—but not all—of those arrested, including some that had tested positive for nitrate burns. Judge Crockett also criticized police procedures and thus invalidated their right to hold those arrested at New Bethel.

The incident symbolzed Detroit’s racial polarization just a year and a half after the riots. The arrest of many armed RNA members and the shooting of police officers confirmed the fear of many that militant young black men in Detroit were well armed and ready to use violence to advance their own racial causes. And Judge Crockett’s immediate release of those arrested confirmed the belief of some whites that if blacks controlled the justice system, they would use it to exonerate blacks accused of crimes. Judge Crockett himself became a symbol of racial conflict as many whites signed petitions demanding his ouster, while many blacks defended his unusual role in this controversy. Some years later, Judge Crockett was elected to Congress where he served several terms. Two defendants were tried in the shootings of Officers Czapski and Worobec, but there were no convictions.

Reverend Franklin never apologized for the New Bethel incident. Indeed, he said that RNA would be welcome to meet at his church again, but he would prohibit guns. Given his political actions, it is not surprising to find that he was the target of investigations. In 1967, he was charged with a failure to pay federal income tax. He pled guilty. In 1969,when returning from Mexico, Reverend Franklin was arrested for possession of marijuana, but these charges were dropped. Befitting his prosperity, Reverend Franklin lived in a large and historically interesting home near his church in the 7400 block of LaSalle. In 1979, he apparently surprised robbers who were attempting to steal valuable windows. He was shot, went into a coma and died five years later.

 

New Afrikan/Black Are Being Out Organize NACO/NABCO – Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective NAPLA NAIM 11-29-51ADM

Advertisements