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Elijah Muhammad Leads Harlem Rally, Muhammad Ali Attends

June 28, 1964 - Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Black Muslim separatist sect, visited Harlem today on his first trip to New York since the defection of Malcolm X. About 6,500 listeners, including heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, heard him preach his message at a rally apparently aimed at offsetting Malcolm X’s departure.

Although Mr. Muhammad never mentioned Malcolm X by name, he called on his audience to recognize that he alone could complete his divinely inspired mission. “I am the choice of God,” he said, “and not the choice of an institution.”

More than half the audience were his followers, the women distinguished by long white gowns and the men by plastic armbands that said, “We are with Muhammad.” Members of the Fruit of Islam, a paramilitary band within the Black Muslims, patrolled the sidewalks outside the 369th Regiment Armory at 142nd Street and Fifth Avenue. At one point they swarmed over a young Negro, who they suspected of being a follower of Malcolm X, and knocked him to the sidewalk.

All week there had been charges and countercharges of plots to assassinate Mr. Muhammad or Malcolm X. A detachment of 80 policemen was on hand.

When two policemen tried to break through the crowd to protect the young man, they were blocked by the Muslims.

“Kill him, kill him now,” members of the crowd shouted.

After he had been beaten for a few minutes, the young man was lifted by a group of about 10 Muslims and roughly carried across 143rd Street, where he was dumped against a metal fence. Only then could the police reach him.

He identified himself as David Wetstone, 21, of 2466 Marion Avenue, the Bronx, and denied that he belonged to the faction led by Malcolm X. He was taken to Harlem Hospital for X-rays.

In his speech, Mr. Muhammad made only one oblique reference to Malcolm X — the man who built the Muslim following in New York, then defected.

There is “some person,” he said, “who wants to be what I am, but that person is not able to be what I am. I know what you do not know. I have heard what you have not heard. I have seen what you have not seen.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” cried the Muslims in the audience.

“I will not beg 22 million people to accept me as their leader,” he declared. “Maybe you won’t believe it, but I am the key to every one of you. I’m not something of myself, I’m something of God.”

After Mr. Muhammad had finished his remarks, Muhammad Ali got up to report on his recent trip to Africa.

“When I met President Nasser of Egypt,” he declared, “the first thing he said was, ‘How is the Honorable Elijah Muhammad?’”

The boxer then gave Mr. Muhammad a miniature gold mosque — a gift, he said, from the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Cairo.

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