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NYPD Commissioner Hits Malcolm X

Mar. 15, 1964 - New York City Police Commissioner Michael Murphy warned civil rights leaders today that he would not allow them to “turn New York City into a battleground.” In an address to more than 6,000 policemen at their Holy Name Society communion breakfast in the New York Hilton Hotel, he proclaimed his determination to protect the city against extremist violence. When he declared that his men would “not be intimidated” from doing their duty, he received prolonged applause from the policemen who jammed three ballrooms for the breakfast.

Mr. Murphy said most civil rights leaders were “men of intelligence, stature, and good judgment.” However, he denounced three controversial civil rights spokesmen as having a “lust for power” and other “sinister motives.” He did not name the three in his speech, but a later press conference identified them as Malcolm X (left), leader of the Muslim Black Nationalists; Jesse Gray (right), leader of the Harlem rent strikes; and Herbert Callender, chairman of the Bronx chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Mr. Murphy was asked whether he thought that Negroes would follow the suggestion made last week by Malcolm X that they arm themselves “for self-defense.”

He replied: “The people have too much sense to do that.”

Mr. X, in a taped interview yesterday on the WABC “Page One” television program, said that “if the Government can’t protect the so-called Negroes, then the Negroes should protect themselves.”

Mr. Gray, speaking later at a civil rights rally in Harlem, said Commissioner Murphy was allied with “slumlords” and that he should be forced to resign.

Malcolm X told the rally he did not “advocate violence and bloodshed” and added: “The greatest compliment anyone can pay me is to say I’m irresponsible, because by ‘responsible’ they mean Negroes who are responsible to white authorities — Negro Uncle Toms.”

Commissioner Murphy, referring to Malcolm X at this morning’s breakfast, said: “This self-proclaimed ‘leader’ openly advocates bloodshed and armed revolt and sneers at sincere efforts of reasonable men to resolve the problem of equal rights by proper, peaceful, and legitimate means. He is well aware of, but cynically and coldly unmoved by, the possible serious consequences of his words. We are confident that the sanity and intelligence of the people of this city will reject his hate-filled mouthings.”

Mr. Murphy said the police would not permit themselves to be provoked into illegal acts, but they would “not be stayed from proper action.” He said the months ahead would be “difficult and trying” and would call for patience and discipline by policemen.


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