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Racial Violence in Plaquemine, Louisiana

Sept. 2, 1963 - In Plaquemine, Louisiana last night, state police on horseback and deputies dispersed an angry crowd of 1,000 Negroes with tear gas and then unleashed a tear-gas barrage into a Negro church filled with demonstrators. Six Negro ministers were arrested. A number of Negroes were injured leaping from windows of the Plymouth Rock Baptist Church to escape the gas. Several Negroes threw rocks at the police. The disturbances erupted despite an unexpected Federal Court order banning further demonstrations in the Mississippi Riverfront city, where 69 persons were arrested during outbursts Saturday night. James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, today called the Plaquemine police force a “lynch mob made up of law enforcement officials.” “I have never seen such police treatment in Mississippi or Alabama,” said Mr. Farmer. “It was worse than Birmingham. Police did not just break up the demonstrators, but pursued them into churches, homes, and any shelter they sought.” Major Ben Ragusa, in charge of the state troopers at Plaquemine, said police used no force except tear gas. He said Negroes were throwing bricks before the police went into the church. Twenty of his own men were hurt, he added. In Washington, the Justice Department announced it had sent FBI agents to Plaquemine to probe complaints of police brutality which Farmer had lodged.


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