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Tensions Remain between Black Muslims and Black Nationalists

June 17, 1964 - Tension between two rival factions in Harlem — the Black Muslims and the Black Nationalists — eased today, but police remained alert for new clashes after breaking up a menacing confrontation last night.

Six followers of the Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X (pictured last month with daughter Ilyasah), were held for a Criminal Court hearing June 25 on charges of disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, and violation of a law forbidding transportation of a loaded weapon in an automobile.

The six Nationalists were arrested outside a Black Muslim rendezvous, the Shabazz Restaurant, at Lenox Avenue and West 116th Street, after they had been surrounded by Black Muslims armed with broomsticks and other improvised weapons.

The Black Muslims charged that the Nationalists brandished firearms. James 3X, the new local leader of the Black Muslims after Malcolm X vacated the position by leaving the Nation of Islam to form the Black Nationalists, said the Nationalists were trying to create a climate of fear so that a big rally planned in New York June 28 for Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Chicago-based movement, would fail.

“They are using the tactics of an angry child that’s hungry for publicity and will do anything to keep himself in the public eye,” James 3X declared.

The arrested Nationalists declared that they had been set upon by Black Muslims when they emerged from a station wagon to buy a newspaper. The police said they found an M-1 semi-automatic carbine and a 6.75 Beretta rifle on the floor of the station wagon. The carbine was loaded.

The Nationalists explained that they had been worried last night about the safety of Malcolm X, who had been threatened, they said, with assassination before June 29. They said they tried to telephone their leader, who lives in Queens, and when he failed to answer they became alarmed.

So, they drove to his house with the weapons, arriving at 9:30, and left shortly thereafter when they found he was safe.

At 11:15 p.m., they pulled up to the Lenox Avenue corner, a few steps from the Black Muslims’ Mosque No. 7. There were only about eight persons eating in the Shabazz, according to James 3X, but a crowd gathered quickly when one of the Nationalists, William George, 35, of 115 West 118th Street allegedly “waved a gun around and started swearing.”

George told police he carried a carbine with him at all times, even taking it to bed with him. There was one bullet in the chamber and a clip of 30 rounds in the man’s pocket, police said.

They also said the station wagon was equipped like a command car, with field glasses and a pair of two-way radios.

The police are concerned over the possibility of a showdown between the two militant Negro groups. Trouble has been brewing since March, when Malcolm X defected from the Black Muslims to organize a more broadly based, nonsectarian Black Nationalist Movement.

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