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World’s Fair Demonstrators Criticized as “Rude”

Apr. 23, 1964 - New York City Mayor Robert Wagner and NYPD Commissioner Michael Murphy joined President Johnson and Governor Rockefeller today in stinging criticism of antics of the dissident CORE chapters at the World’s Fair on opening day yesterday.

Wagner and Murphy singled out for special rebuke the heckling of President Johnson’s speech.

Wagner characterized the jeering of Johnson “most regrettable — provocative — unpardonably rude.” The police commission called the disrespect to the President “shocking” and added that he was saddened.

In Washington, Johnson told a news conference that such “rude” demonstrations “serve no good purpose — either of promoting the cause they profess to support or of disrupting that cause.” In commenting on the progress of civil rights, he said: “I don’t believe that we are going to be stopped either by fanaticism or rudeness.” Asked for his personal reaction to the demonstration, he said: “I felt sorry for them.”

Rockefeller labeled the activity of CORE at the Fair opening “a very sad thing.” He said he was glad the threats of “stall-ins” and train tie-ups did not develop.

Since the heckling of Johnson took place in the city, we must “be ashamed,” said Wagner in a statement at City Hall.

He declared that he understood the basis of the protest of James Farmer’s national organization, but he added: “The law is the law and must be applied equally to all.”

While moving swiftly on civil rights, said the Mayor, we must distinguish “between the voices of the people and the voices of the headline hunters who seek to use grievances and problems of the disadvantaged to focus attention not on the grievances but on themselves.” “We must distinguish between leaders and quacks,” he added.

Among the “shocking things” the police commissioner reported witnessing were these:

— “Thirteen and 14-year-old girls — who should have been in school — marching in wild circles, shrieking at the top of their voices.”

— “Men caught up in a frenzy of passion, deliberately hurling themselves in front of automobiles.”

— “Police officers insulted, vilified, spat upon.”

— “The President heckled during a speech.”

— “The strains of our National Anthem drowned out by shouts and jeers — police and military standing proudly when our flag was raised while a smile group cavorted and shouted in complete disrespect.”

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