Select Page

On Trial for Unlawful Assembly

July 5, 1917 — On trial for “unlawful assembly,” House of Detention, Washington, DC


I wish to state first, as the others have stated, that we proceeded quietly down the street opposite the White House with our banners; that we intended to keep on marching; that our progress was halted by the police, not the crowd. There was no interference on the part of the crowd until after the police had arrested us and turned their backs on the crowd. Our contention is, as others have stated, that the presence of the crowd there was caused by the action of the police and the previous announcement of the police that they would arrest the pickets, and not by our action, which was entirely legal.

In the first place I wish to call your attention to the fact that there is no law whatever against our carrying banners through the streets of Washington, or in front of the White House, It has been stated that we were directed by the police not to carry banners before the White House, not to picket at the White House. That is absolutely untrue. We have received only one instruction from the chief of police and that was delivered by Major Pullman in person. He said that we must not carry banners outside of headquarters. We have had no other communications on this subject since that time.

We, of course, realized that that was an extraordinary direction, because I don’t’ think it was ever told an organization that it could not propagate its views, and we proceeded naturally to assume that major Pullman would not carry out that order in action because he would not be able to sustain it in any just court.

We have only been able sine to judge instructions by the action of the police, and the actions of the police have varied from day to day, so that as a point of fact we don’t know what the police have been ordered to do — what is going to be done. One one occasion we stepped out of headquarters with a banner — the so-called Russian banner — and it was torn to fragments before we had reached the gate of our premises, although Major Pullman had given no notice to us at that time. Another time we proceeded down Madison Place with banners, walking in front o of the Belasco Theater, and were arrested. Another time we were allowed to proceed down Madison Place and the north side of the avenue and were not molested.

Now the district attorney has stated that on account of the action of this court a few days ago, we knew and deliberately did wrong. But we were advised then by the judge — and he was familiar with the first offense — that we would have been all right if we had kept on walking. On July 4 we kept on walking, and this is the result of that action.

I myself was informed on June 22 by various police, that if I would keep on walking, my action would be entirely legal. We were innocent of any desire to do anything wrong when we left our premises.

It is evident that the proceedings in this court are had for the purpose of suppressing our appeal to the President of the United States, and not for the purpose of accusing us of violating the police regulations regarding traffic in the District of Columbia.

Following a summing-up by the district attorney, in which he covered the same ground as in the previous arraignment of suffragists, the eleven women were found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of twenty-five dollars, or serve three days in the district jail. All of the women refused to pay the fine and were sentenced to jail. The case against Miss Hazel Hunkins, who was arrested for saving a suffragist banner, was dismissed. Miss Kitty Marion, whose papers had been snatched from her, was found not guilty of disorderly conduct. Of the large number of men who rendered gratuitous aid to the police, two were arrested. Both were found guilty and fined twenty-five dollars.



Source: The Suffragist, Vol. V. No. 77, July 14, 1917, p. 5.