Monthly Archives: September 1972

1972.09.28: Students Need a Union

1972.09.28 -- Students Need a Union 1972.09.28 — Students Need a Union

1972.09.01: Movie Review: The Godfather (Red Tide)

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See:]

Red Tide, Vol. II, No. 1 [Issue #5], September 1972
Movie Review: The Godfather
[By Michael Letwin]

By now, a lot of people have seen the GODFATHER. The movie is about the Corleone family of New York, one of the five families in the city. It takes place during the 40’s and 50’s. The movie is very accurate in describing the business ceremonies and motives behind the Mafia. There is the Godfather, played by Marlon Brando, and old gangster from way back, who is head of the Corleones, and his four sons who help him run the business.

At the beginning of the film, the Corleone family is the most powerful family in New York, but as the movie goes on and the Godfather does not want to become involved in narcotics for fear of losing his contacts in legislation, the family goes steadily down hill. As narcotics is making a fortune, several members of the family get killed (they buy off a police captain who is also killed), are finally driven out of business in New York, and have to flee to Las Vegas, to take up the gambling business.

There are all kinds of gory scenes in the film to tantalize our imaginations. One guy gets stabbed in the hand so he is pinned to the table, while being strangled from behind. Another gets shot in the eye, etc. All through it we are made to feel sorry when a gangster is killed, as if they deserve our sorrow.

In some ways the Mafia is portrayed as bad, in some ways not so bad, so let’s look at what in reality the Mafia is.

The Mafia, in essence, after all the glamor and horror is pushed aside for a minute, is a business operation, not really different from other business operations. In order to grow and profit, it buys off public officials, police officers, politicians, legislators, tax agents, etc., so economics is the basis of its power, not the occasional rub-out or “contract” that is put out on an enemy, and glamorizes it in the mind of the public.

The Mafia deals in a different kind of goods and services than legal businesses: heroin instead of bombs, gambling instead of high rents, rub-outs instead of political assassinations carried out or backed by the U.S. government (Che Guevara, George Jackson, Vietnamese, Native Americans, etc.).

The motive for legal business is profit; the motive for illegal business is profit. When someone gets in the way of the Mafia, they get killed; when legal business can make a profit, they build what they know to be unsafe cars, cigarettes that give people cancer, and unhealthy food.

In Guatemala (South America) in 1954, there was an election and a popular president was elected. Once in power, the government began to nationalize American companies in their country, and distribute the wealth among its people. So John Foster Dulles, the head of the State Dept., sponsored guerrillas with government funds, training and equipment to retake the country militarily and put in an open fascist government that still exists today.

So the apparent different is business procedures, right? But as we have seen above, in many cases the tactics are no different, except that legal business enjoys the sanction of the law.

So what conclusion should we draw from this? What is the difference between legal and illegal capitalists?

Many legal capitalists had once been involved in illegal enterprises, and after making their fortune, went legal. An example of this is Joseph Kennedy (John, Teddy and Bobby’s father), who made his fortune during Prohibition selling illegal liquor, and later invested the money in other things.

Many legal capitalists are still involved in illegal enterprises, and even if they’re not, many manufacturers disobey the law in the practice of their business (e.g., oil spills, Standard Oil, Weyerhaeuser, Mobil Oil, etc.).

The basis for their activities is the same — profit. Neither are concerned with the people’s needs, both are run for a few, and exploit the masses of people.

To show how the Corleones feel about their business, we look at this quote from the movie: “My father is no different from any powerful man,” says one of the Godfather’s sons to his girlfriend. She says, “You’re being naive. Senators and congressmen don’t have people killed.” He replies, “Who’s being naive now?”

What indeed is the difference?

1. Seeing the movie.
2. Time Magazine, April 3, 1972.

1972.09.01: Red Tide Sues School Board (Red Tide)

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See:]

Red Tide, Vol. II, No. 1 [Issue #5]
September 1972

Red Tide Sues School Board
[By Michael Letwin]

Last year we had a lot of hassles with rules and regulations in writing and distributing the Red Tide. As a result, we took the trouble of learning about the law and finding legal help to challenge rules and law that we do not believe to be legal or constitutional. We did this not only to help the Red Tide, but to help all of those in school who want to freely express their views.

By the time you read this article, the Red Tide will most probably have its first law suit in the state Superior Court of L.A. County. We are challenging the L.A. Board of Education rules that do not allow students to sell material, and that say that we have to submit material to the administration’s prior censorship before distributing it, on the grounds that these rules are both illegal according to state law and that they are unconstitutional under the state and federal constitutions.

What we are arguing is that state law section 10611 (the law which allows distribution of material) does not authorize prior censorship. As a matter of fact, a judge in the case that brought about the new law stated:

“What may be best — although not Constitutionally compelled — is a simple prohibition against the distribution of certain categories of material. This could be coupled with the prior submission of the material to school authorities for informational purposes only [not for acceptance or rejection — R.T.] and with reasonable time, place and manor regulations. This straightforward system would allow the unfettered distribution of student publications except in those instances where the content of the material is outside the protection of the First Amendment [U.S. Constitution — R.T.]. In such instance, the school authorities could prevent distribution by prior court order”.

This means that if the administration doesn’t like a student publication, they have to go to court and show why the publication is illegal or unconstitutional, after the material is circulated. The new law comes directly from this court decision. It suggested submission for “informational purposes only,” not for prior censorship.


The State Board of Education, which is different from the L.A. School Board, also proposed that:

“There should be no prior censorship or requirements of approval of the contents or wording of the presented materials related to student expression on campus.”

But the L.A. School Board went ahead and adopted them anyway.

The prior censorship rule is also unconstitutional as Article One Section 9 of the State Constitution points out:

“Every citizen may speak freely, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects being responsible for the abuse of the right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of the speech of the press.”

What will the School Board do with its power to censor us? Let’s look at what it says about our right to say, hear, read and write. The L.A. School Board states in its “Local Board Policy”:

“Students are expected to use good taste in their manner of expressing ideas. . . . [L]anguage . . . must not be vulgar or profane. Vulgar . . . includes that which is lewd, profane, coarse, crude, or offensive, and all language and pictorial language which infringes on the minimum standards of propriety and the accepted norm of public behavior on or near school campuses.”

To think that the Board of Ed. or a school administrator knows what is, for minors, “vulgar, obscene” etc., is not only stupid, but displays and arrogance typical of the people who run our schools. What might be offensive to us, and if it is to anyone, they are not forced to read that material, but they should be given the choice for themselves.

So we see that prior censorship is in no way acceptable under the legal and constitutional definitions of our society.

We also have the issue of sale of material. One can search in vain in Section 10611 for any statement which prohibits sale of material. The Education Code section barring sale was repealed last year. However, the present Board Rules prohibit “the exhibition or sale to pupils or employees of any article whatsoever”. In a case in 1971, Poxon v. Board of Ed., 341 F. Supp. 258 (E.D. Calif.), August 31, 1971, the rules barring solicitation of donations, funds and membership were declared unconstitutional.

Constitutionally, to refuse the right to sell material in effect means to condemn a publication to its doom. Who will pay for the publication of a newspaper if we can’t sell it? Only those with a great deal of spare money can afford such a luxury, and although the law is amply bent in their direction, we feel that it is too blatant an issue not to be spotted as unconstitutional.


How do we go about winning the case? Well, what we want is an injunction against the School Board and all of its employees to keep them from enforcing the unconstitutional and illegal rules that we are challenging. This injunction can be obtained from a court, so the first thing we do is go to court and ask for a T.R.O. (Temporary Restraining Order) to keep the administration from enforcing the rules until a trial can be started which would be about two weeks from the time of the first appearance.

We will present a general argument to get this. If we get it, we can start distributing right away. When our case comes up we present a long and detailed argument where we explain to the judge why we believe that the rules are illegal and unconstitutional. If we convince the judge, then we get a Preliminary Injunction.

A few weeks after that we have to appear and the School Board’s lawyer has to appear and each side will argue its case. If we win, then the rules will be struck down by the judge. If we lose at this stage, then we have to appeal to a higher court. If the School Board loses, then they can also appeal.


We have a good chance of winning at the lower stages, but even if we don’t we will almost surely win at an appeal. If we do win, it will mean a striking down of these types of rules all over the state of California, a step forward for student rights.


But people must look at what we can expect from the legal system. We believe that it is an institution that was set up to maintain the present economic system, and that since it is, we can expect only limited and occasional victories from it. However, the rhetoric of this country is one of democracy and therefore many times we will win on the more blatant cases.

Also we believe that the legal system in this country is here to, and will on the whole, serve the rich. Liberals often say, “Angela Davis went free, and that proves that the legal system works”. It does not!

Angela Davis was kept in jail for 22 months, 17 of them in solitary confinement, without even being convicted! Within this time her health deteriorated due to bad medical conditions, she lost part of her eyesight and developed varicose veins.

She had to spend vast sums for her defense, money she was able to raise only because of her status as a public figure. The prosecution had absolutely no case against her and the jurors saw this and therefore Angela went free.

But what if Angela was a poor black woman, who was not well known and could not raise money, and get lawyers to bust their asses in her defense without the normal fees? Would she have gone free then, even if she wasn’t guilty? Or would she have gotten life imprisonment because she did not have the resources to prove herself innocent?

Millions of people have been railroaded into jail because they don’t have the ability to prove themselves innocent.

Or what if the Red Tide was not a newspaper based in a predominantly white middle class area, and what if the American Civil Liberties Union was not willing to put up the money for a court case; then would the system work?

This society is not based on people’s needs, but rather on profits. The institutions in this society are made to serve that society, so why is there any reason to think that the legal system is any different? We will sometimes get justice, if we are lucky enough to get honest jurors, and a half-way decent judge who still cares about “justice”, but we should realize that the courts are not the monuments to democracy that we are led to believe.

It is ironic that the people who talk about the law being sacred are often the ones who do not obey it. Our case is a perfect example of this.

We do not think that the law is neutral or sacred, but when it can be used to the people’s advantage, then we will use it. But our goal remains not to reform the existing system, but to change it at its roots.

At the time of this article, we do not yet know whether we have won the first of our obstacles, the Temporary Restraining Order. If we did win, then this paper will not have been submitted for prior approval and will be sold. If we didn’t, then we will have to submit it to prior approval.

1972.09.01: Gary Lawton: Political Prisoner (Red Tide)

Gary Lawton

Red Tide, V. 2, No. 1 (Issue #5)
September 1972

Gary Lawton: Political Prisoner
[by Michael Letwin]

Gary Lawton is a black political prisoner. He has been in jail since May 19, 1971 on charges of murder.

Gary is accused of killing two white officers in revenge for the police killing of William Palmer, a black man in Riverside, on April 2, 1971.

After the killing of the police, the city’s 185-man force was put on standby alert and the black community in Riverside was harassed by roadblock searches. The initial reports gave descriptions of four suspects, three white and one black, between the ages of 16 and 18. Three were described as about 5’7, with medium builds, the other about 6′ with a thin build.

Since there had not been one policeman killed in 28 years in Riverside, 18 detectives were assigned no finding the killer. But it was sometime before the police arrested any suspects. Gradually, the police narrowed their investigation down to one individual: Gary Lawton.

Gary Lawton is an ex-marine and self-employed maintenance man. For several years, he has been a leader in grassroots organizations in the black community, and has been considered by police to be Riverside’s “chief black militant.” In 1968, after Martin Luther King’s assassination, Lawton and other black residents had pressured the city to rename Bordwell Park after King, and in the summer of 1968, Lawton headed a new group called the Black Congress. The Congress urged boycotts of stores with racist hiring practices, protested police harassment and demanded that rundown housing projects in which low-income blacks were forced to live be improved.

His wife, Chukia Lawton, was involved in a walkout of black nurses at the city’s Parkview hospital, where she worked, to get a hospital administrator fired because of his racism.

Before being arrested, Gary had voluntarily submitted to go to the police station for questioning several times, and twice submitted to a lie detector test, which confirmed “no deception.”

At the time of time of the shooting of the police, Lawton had been in his front yard, fixing a truck. Lawton matched none of the suspects’ descriptions. He is 33 years old, heavyset, and balding (the police claimed that the suspect had an Afro). But this didn’t matter to the police, who arrested him.

The grand jury’s indictment of Gary was based almost wholly on the testimony of two blacks, Ronald Williams, and Ronald McKenna. Williams claimed that he had sold Lawton the shotgun used in the killing, however Williams was widely suspected in the black community of being a police informer and had been heard to claim that the gun that he claims to have sold to Lawton, was in reality a gun he (Williams) had stolen from a Highway Patrol car. It was alleged that the other witness, McKenna, was an informer and a known addict.

It was also found that the guns that the police had taken from Lawton’s home did not match up with ballistics tests on the murder weapon.

Although Lawton was the police’s main target, they had to make two more arrests to round out their story. In Oct. 1971, they arrested two more blacks, Nehmiah Jackson, a Riverside student, and Larrie Gardner, an unemployed janitor. Both they and Lawton were charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Police also announced that they had a voiceprint of the man who called the police station to lure the two officers to the “ambush,” and that this matched voice.

Jackson and Gardner both maintained that they did not know each other or Lawton, but one of the prosecution witnesses also testified that he had seen them together in a house, all plotting the murder.

Meanwhile a defense committee was being set up by Chukia Lawton and other members of the black community. People working with the committee were constantly harassed, and established organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League refused to take a position on it. Ms. Lawton has been arrested on several occasions for disorderly conduct, and other minor charges at demonstrations and rallies.

The committee realized that they had no chance of getting a fair trial for Gary in Riverside, and therefore tried to get the trial changed to some other city, preferably L.A. or a Bay Area city. Instead it was transferred to Indio, a town in the middle of the desert. Indio has a population of 16,000 with only a few blacks. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see what kind of “trial” Lawton could get there.

Because the trial was moved to such a remote area, Lawton’s lawyer in L.A. found that they could no longer handle the case. This left him without counsel just one month before the scheduled opening of his trial.

There are now 8 counts of murder, and one of shooting at an occupied dwelling (in 1968) that have been to the charges against Lawton.

Lawton’s trial has been going since July 10, 1972. Lawton has been imprisoned without bail for over a year, and he is still being railroaded.

If you want to help, send money, or find out more information about Gary Lawton, write to:

P.O. BOX 5154
San Bernardino, Calif. 92408

Also, on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Long March Center, there will be a benefit for Gary Lawton Defense Committee; speaking will be a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Chukia Lawton.

The Long March is located at 715 S. Park View. It will start at 8:30 p.m.

Gary Lawton Defense Committee