Saturday, September 14, 2013

Protesters Arrested at Levitt & Sons Model Homes

The Levitt Manor House on Sussex Lane
September 14, 1963 (50 years ago today):  Eight people were arrested inside the the Levitt & Sons sales office on Sussex Lane after participating in a sit-in to protest Levitt's policy of refusing to sell houses to blacks.  Most demonstrators remained outside while six entered the Levitt office.  The Prince George's County Police arrived, arrested the six protesters, and the police were forced to carry some of the protesters to an awaiting patrol wagon.  After the police left, two more protesters entered the sales office, and they were subsequently arrested.

All eight people arrested were charged with trespassing, and they spent the night in an Upper Marlboro jail after refusing bond. The arrested protesters later claimed that they were held in the "drunk tank" without access to bedding.  Jail officials claimed that the protesters were causing a disturbance in the jail by yelling and singing loudly, and they were put in the "tank" to restore order to the jail.  Officials also claimed that the protesters refused an offer for bedding.

The incident occurred during months of protests organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and other organizations.  Multiple sit-ins took place, including one that turned into a "sleep-in" as three protesters spent a quiet night in the sales office with a guard from Levitt & Sons.  Episcopalian Reverand Reinhart Gutmann, a Belair at Bowie homeowner, organized a protest that included eighteen Episcopalian clergymen carrying signs and singing religious songs.  Although most protesters were opposed to Levitt's discriminatory policies, three men from the Fighting American Nationalists organization carried a sign during one protest that said "Integration Stinks."

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