investigators arrive.” \(He referred, he said, to reports U.S. senators might ening the lives of Rangers. County attorney Randall Nye quoted the deputy that Nelson had said, “You’d better tell that son of a bitch he had better lay off or there’s going to be some dead Rangers.” Bond of $2,000 was required of him, and the union’s attorney, James McKeithan of Mission, sought to have it posted by Joe Guerra, the mayor of Roma and one of the six Guerras who lead the Old Party. The New Party’s Raul Pena, the chief deputy sheriff, refused to accept the bond without tax records proving Guerra had the property necessary to post the bond. It then being about 4 p.m. Friday, Nelson had to spend the weekend in jail. McKeithan says that the tax certificate presented Monday was 15 pages long: the Guerra partnership owns 75,000 acres in Starr County; Joe Guerra also owns a share of the Rio Grande International Bridge and stock in First State Bank and Trust in Rio Grande City. McKeithan believes Nelson’s rights were violated in this incident since Guerra’s situation was well known to everyone. Another Guerra, Virgilio, who ran for county commissioner from the Roma area but lost to the New Party’s man, became, on May 16, the first Starr County farmer to sign a contract with the union. He said he and his family had received threats, but they were not afraid. The Guerras’ support of the strikers opened up the possibility of a liaison against the New Party at the next election. STARR COUNTY’s politics are feudal; they are pre-revolutionary Mexican. The New Party, so-called, has been in office 24 years, but before that the Old Party was in 40 years. The county judge, M.,J. Rodriguez, is also a medical doctor. One cannot say the sheirff is a key figure in the New Party, because he is almost never, or never, to be found in his office. He is said to be a rancher, out on his ranch. In derision he’s called “the phantom sheriff,” yet he keeps being elected. His chief deputy, Raul Pena, and Raul’s brother, Deputy Sheriff Roberto C. Pena, are referred to as “the Penas” and along with County Attorney Randall Nye are the most visible and active leaders of New Party politics. The plums of power now are jobs in the war on poverty as well as the courthouse jobs. It is alleged that people associated with the Old Party, headquartered in Roma and captained by the wealthy Guerras, cannot get the time of day at the courthouse in Rio Grande City. There are other allegations. James McKeithan says that an investigation shows that the Starr County jury commission, which chooses the grand and petit jurors, has not included a member of the Old Party since 1959. The county jail is represented as worse than the Tower of London. Union leader Eugene Nelson says that his first night in the jail on his most recentstay there, he killed 212 cock roaches: that he counted them. Dr. Ramiro Casso says of the small room in which he examined the three Mexican-Americans hurt in the Dimas incident, “It was back in the dark ages.” THE MELONS are loaded first at Rio Grande City, just west of town, In the later afternoon the hulking refrigerated cars, which Ranger Allee often mentions cost $400,000 each, are towed downvalley to Mission, where there is some switching \(and as often as not in at Harlingen, the freight cars are regrouped, squeakingly and screechingly uncoupled and jammed back together in new chains, and hauled northward to San Antonio. The union’s theory is that the law permits “information picket lines” of the trains, pickets that do not ask anyone to refuse .to patronize the railroad, but advise everyone that there’s a strike somewhere. The Rangers’ theory, derived from the Texas law against secondary picketing, is that picketing the railroad was picketing a business against which the union was not striking and was there A La Casita Manager Is Also a ‘Special Deputy Sheriff’ fore a misdemeanor. They therefore arrested picketers of the trains. The railroad sent a car ahead of each train on the tracks, the car being rigged with special bolt-on, snap-down railroad wheels, to be sure nothing amiss lay ahead. One night as the Observer’s man drove downvalley along old Highway 83 with the train, he counted three Ranger cars, each with two Rangers in it. You can tell the Ranger cars because their license plates begin with the letters “RKK.” One of them kept abreast of the train’s engine cab, the second one rode alongside on the highway at the train’s midpoint, and the third brought up the rear as near the train’s caboose as the vagaries of the road and the trackbed permit. The Texas Rangers were thus escorting the melons and th train carrying them westward through and then northward out of the Valley. A second series of arrests was based on the state’s law against mass picketing. Under this law, no two pickets may be closer together than 50 feet, nor may a picket use abusive language. McKeithan asked the union picketers please to keep 50 feet apart, but they were friends, it gets hot and lonely standing or sitting around in the sun, and from the Observer’s observation, sometimes they were close together. Randall Nye said several times that the officers didn’t arrest the pickets even when they were close together unless they were causing trouble or becoming abusive. Then, he said, they were arrested. If it wasn’t for the Rangers, said David Lopez of the union, workers would be coming out of the fields to join the union, and union railroad crews would be tying up the cantaloupes. Lopez says that every time the picketers at La Casita start making headway with the workers in the fields, there have been mass arrests. One day, he said, about 200 workers refused to cross the picket line; the next day there were 22 arrests. Gilbert Padilla, national vice-president of the farm workers’ organizing committee, which is officially recognized by the AFL-CIO, blamed “the Rangers interfering” for much of the strike’s trouble. “None of their damn business being here,” he said angrily. 0 N MAY 18, the Rangers’ mass arrests began. On a complaint signed by Onas Brand, a Trophy Farm executive, 22 pickets, including five women, were arrested and . charged with mass picketing. On May 25-26, four members of the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held closed hearings in Rio Grande City. The night of May 26, Rangers arrested 16 persons near Mission during picketing of Missouri-Pacific’s melon train; among those arrested were the Rev. Krueger and his wife and Pancho Medrano, a United Auto Workers national staffer. Early the next morning three more persons were arrested during railroad picketing west of Harlingen. Bonds for these 19 totaled $9,500. May 29 in Rio Grande City a union crew refused to move the train past two pickets, so a management crew did it, and the train went on. On a complaint signed by Ray Rochester, vice president and general manager of La Casita Farms, the Rangers arrested 12 picketers at La Casita the morning of May 31 and charged them with mass ,picketing; two more railroad picketers were taken in for train picketing that night. With four more picket arrests June 1 while State Sen. Joe Bernal watched, the total number of arrests by the Rangers and county officials in this year-long strike had come to about 117. The Rangers and the growers were invited to the civil rights hearing, but chose not to testify. The union people presented their complaints in full, for seven hours; for the county, Nye, the county attorney, testified at length. The press was excluded. On, the basis of a transcript, there may be some kind of report from Washington. According to the Observer’s information about these hearings, Benito Rodriguez, who was soon to be involved in the Dimas incident, testified that a grower had fired a shot at him. Members of the committee asked Nye about it, and according to good information, Nye said that the grower was probably rabbit hunting. The irony is striking: picketers Rodriguez and Magdalene Dimas were soon to say in their own defense that they had gone rabbit hunting. Jim Rochester is a duly sworn “special June 9, 1967 15
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