r THE TEXAS OBSERVER 504 West 24th Street Austin, Texas 78705 Enter a 1-year subscription, at $7.30 street city state The Courthouse Raid Bob Eckhardt Cong. Bob Eckhardt of Houston has introduced two innovative and important bills in Washington. Under one, banks would be taxed an interest stabilization fee against profits they make from high interest rates. Although this bill is so pointed, the bank lobbyists have been dissecting it in all their house organs, it is too new an idea to be regarded as near passage. Eckhardt is also proposing a consumer “class action” bill that goes for the jugular to stop commercial gypping. It would authorize a consumer to file a damage suit against a company for gypping him on a product and to file it on behalf of all consumers similarly gypped. The judgment would then be for an amount adequate to pay all claims from such consumers. The judge would assess the penalty and administer claims on it. There is sound precedent for this at law, and Eckhardt’s package is given a considerable chance of passing in place of the deceptive and misleading Nixon package on the same problem. An Inquiry I-have been trying to find out for a year how many people are imprisoned in Huntsville under the felony marijuana statute. So far, I have not been successful. The prison’s records classify inmates only according to the general narcotics law; there is no distinction, in the records there, between convictions for, say, marijuana and heroin. The United States Senate has now passed, 80 to 0, a law reducing the federal penalty for possession of marijuana for personal use to a misdemeanor. Informed opinion has known for at least two years that the classification of such an act as a felony is itself a grave wrong. I am continuing to try to find out how many people are imprisoned in Huntsville under the felony marijuana statutes. I would like to hear from anyone who has or knows of information of the same kind about any other local or state jurisdiction or the federal prison system. In my opinion, a just, free people have a heavy duty to persons now imprisoned, or about to be imprisoned, under a law that is in the process of being branded as unjust and change -d. There is also the question of justice in the retrospect. Think of all the young people already branded “felons” by this law! It is the work of journalism to isolate questions of serious public moment such as this and dredge out the information that bears on them. Evidently the Texas daily press do not see it this way, on this subject, since they have done nothing. R .D . Peter Nabokov, Tijerina and the Courthouse Raid, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1969, $6.95. Austin Events in the Middle East early in June, 1967, with tiny Israel clobbering Egypt and her Arab allies in that brief “war,” so overshadowed things elsewhere in the world that activities around a county courthouse in northern New Mexico barely found their way to page one in many cities. For while Egypt and Israel were having at each other in a continuation of their Fred Bonavita centuries-old struggle, Reies Lopez Tijerina was leading a group of his followers in the now famous raid on the Rio Arriba County Courthouse at Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, in a continuation of a struggle not nearly as old as the one which keeps the Middle East smoldering. But, just like the fleeing Arab armies, Tijerina and his forces found themselves pursued by aircraft, tanks, and armed troops, plus a sizeable portion of the New Mexico state police when their seige of the courthouse ended. The raid, which produced the largest manhunt in New Mexico’s history, involved a wild attack on the courthouse, during which shots were fired and hostages taken before it all was over. It is only within the last few weeks that a New Mexico court convicted Tijerina for his part in that incident. Peter Nabokov was a reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican during that episode, and this book is the result of his pursuit of the whole story not just of the raid but, more importantly, of the years of struggle faced by impoverished Spanish-Americans in northern New Mexico whose lands have been steadily taken away from them over the centuries. Nabokov scored a journalistic beat when he managed to get an exclusive interview with the fugitive Tijerina after being taken to his hideout while authorities combed the countryside for him. This book, which is in itself a fine job of reporting, is an important work for many reasons. For one, it details the history of the plight of the proud Spanish-Americans in the vast reaches of northern New Mexico and of the lack of interest on the part of the Anglo establishment in helping them. Second, it is a good look at Tijerina, who now is known as an activist for la raza in his efforts to regain the lands originally granted the early Spanish settlers of the region. Third, and perhaps most significant, is the account of the reaction of established interests when an oppressed and persecuted people move to protect and free themselves in a word: revolt. It is an undisputed fact that basic constitutional guaranteed were brushed aside by New Mexico authorities in their manhunt for Tijerina and his followers: houses were entered and searched at will and without the formalities of a search warrant, and Tijerina’s supporters were herded together in a corral and, held without warrant, left there overnight under armed guard. S tate officials, beginning with Republican Gov. David F. Cargo, maneuvered in the foreground and behind the scenes, giving statements one moment and denying them the next. With actions and reactions such as these, it is little wonder that the situation in northern New Mexico has not changed since that raid. If anything, it probably has gotten worse, for the prosecution leader of the Spanish-Americans, is continuing. If Tijerina is imprisoned, which’ it appears he likely will be, then someone probably will take over until he is freed. The struggle will not stop. This book will give the interested observer an excellent base from which to view and judge the situation in New Mexico. Mr. Bonavita is an Austin Capitol correspondent for the Houston Post and formerly worked on the Albuquerque Journal for several years. I I Check enclosed I I To be billed .1 February 20, 1970 11
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