Black, white leaders try to keep racial peace in newly tense Boston
Just two weeks before public schools open, sparks of racial unrest have been re-ignited in Boston following a controversial shooting of a black youth. The Aug. 18 release of a black judge's report that a white policeman acted unlawfully in the shooting has cast a pall over the coming seventh year under court-controlled school desegration and tarnished Boston's carefully cultivated reputation as a "dynamic" city celebrating its 350th birthday.
Boston Police Commissioner Joseph Jordan warned that tension could erupt in street violence similar to what followed court decisions in Miami and Chattanooga, Tenn., earlier this summer.
Black leaders here note that racial disturbances in other US cities have erupted following what blacks saw as police abuse or "injustice in the criminal justice system."
All are concerned with what steps can be taken to ease racial tension arising from an Aug. 15 grand jury clearing of a white policeman involved in the fatal shooting of Levi Hart, a 14-year-old black youth. The boy and two other teen-agers had stolen a car and were chased down by police in the early morning hours of July 15.
Roxbury District Court Judge Richard L. Banks, a highly respected black jurist who conducted an inquest, had found "ample cause to believe that the death of Levi Hart was the result of an unlawful act or acts on the part of Richard W. Bourque [the police officer] and the further judicial inquiry is warranted." The inquest report was not made public until after the grand jury had decided not to issue an indictment.
After four years of stormy beginnings, Boston schools opened peacefully in 1978 and 1979 under a new superintendent, Dr. Robert C. Wood, and a new school committee committed to obeying court-ordered desegregation.
But tensions began to rise in September 1979, when a black high-school football player was shot during a game in the all-white Charlestown section of the city. Other sporadic violence between whites and blacks, such as gang fights and a stabbing of an out- of-town black sailor, have continued despite highly visible community calls for calm and harmony.
Mayor Kevin H. White, at his fourth inaugural last January, pledged to work for an end to racial antagonism in the city. He has hired Frank Jones, the US Justice Department official who led the federal investigation of the Miami riots in May, to head up the city's anti-discrimination commission.
Police Commissioner Jordan and black Deputy Mayor Clarence (Jeep) Jones will meet Aug. 21 with church and community workers to open an emergency campaign for interracial communication before schools open Sept. 3.
Declared Deputy Mayor Jones: "We are hanging in there, trying to prevent a domino effect of racial incidents.c