East Village Other (1970)
For weeks, the Lords visited the First Spanish Methodist Church on 111th Street and Lexington Avenue, trying to convince Humberto Carranzana, the Cuban refugee who ran it, to open the large basement facilities for the breakfast program (the church was in use only a few hours a week, on Sundays). On Sunday, December 7, when the Lords attempted to address the congregation, police were called in and beat and arrested 13 Lords. The women who were in the church fought back just as hard as the men, and the Party points to this as the awakening of its struggle against male chauvinism. The Lords returned to the church on December 28, 1969. This time they took it over, renamed it People’s Church and began an 11-day occupation. They established an embattled communal enclave with free breakfasts, free clothing and health services, a day-care center, a liberation school, community dinners, films, and on New Year’s Eve a revolutionary service to herald “The Decade of the People.”
Over a hundred thousand people passed through the doors of the church during those days. The Lords explained their programs. They invoked the teachings of Jesus as a people’s gospel of helping those in need.
The barricaded, barred and chained door of the church gave way to police hammers and chisels at 7:15 A.M., Wednesday, January 7. The occupation ended peacefully—as the Lords had promised, for their part, that it would. All of those busted were charged with civil contempt of a January 2 court injunction against remaining in the church. In March all of the charges were dropped. —Frank Browning, Ramparts (1970)