Sunday, November 22, 2015

Looking Back: Saint Denis in Baltimore

Veney Raids in Baltimore 1964

This week in the aftermath of the Paris Massacre (13 November 2015), President Hollande was given special powers to ravage the Muslim suburbs around Paris. At one rowhouse apartment building, surrounded by more than 100 security officers, they fired more than 5,000 rounds, launched 20 grenades. So many munitions were directed toward the 3rd floor apartment, the building has nearly collapsed.

Those are the facts. The rest delivered by the news media was the government narrative. There was little or no independent news production. The French government was caught off guard by the Brussels clique of ISIS fighters. But France's anti-Muslim feelings have been ripe for decades, especially since I saw the film "The Battle of Algiers" in the late 1960s.

In any case, the Saint Denis narrative given to the international news media reminded me of the stories I was told in 1965 when I came to Baltimore to attend Morgan State College. Though none was killed, the intrusive impact of the 1964 Veney Raids was still on the mind of the Black Community, especially in East Baltimore. With several new generations come since then, I know that this episode of police repression has been nearly forgotten.

The intent of this page is to bring to attention the white salient aspects of that Black Baltimore episode. I myself had almost forgotten the name of the Veney Brothers. I googled the name and found several pages of interest. One other point. Few have connected that police repression of the early 1960s to the 1968 Black Rebellion, that came after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Police Fired Nearly 5,000 Bullets in Saint-Denis Terror Raid

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Lankford and Tompkins v George Gelston 
Response to Veney Raids

Negro families of Baltimore City, four in number but acting in behalf of others similarly situated, as well as in their own behalf, instituted an action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, seeking injunctive relief against the Police Commissioner of Baltimore City to prevent further invasions of their right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Jurisdiction is grounded on 28 U.S.C.A. 1343, as authorized by 42 U.S.C.A. 1983.1 

The District Court heard the testimony of forty-two witnesses and received a summary of the police records from a team of special masters chosen from the membership of the Junior Bar Association of Baltimore City. This case, which has attained considerable notoriety, stems from the efforts of the Baltimore Police Department to capture Samuel and Earl Veney, two brothers who shot and killed one policeman and seriously wounded another.

During a nineteen-day period in December, 1964, and January, 1965, the police conducted searches of more than 300 houses, most of them private dwellings. The searches were based in almost every instance on unverified anonymous tips. In none did the police have a search warrant.

Although the court found that the police, in conducting these searches at all hours of the day and night, upon telephone tips from unknown persons, had deprived plaintiffs and others of their constitutional rights, it refused to issue an injunction and denied plaintiffs relief.

The court, however, retained jurisdiction of the case in order to process expeditiously any future claim of invasion of the plaintiffs' rights. 240 F. Supp. 550 (D. Md. 1965).

There is no dispute over the facts.…/federal/appellat…/F2/364/197/316747/

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 Baltimore Crimes: Sam and Earl Veney, 1964
Excerpt by Gregory P. Cane

The case of Sam Veney and his brother Earl . . . they gunned down two Baltimore cops—killing one and wounding another—while robbing a liquor store on Greenmount Avenue. The Veney brothers were probably the most notorious and feared criminals in Baltimore history, but police misconduct figured prominently in their crime, too.

After the shootings, the Baltimore Police Department declared war on the city's black population. Police broke into scores of homes without warrants or the slightest pretext of probable cause. The search teams were called "flying squads," as delicate a euphemism for police state terror as it should ever be our disgust to encounter. Juanita Jackson Mitchell had to take city police to federal court and remind them that Baltimore was in America, not Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union.

As a young boy living in the Murphy Homes housing project at the time, I vividly remember wondering whether I had more to fear from the Veney brothers or Baltimore cops. Years later I remember thinking that whatever the iniquities of the Veney brothers, it was their act that had exposed the Baltimore Police Department for its brutal, racist treatment of Baltimore's black citizens in 1964 and before.

Should we forget how bad it was, we need only remind ourselves that Commissioner Donald Pomerleau—hardly a flaming liberal—was brought in to nudge the department into the 20th century.

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Baltimore Crimes: The Veney Raids

About 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve in 1964, Lieutenant Maskell, assigned to the Northeastern District, responded to a call about a robbery in progress at the Luxies Liquor store in the 2000 block of Greenmount Ave. "He saw something going on and walked right into a robbery. He was shot twice, and then he staggered to Worsley Street, about 25 feet from Greenmount Avenue, where he was later found," said Bill Rochford, a police lieutenant at the time. 

"It was a miracle he survived." said Mr. Rochford, a boyhood friend who grew up with Lieutenant Maskell in Northeast Baltimore. Samuel J. Veney and Earl Veney became the targets of the city's largest manhunt. The Veneys made the FBI's 10-most-wanted list, the first time two brothers had been on the list. "The search was intense and went on through the night and into Christmas morning, when Sgt. Jack Lee Cooper was killed by Samuel Veney," said Bill Talbott, a retired Evening Sun reporter who covered the case.

During the 19-day manhunt, police searched 200 homes in black communities without obtaining search warrants. The illegal searches prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] to file a federal lawsuit that resulted in an 1966 injunction against the city police.

The Veney brothers, who had fled the state, were captured in March 1965 while working in a zipper factory on Long Island, N.Y. They were tried and convicted in Frederick, where the case was moved because of pretrial publicity. Earl Veney was sentenced to 30 years in prison and in 1976 was found hanged in the House of Correction in Jessup, where Samuel Veney is serving a life sentence.…/jomc…/advert/28.html

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 I am sure if your family is from VA. We are all related. As you know the "Veney" name is such a rare name. Karen Veney

If your friend is related to the Veney's of Page County, Luray, Virginia-She is more then likely related to Bethany Veney - She was a slave. There is a slave narrative on her online that you can read and print. She ended up living in Mass. She was married to Frank Veney of Page Co., Va. Frank died in Luray-there is also one on him. That may have some information for her. It helped me alot since she is a part of my family. My mother is a Cyrus of Page Co. There are still Veneys left in Luray. Good Luck! 

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Bethany Veney's Journey to Freedom

My old master, who at times was inclined to be jolly, had a way of entertaining his friends by my singing and dancing. Supper over, he would call me into his room, and, giving me to understand what he wanted of me, I would, with all manner of grotesque grimaces, gestures, and positions, dance and sing:

"Where are you going, Jim?
Where are you going, Sam?
To get a proper larning,
To jump Jim Crow." 


"David the king was grievit and worrit,
He went to his chamber -
His chamber and weppit;
And, as he went, he weppit and said,
'O my son, O my son!
Would to God I had died
For thee, O Absalom,
My son, my son,' " – 

and many other similar songs, of the meaning of which I had of course no idea, and I have since thought neither he nor his friends could have had any more than I. . . .

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By Madeline W. Murphy