Buckingham Police arrest rights demonstrators in Arlington: 1966

Buckingham Photo: a fantastic Buckingham Photograph Featuring Police arrest rights demonstrators in Arlington: 1966

Photograph Taken On Thursday, June 9, 1966

Police load civil rights demonstrators into a police wagon outside the rental office of the Buckingham Apartments at 313 N. Glebe Road June 9, 1966 Those arrested had been staging a sit-in at the office while others picketed outside, demanding the owner open the rental property to all. The segregated complex was one in a series of suburban apartment complexes that were targeted by the Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation (ACCESS). Buckingham would remain a target through a campaign that lasted more than a year. A total of ten people staged the sit-in and were arrested while pickets, whose numbers grew to about 100, sang freedom songs outside. The ten were charged with trespassing and were later fined $10 with a five-day suspended sentence providing they didn’t engage in similar activities for two years. Most of the ten joined other demonstrators picketing the Buckingham after their sentencing, but did not join those staging a sit-in inside the office. The ACCESS campaign began in March 1966 with picketing at the offices of Carl M. Freeman Associates that managed 12 Americana Apartment developments in suburban Maryland and Virginia. In what became a common refrain, Freeman claimed to be in “complete agreement with the principle of open occupancy," but only if other apartment complex operators did the same. ACCESS would go on to picket HUD offices, rally in Annapolis, picket the Olney farm of apartment owner Milton Polinger, the Whitehall and Aldon Apartments in Montgomery County, and complexes in Prince Georges County, Md. Rev. Charles Jones, ACCESS chair, led a 66-mile march around the Beltway in June 1966 to highlight the lack of open housing in the suburbs. Late in 1966, the group shifted its strategy to place pressure on the military to declare “off limits” apartment complexes that were not open to black and other minority Americans. As part of the pressure, the group briefly staged a sit-in at Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s office and picketed Andrews Air Force base. An informal survey found that only 129 of the 1300 apartment complexes in the Washington metropolitan suburbs had registered as “open.” A Defense Department spokesperson said the numbers were “roughly accurate.” In June 1967, McNamara put “off limits” apartment complexes and trailer parks within 3.5 miles of Andrews that wouldn’t open their doors to black service personnel. ACCESS proclaimed it as a start, but refused to be placated. However, the Buckingham apartments remained a focus of ACCESS throughout their year-and-a-half campaign. Picketing was held weekly—sometimes more often—and a march through Fairfax and Arlington ending at the Buckingham was held. The group was harassed by Xavier Edwards’ Interstate Ku Klux Klan group and the American Nazi Party, but didn’t back down. The state of Maryland rejected an open housing law in a referendum in 1967 and the state legislature replaced it with a weak law that did not even cover home sales. Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation (ACCESS) ACCESS achieved victory in Montgomery County, Md. in August 1967 with the passage of the most comprehensive county open housing law in the country. Despite the belief at that time that enacting open housing would be political suicide, an informal survey of 675 families in Montgomery County selected at random from the phone book found that only 33 percent of homeowners and 31 percent of apartment renters were opposed to open housing. ACCESS never achieved victory at Buckingham. It wasn’t until after the passage of the 1968 federal open housing law that the complex desegregated. However, ACCESS can be credited with changing public opinion through their high profile actions that ultimately helped lead to changes in the Defense Department policies and open housing laws at the federal and local level. For more information and related images, see Photo by Hoy. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.View image on Flickr

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