White York, PA, Mayor Faces Murder Charges In 1969 Riot Killing Of Black Woman

White York, PA, Mayor Faces Murder Charges In 1969 Riot Killing Of Black Woman – Brief Article

Days after winning the Democratic primary and thanking his supporters, York, PA, mayor Charles Robertson was charged with criminal homicide in connection with the murder of Lillie Belle Allen, shot during a race riot over 30 years ago.

Robertson, 67, who has proclaimed his innocence, was released on $50,000 bond. He said he had no plans to resign as mayor and vowed to continue his mayoral campaign.

Although Robertson’s exact role in the murder has yet to be disclosed, court papers have stated that the two-term mayor, then a York police officer, attended an area rally on Newberry Street the night before Allen was killed. The day of the shooting, Robertson allegedly passed out bullets to armed White agitators and told them to “kill as many (Blacks) as you can.” He also joined in on chants of “White Power!”

That night, Allen, an Aiken, SC, 27-year-old mother of two, was in town visiting family members. The car she was riding in turned onto Newberry Street and encountered a dozen or so armed White men. The diver panicked when the car stalled while attempting to turn around. Allen got out of the car to take over the wheel and was shot once in the chest. She died shortly afterward.

The riots, which lasted 10 days, began when a White gang member shot and injured a young Black man in the city, located 85 miles west of Philadelphia. More than 60 people were injured and entire city blocks were burned.

The 1969 shooting had gone largely uninvestigated until the 30th anniversary of the rioting drew renewed interest by local media and prosecutors.

A recent grand jury investigation into a federal lawsuit filed by Blacks who complained of civil rights violations when police swept through their homes during the rioting found that a judge’s footnote referred to Robertson’s behavior as “outrageous and reprehensible.”

The mayor, who revealed he had been questioned by the grand jury but invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, insisted that he is not a racist. He added that the incident at the rally stemmed from ingrained racism throughout the police department, which has since been expunged by sensitivity sessions.

The inquiry in York follows cases reopened by Southern prosecutors and civil rights advocates who in recent years have tracked down aging suspects and won convictions.

Recently, ex-Ku Klux Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. was re-tried and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, AL, church that killed four girls (JET May 21).

COPYRIGHT 2001 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group