Mobsters Break Up Assembly in Missouri
JEHOVAH’S witnesses arrange for a three-day circuit assembly of Christian people, September 1-3, in Kennett, Mo. This is a little town of six or seven thousand located in the southeastern corner of the state. The Blue Room above the Palace Cafe is obtained, preliminary preparations are completed, and the Friday evening session is peaceably held.
Early the next morning the witnesses are on the streets extending to the good citizens of the community knowledge and information which will enable them to chose the way of life that leads to God’s glorious kingdom, the new world of righteousness long ago promised. In fact, the public lecture scheduled to be given the next afternoon, and to which the people are invited, is entitled “Choose Life that You May Live”.
At first a few sneering voices are heard, then threats of violence are hurled, and finally, by late afternoon the whole atmosphere is filled with the nasty storm clouds of mob violence. A bully by the name of Coy Bannister goes from one barroom to the next tanking up on alcohol, and at the same time tries to get a mob organized. He is joined by a couple of other rogues, Paul Patton and “Buck” Estes, and the three form the nucleus of a mob that swells until it numbers 100 or 150. They mill around the streets, rip placards from the backs of helpless witnesses, pounce on lone witnesses, beating up those they are able to overpower.
Meantime, the mayor of the town, apparently an honest and upright man, does everything in his power to avoid bloodshed. But how helpless he is! There are only six men on his police force. He calls the governor of the state. He calls the state police. It is now late afternoon when he and the sheriff, the prosecuting attorney, the owner of the hall, and several others come to see the besieged witnesses at the hall and lay plans for their deliverance. It being impossible to hold any kind of public lecture the next day in this mob-infested town, it is agreed by all that evacuation must be made Saturday night. “While you’re in session,” the mayor says, “we will make all arrangements for your removal.”
Around six o’clock the evening program gets under way, while the limited police force guards the two entrances. Kingdom songs are sung, Jehovah’s direction is asked and the entire meeting is put in his hands. Field experiences are related, and, needless to say, there are many interesting ones. The crowd outside cannot understand how the witnesses can remain so cool, and many of them will long remember the beautiful songs that are sung to Jehovah’s praise. Even the state police, the mayor and other officials marvel at the coolness of these Christians in the face of so much opposition. During the meeting an attempt is made to cut the light wires, and at one time the mob charges the back door trying to force entrance. The state police stationed there draws his gun and holds them off.
It is now about 9 p.m., the meeting is over and the National Guard is prepared to evacuate the witnesses. Martial law is declared. The crowd outside, now numbering upward of 2,000, is ordered to the opposite side of the street. The iron door to the hall is opened and down come the witnesses. Steel-helmeted guardsmen with fixed bayonets now patrol the sidewalks maintaining law and order. Truly it is a strange sight, for one now sees among the guardsmen some of those who only a short time ago were among the mobsters. Ordered into uniforms they are now forced to act as protectors of the very Christian men and women they sought to destroy. It reminds one of how Jehovah turned the tables on wicked Haman.—Esther 6:4-13.
And as in that ancient case, so here in Kennett, many people are very much opposed to this violent outbreak of devilish mob spirit. The “sheep” are thus divided from the “goats”. (Matt. 25:31-46) In conclusion this eyewitness account, as related by the circuit and district servants, tells how the broken-up assembly was moved a hundred miles away to Cape Girardeau for the final day’s sessions. There, eleven were baptized and about 200 attended the public lecture.