Victoria: Chapter 7

The Battle of the Housing Project began on the last Friday in February, 2017. It proved to be Blitzkrieg, but into Russia.

Friday night usually meant big business for the hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and the rest of the “informal economy” that dominated the inner cities back then. Boston was enjoying a break in the winter weather, which should have drawn a big crowd out. It did, but not the kind they were expecting. The Panzers were in laager by 3 PM, 243 strong: the Church Ladies. Project residents were the infantry; they would make sure the tanks reached their objectives. The artillery was the press. The Marine connection worked, and we had reporters from the Boston Globe plus camera crews from several local TV stations. We also had twenty-five off-duty cops—in uniform and armed—and a couple video cams of our own; I wanted to have our own video tape, edited and ready to hand out ASAP.

Darkness comes early in Boston in February, and as it fell the bipedal roaches started crawling out of their cracks to sell their crack and whatever else. They didn’t need any of their own stuff for excitement that night. We had twenty-five “swarms” just looking for targets, and as soon as one of the scum made an appearance anywhere near the project, he was surrounded. Singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” the Church Ladies and their allies made sure no business was done. One dealer was dumb enough to reach for his piece; before one of our cops could react, a swift umbrella brought him low.

But we faced no stupid enemy. The trash knew how the game usually went. Their friends in high places had already won the first round for them. So they retreated. They backed off, moved on, or went to ground and waited. Monday would see Judge Frylass in his chambers and the Legal Services lawyers before his bench, demanding and undoubtedly getting an injunction.

This time, we were ready for that. We picked a Friday to launch our attack because people would be home over the weekend to read the papers and turn on the TV. The next day, we dominated the news.

To keep the initiative, Saturday morning the leaders from the project and the ministers from the local churches held a news conference. They announced part two of the plan, an appeal to the white churches. Those congregations were prepared when our black Church Ladies arrived on Sunday and invited them to visit the project and see for themselves why we were fighting. We had the logistics carefully planned, with buses lined up, guarded parking lots available near the project and lists where we asked people to commit themselves to come for a tour on a certain date. Anticipating Judge Frylass’s action, we had the tours of the project begin on Monday evening.

Frylass did not disappoint us (in war, a predictable opponent is a great asset). With a ringing denunciation of “mob rule,” on Monday morning he issued an injunction against any “tactics of intimidation” directed against “the victims of racism and an oppressive economic structure,” i.e., the scum.

Monday evening, the scum were back. So were we, again with the black Church Ladies in the lead, but now with white Christians, including some priests and ministers, alongside. At Frylass’s order, state cops were present to enforce his injunction. That was just what we wanted. Tuesday’s news was filled with photos of Church Ladies and their allies, black and white, being handcuffed and hauled off in paddy wagons while the drug dealers grinned.

The public was enraged, and the politicians started to get scared. In the state legislature, former Marines got the state cops pulled off the case.

Tuesday afternoon, our ministers and Church Ladies, now joined by the Cardinal of Boston, the Mayor, and the Speaker of the Massachusetts House, held another news conference. They announced part three: the raffle to buy the house next to Frylass’s and give him a dose of his own medicine.

The public went wild. It was a chance to give one of these Lord High Panjandrums a kick in the butt. The demand for lottery tickets was so great they were bid for on the street at ten times their price.

At this point, our battle went national. Every network ran it as their lead story on the Wednesday evening news, using the video we had prepared. A Senate Resolution condemning Frylass went through by voice vote. Colleagues on the Federal bench began talking publicly about impeachment.

But as is often the case in war, an unpredicted event was decisive. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings had seen repeats of Monday, only bigger. We swarmed the scum, wherever we could find them. Federal Marshals, brought in by Frylass, made their arrests. Now, the televisions were full of businessmen in three-piece suits, white housewives, people from every class and race being hauled off. Wednesday the Cardinal himself was arrested, arm in arm with two Baptist Church Ladies, all singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Thursday the crowd started gathering early, around 2 PM. It was huge, it was angry, and it was largely middle-class. Somewhere, somehow, the cry was started, “Let’s go see the judge.” Everyone took it up. The mob started to move toward the Federal Courthouse. It was a couple miles, and as the march continued the crowd grew. Along the way they found a road crew working and took their tar truck. The crowd took up the chant, “Pillows! Pillows!”, and from every window along the route pillows came flying down. Enough had feathers in them to do the job.

They found Judge Frylass in his chambers, having tea. He made a fine sight, tarred and feathered, riding on a streetcar rail for a short journey down to Boston harbor, where he went for a swim. The harbor police fished him out, somewhat the worse for wear.

Friday, it was clear it was over. Every news broadcast and newspaper in the country called it “The Second Boston Tea Party.” The President, a man who knew the secret of political leadership was to find a crowd and follow it, announced the Attorney General was personally going to the Supreme Court to ask them to overturn Judge Frylass’s injunction. The Court, which had been more a political than a judicial body since Earl Warren, duly complied.

That was the triumph of our Blitzkrieg. It took less than a week.

We then learned why Blitzkrieg didn’t work in Russia. The enemy’s position had too much depth.

The key to our victory was our starting point, the takeover of the housing project by its tenants. That happened as part of an experimental program sponsored by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Of course, like the rest of the Federal government, HUD was solidly enemy territory. The bureaucrats were leftists to a man (or, back then, woman), and what had happened in Boston horrified them. How dare ordinary people stand up to the government—and win!

So, once the furor had died down and the attention of the press had wandered on to newer things, they quietly changed the rules. There would be no more housing projects with tenant management. Federal bureaucrats would stay in charge, they would not evict the scum, so the scum would rule. And they did.

The lesson for our side was that we could win battles, but not the war. The war had to be fought on the enemy’s ground, the vast, incomprehensible network of government rules, regulations, and bureaucracies. That was our Russia, and it was just too big to conquer.

We had to let it fall of its own weight.