This column reported Sunday that Congress passed the law in 1938 forbidding demonstrations within 500 feet of embassies in Washington, so as not to inflame touchy relationships between this country and Nazi Germany. We noted rather dryly that some anti-Nazis picketed the German Embassy in 1938, were arrested and convicted, and that the law was appealed and upheld.
Abe Labarsky, who lives in Rockville, called to flesh out that information and reminisce about the first demonstration soon after the antipicketing law went into the books. At the age of 20 he was, Labarsky said, among 43 mostly Jewish members of the American Youth Council who, on learning that Adolf Hitler's Nazi forces had just invaded Austria, decided to stay after their convention ended and demonstrate outside the German Embassy.
The embassy, incidentally, was in the 1400 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW. My typing finger the other day switched its location.
To make a long story short, Labarsky and his 42 codefendants were freed but told to return for a later trial. At that trial, he said, now deceased Judge Edward M. Curran asked the 43 whether they would demonstrate outside the embassy again if they realized the restrictive law was constitutional.
Labarsky said he was among eight who said that, indeed, they would demonstrate. Those who said they wouldn't were freed. So Curran sent Labarsky and his seven recalcitrants to spend 30 days (with half a week off for good behavior) at the Occoquan unit of the Lorton Reformatory -- political prisoners of a sort, this column suggests, with honor.
"The food at Lorton was good. We got exercise leveling an embankment," said Labarsky. Asked what he thought of his 47-year-old jail record, Labarsky replied: "I am not ashamed of it."