Today in history: Guns on Pascha, 1905

I was browsing my newspaper archives recently, and came across an article about a Greek Pascha celebration in New York, exactly 105 years ago today (April 30, 1905). Here’s the whole article, from the New York Times:

While more than a thousand persons were in front of the Holy Trinity Hellenic Orthodox Church, in Seventy-second Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues, early this morning, it being the Easter of that church, a man shot off six blank cartridges with a revolver. A policeman arrested the man and started for the station house. Hundreds followed, and at Seventy-first Street they tore away the prisoner, who made his escape. The reserves of the East Sixty-seventh Street Station were then sent for and remained on guard until the crowd dispersed.

At the time of the shooting the steps of the church were crowded, and in the block between Lexington and Third Avenue there were about 2,000 persons. Every man and woman carried a lighted candle. P0liceman O’Connor of the East Sixty-Seventh Street Station was sent to keep order, and remained outside the gathering. Shortly before 12:30 o’clock he heard six shots fired in rapid succession. Men and women pushed right and left at first and remained quiet when it was seen that the cartriges were blanks. The policeman saw the smoke and arrested a man he thought had fired the revolver.

O’Connor started through the crowd. When he reached Lexington Avenue with his prisoner there were more than 500 men and women behind him. The prisoner was a Greek, and all those following were talking in excited voices.

When Seventy-first Street was reached the crowd made a rush, and, throwing O’Connor to the ground, released his hold on the prisoner. The man was seized by friends and hurried into the crowd. O’Connor made several efforts to get the man, but the crowd surged about him and he was unsuccessful.

The policeman then went to the nearest police telephone box and summoned the reserves. Search for the man was made in vain by twenty policemen. The reserves then remained on guard outside the crowd while services were conducted. There was no further trouble.

This is hardly the most violent guns-on-Pascha story I’ve heard, but it’s nonetheless startling. Can you imagine being that policeman, followed for six blocks by a mob of Greeks, before being accosted and thrown to the ground? It’s a wonder he wasn’t beaten, but apparently the Greeks were peaceable enough, interested solely in freeing their comrade.

The incident really makes you appreciate modern technology. Today, a policeman in the same situation would have immediately radioed for backup, but Officer O’Connor had to track down a “police telephone box” to bring in the reserves.

[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]

2 thoughts on “Today in history: Guns on Pascha, 1905

  1. On one of the historic neighborhood signs on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – the location of “Holy Trinity Hellenic Orthodox Church, in Seventy-second Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues” – notes that the area east of Park Avenue was the origin of the term “wrong side of the tracks”. I have not been able to verify this derivation elsewhere, so perhaps it is a Gotham-specific memory.

    “Park Avenue was originally known as Fourth Avenue and carried the tracks of the New York and Harlem Railroad starting in the 1830s…. When Grand Central Depot was opened in the 1870s, the railroad tracks between 56th and 96th Streets were sunk out of sight.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Avenue_%28Manhattan%29)

    This area of the Upper East Side was not the high highfalutin neighborhood we think of today.

    • Very interesting; thanks for sharing this. Do you happen to have a photo of the neighborhood sign?

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