EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 4, 2014

Editorial: Some cheers, some jeers for recent newsmakers


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CHEERS to Haverhill’s contribution to preserving an important part of American history.

We’re happy to see the beginning of demolition work on Haverhill’s long-empty Woolworth building to make way for the new Harbor Place project that will revitalize the eastern gateway to the city’s downtown. We’re pleased as well that some fixtures from inside the building will be used in a museum exhibit depicting an important event in the civil rights movement.

F.W. Woolworth stores and their popular lunch counters were once common in downtown locations across the country. In the South of the early 1960s, the lunch counters were segregated, set aside for the use of “whites only.”

On May 28, 1963, a group of black and white protesters staged a “sit-in” at the Woolworth counter in Jackson, Miss. An angry white mob attacked the demonstrators, pouring ketchup, sugar and mustard on them and later punching and kicking them. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act became law.

To mark the 50th anniversary of “Freedom Summer,” the campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson plans to create an exhibit commemorating the 1963 Woolworth sit-in. Museum curator Kenyatta Stewart has been searching the country for Woolworth artifacts for the exhibit. Lunch counter components have been particularly difficult to find.

The Haverhill lunch counter is being disassembled and sent to the Buttonwoods Museum for preservation. Buttonwoods has agreed to lend the Smith Robertson Museum four stools and an eight-foot section of counter for its exhibit.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are to get these artifacts,” Stewart told reporter Mike LaBella. “It was pretty ugly (the 1963 sit-in) and this is the story we want to tell through our display.

“We want to educate people about the struggle for civil rights during that period of time,” Stewart added. “People worked together. It wasn’t just black people who fought for civil rights, it was white people, too.”

While civil rights protests were not part of Haverhill’s own history, we’re pleased that the city can make a contribution to the commemoration of this important chapter of American history.

JEERS to another example of the extent of the illegal drug trade.

Two New York men -- Francisco Gonzalez, 50, of Manhattan and Miguel Betances, 60, of Nanuet, N.Y. -- were arrested in Lawrence last weekend and charged with trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine. According to a police report, detectives monitoring a Lawrence warehouse intercepted a produce shipment from the Dominican Republic via Florida that was also concealing 10 kilos of cocaine with a street value of $400,000.

Working with federal drug agents, Lawrence detectives learned the drug shipment would be arriving from Florida concealed within boxes of produce from the Dominican Republic, The Eagle-Tribune’s Jill Harmacinski reported. Saturday morning, state, local and federal drug detectives were watching the Mayias Wholesale Warehouse at 1 Broadway when they observed Betances and other unidentified men unloading pallets of produce from a trailer and bringing them into the warehouse. Later, Betances and Gonzalez returned in an SUV and loaded boxes into it. Police stopped the SUV and found packages of cocaine inside, according to the report.

Executing a search warrant on the warehouse, police found more cocaine “resealed inside the walls of a number of brown cardboard boxes,” according to the report.

Bail was set at $500,000 for both Betances and Gonzalez after their arraignments in Lawrence District Court. Both men are due back in court on July 1 for a probable cause hearing.

The story illustrates the extent and scope of the illegal drug trade as it reaches up and down the East Coast and into the Caribbean. Our thanks to the police and detectives involved in the effort to get this scourge off our streets.