Donald Lobsinger, June 23rd, 2016

Title

Donald Lobsinger, June 23rd, 2016

Description

In this interview, Lobsinger discusses his experiences in the Korean War and how that led him to start his group, Breakthrough, to fight communism in Detroit, as well as his experiences of and viewpoint on the unrest in 1967

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

06/28/2016

Rights

Detroit Historical Society

Format

audio/WAV

Language

en-US

Type

Oral History

Video

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Donald Lobsinger

Brief Biography

Donald Lobsinger was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1935. He spent his life working for the city of Detroit and fighting communism with his group, Breakthrough.

Interviewer's Name

William Winkel

Interview Place

St. Claire Shores, MI

Date

06/23/2016

Interview Length

01:16:56

Transcriptionist

Hannah Sabal

Transcription Date

06/27/2016

Transcription

WW: Hello, today is June 23rd, 2016. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project. I’m in St. Claire Shores and I am sitting down with Mr. Don Lobsinger. Thank you for sitting down with me today.

DL: Pleasure.

WW: Can you tell me where and when you born?

DL: Detroit, Michigan, 1934.

WW: What neighborhood did you grow up in?

DL: Northeast side, in the vicinity of Chandler Park. Chalmers and Harper, in that area.

WW: What was that neighborhood like for you growing up?

DL: It was a great neighborhood, and that’s the only way I can describe it. Many houses. Detroit was pretty well known at that time for its tree-lined streets, Dutch elms, and of course they got the disease and they had to get rid of them a number of years later. But Detroit was known for that because you had cities like Chicago known for tenements and apartments and so on, but not Detroit. Detroit was known for its tree-lined residential streets. Very well known for that. That was my neighborhood. Park nearby, played ball in that park as kids. Make-up ball as kids growing up. Street hockey, growing up. The neighborhood was tremendous. The young people living today, they can’t possibly imagine or understand how great it was to live in the city of Detroit. I went to De La Salle High School, I went to St. John Burkman’s grade school, which was at Warren and Lakeview. That was eight years. Then I went to De La Salle High School, which was over by the city airport. The De La Salle sports teams are called the pilots because of that airport. Those planes—those two engine planes—would fly over the school and rattle the windows. [Laughter] I remember the first year I went to De La Salle as a freshman, got up one morning and heard that a plane had crashed into a house several blocks away from the school and I remember a number of us going there afterwards and I can still see, as I’m sitting here talking to you, I was a freshman at De La Salle, and I can still see that plane sitting on that house. I can’t remember if anybody was killed, but I do remember seeing that. Right by the city airport. That building is no longer there, and De La Salle has moved out to Warren, it’s in Warren now. And then I went to the University of Detroit and graduated from the University of Detroit in 1957. So that’s my educational experience. All private education, Catholic. That education, being brought up Catholic, and being brought up on those particular years, is what laid the foundation for me to form an organization in the 1960s after I got out of the army to fight the communists.

WW: Let’s go back. Did you join the army before or after you graduated—

DL: I didn’t join the army, I was drafted. I was drafted out of college. I had a college deferment. I was drafted in 1957 and, I don’t know if I should, or if you’re interested in this, but all I know is that I prayed that I would go to Germany because I didn’t want to spend time in the states, and I knew I’d never get to Europe. We went to Ft. Knox, it’s where they broke all of us up into two groups: one went to Korea, one went to Germany, and we went to Germany. And so we trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and went over to Germany as a company. Part of an entire division, an infantry division went over to Germany, and we stayed together as a company that entire two years. We were sixteen months in Germany, and we were able to have a reunion because of that some forty years later. My experiences while I was in Europe were a major factor in my deciding that when I got out of the service, I would fight the communists. At that time I didn’t exactly know how, but it wasn’t long after I got out of the service that I knew.

WW: Could you share a couple of those experiences with us?

DL: You mean when I was in Europe?

WW: Yeah. The things that drove you—

DL: Well, these were—it wasn’t the military training that did it, although we were stationed in Vanburg, Bavaria, maybe forty, fifty miles from the Soviet sector. The two experiences that really impacted me—I’m convinced that this was meant to be—I went to Berlin twice, and you got on an American military train in Frankfurt, and you had to go through 110 miles of soviet sector to get to West Berlin. And of course the army knew that I was on leave and that I went to Berlin, but I went there. But what I didn’t know was that while there, I went into East Berlin, which was the communist sector of Berlin. So the army did not know I went in there. The American soldiers could go into the communist sector as a result of the Potsdam agreement so that American soldiers could go over there. But I really doubt that American soldiers stationed in Berlin went into Berlin alone. I did, and when I look back on it, I think I had to be crazy because I could have been picked up so easily on any pretext. We were told that if you get on the subway on the elevated trains and you go into East Berlin—because you go into East Berlin—but the last stop was outside Berlin and in the soviet zone of Germany and you would be arrested and picked up by the soviets and have to be turned over to the American military, and they’re the ones that would really take it out. But I remember reading that if the stars and stripes appear in Berlin, get off before that last stop. Well I went into East Berlin, and I walked around, and just that experience, having seen West Berlin, how the thriving city that was Berlin was, as opposed to East Berlin, it was like night and day. It was unbelievable. I visited the Soviet war memorial in West Berlin and I visited the soviet cemetery in East Berlin on a tour. So that was part of it. But the thing that really made me decide, without question, that I would devote my adult life to fighting the communists, was I was on leave in Vienna, Austria, when a communist youth festival, sponsored by Moscow, was being held in Vienna. And the first time the soviets held their youth festival, their international youth festival, in a free country. They never did again after that because the Austrian students put up such resistance against that festival that the soviets never again held it in a free country. I met a number of those students. They knew I was an American soldier. I became friendly with them. My experience during that festival is what impacted my decision to fight the communists when I got out of the service but the main thing was the attendance at the opening rally. The opening rally was in an open air stadium and I walked among the groups that were there—these were groups from all over the world, including North Korea, Communist China, and they were all lined up outside of that stadium to go marching in when the rally started. And I was in that stadium. First of all, I walked among the delegations, and I went into that stadium, and I remember sitting there and I remember as these groups entered, flying communist flags, each group flying a North Korea, Communist China, the second largest delegation was the Communist Chinese and they came into that stadium. The largest delegation was the Soviet Union. And they were the ones that came in last. And when the soviets came in, they released hundreds of doves into the sky, symbolizing peace. And they chanted in German, constantly, through that rally, so that it had a tremendous impact on everybody who was attending this rally. It was similar to the Nazi rallies. It has a psychological effect on you. If you see any of the Nazi rallies in documentaries, I mean, the impact that it had on the people attending those rallies—the communists did the same thing, and I witnessed it and experienced it in Vienna. And they were chanting, [unintelligible German], “Peace and friendship, peace and friendship.” That had such an effect on me that it lasted for at least two to three days, and I concluded communism is the wave of the future. The only way it will be defeated if it isn’t opposed by their enemies who have a greater dedication than they do, and on the train back to post, I thought to myself, if this festival had been held in the United States instead of in Vienna, Austria, would the American students and American youth have opposed it to the extent that the Austrian students did? And I concluded in my own mind, no, because American students didn’t know a thing about communism. The Austrian students experienced it because Austria was under soviet domination for several years. The Hungarian revolution took place in 1956, which was three years before the communist youth festival that I attended. So the Hungarian revolution was very fresh in everybody’s minds. And those students sponsored bus tours to the Hungarian-Austrian border for anyone who wanted to go, four times a day so the people attending that festival, the people in Vienna, could see with their own eyes, the barbed wire fences and the gun towers separating Austria from Hungary, raising the question, who was the fences there to protect? To keep the people going from free Europe into communist country? No! To keep the people in the communist countries from going into Western Europe. And anybody who tried, there were mine fields on the other side of those fences, and gun towers. When I went to Berlin, the Berlin Wall had not yet been put up, but once the Berlin Wall was put up, I believe it was in 1961, a number of people were shot down at that wall, I remember very well the one German student, Peter Fechter, who was shot down at that wall. And the communists let him lie there in his own blood until he died and then they came and removed him. Even in the “decadent west,” according to the communists, if we would’ve shot somebody down at that wall, we would’ve gone and taken them to the hospital; not the communists. They let him lie there in his own blood. Only yards away from an American guard post separating East and West Berlin. And I have often thought that if I had been a guard, an American soldier guard in Berlin when that kid was shot down at the Berlin Wall, I would have risked my life to rescue that kid and let the communists do whatever they wanted to do. Whether or not they would’ve shot an American soldier, I don’t know. But I do know myself. And I don’t believe I could have, even as a soldier or a guard, I don’t believe I could have stood there and tolerated that. I believe I would have gone to rescue that kid. Who knows what the consequences would have been. The simple fact of the matter is I’m simply saying this because this is how strong I was against the communists. So in Vienna, the experience that I had at that festival, the experience that I had with the Austrian students, they had set up booths with materials to hand out to people, people from all over the world were in Vienna for this. They had set up booths and those experiences—there’s more that I could tell you, you don’t have the time here. But that, especially the rally, that opening rally, impacted me to the point when I was on that train, I decided no, American students would not have imposed a communist festival like the Austrian students did. To defeat the communists would require a dedication equal to theirs or greater. And I decided right then and there, on that train on the way back to post, that when I got out of the service, I would fight the communists, and I have done that all my adult life.

WW: That’s a good segue. When you came back to Detroit, did you see the city any differently than when you had left?

DL: Not really.

WW: Not really?

DL: No, it was the same neighborhood as when I had left.

WW: What year did you come back in?

DL: 1959.

WW: Okay. What did you do upon your arrival back home?

DL: I went back to the job that I had with the City of Detroit. I worked for the City of Detroit recreation department, and I had an office job doing clerical work. I had that job before I went into the service, and so when I came back I just went back to that job, and I ended up staying there. I worked for the City of Detroit recreation department, doing mostly clerical work, there was some other assignments during that time, but I worked for the City of Detroit for thirty-six years. So that was until 1992. So I was an employee of the City of Detroit when Coleman Young became mayor of the City of Detroit. So Coleman Young really was my boss.

WW: We will get to that! We’re not really there yet.

DL: Well, anyway, that’s what I did when I got out of the service. I returned to my job at the City of Detroit and I stayed there. I was a civil service employee. Which was convenient for me to engage in the activities that I did against the communists in the Detroit area, especially during the Vietnam War.

WW: Another good segue. What efforts did you undertake when you got back? And in 1963, you founded Breakthrough?

DL: Yes.

WW: Can you talk about that please?

DL: Breakthrough is, we named it “Breakthrough” in ’63, but ’63 was when we became active as a group, yes. When I first got back, I saw in the paper a meeting showing the movie Operation Abolition and by the way, you can see that documentary, put out by the House Committee of Un-American Activities. The US House Committee of Un-American Activities put out a documentary in, I believe it was 1961, called Operation Abolition. And it had to do with the communist-organized protest against the House Committee of Un-American Activities investigating communist infiltration of the educational system in California. And it documented and showed communist leaders of these demonstrations. That was a real awakening for me in terms of how the communists operated and so on and so forth. So I met people there at this meeting, and as a consequence of that it led to my eventually founding Breakthrough. By the way, there was a communist bookstore on Woodward Ave. called Global Books. It was on Woodward Ave. right near Warren, near the Wayne campus, deliberately so. And I went there a number of times because I could pick up announcements of communist meetings, communist front meetings, and I went to them. This was before I had become active, so they had no knowledge of me. I was a potential recruit to them. So I saw a number of people who I later saw active with the communist, active with the NA Ordinance Regents [JY1] [18:18??]. And so then later, as I said, I had Breakthrough, I became public. But that was beneficial to go to some of these meetings, actually attending communist front meetings, and seeing how that worked. So that was part of it too. Also, after seeing that movie, Operation Abolition, I joined with a woman whose name I’m not going to mention here now—

WW: That’s fine.

DL: —to oppose the lifting of the ban of communist speakers at Wayne State University. And we circulated petitions throughout the Detroit area to reinstate that ban. And the Board of Governors at Wayne State University would not do so, and so as a consequence, Wayne University was now open to open communists to come in there and speak. That petition drive was, I think, 1961, and then by 1963 I had Breakthrough and the Vietnam protests were starting. Having gotten out of the army only a few years before, knowing that these were pro-communist demonstrations, I found people of a like mind and we opposed them in the streets.

WW: Did you find that metro Detroit, or Detroit specifically, was a large basin for communist support or was it localized individuals, or was the support far more widespread?

DL: No, there was communist party organizations, there was also the Socialist Workers party, which was a communist organization, based on the teachings of Lenin and Trotsky. They were very active on the Wayne campus, Wayne State University campus, and I knew a number of those people and they were very active in the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, and the leadership of those demonstrations. And two professors at Wayne State University at that time were major instigators of the anti-war protest at Wayne State University that ended up downtown in Detroit. Dr. David Harishov and Adolf Einstein. Those were the two major leaders of the anti-war demonstrations on Wayne State University campus, as part of the faculty. Their names were in the papers constantly. There was a Dr. Fitzhov Bergman at University of Michigan who was also very active in the anti-war demonstrations. And Helen Winter, who ran the Global Bookstore that I just mentioned, was the wife of Carl Winter, who was the head of the Michigan Communist Party. And at these anti-war demonstrations, Helen Winter would be there distributing her literature, and so on and so forth, I saw her a few times. Most of the people most visibly active were Socialist Worker’s Party, young people, a number of students. Please understand that the majority of the demonstrators are not communists. They’re just lured there against the war, they’ve been incited against the war by their professors or someone. A lot of them didn’t want to be drafted, a lot of them didn’t want to go to Vietnam. They were also lured there by the music. They were lured there, later on through the years, by the drugs, the music, revolution, because the ‘60s were a major turning point in the United States. The 1960s were a communist-inspired revolution that overturned most of the values in this country. It definitely was a revolution that took place in the 1960s. It turned this country upside down. And Breakthrough, my group, I can proudly say that we opposed that revolution. It turns out today, when I look at it, we’re pretty much the losers. So much of what I experienced back in the ‘60s and ‘70s is being repeated today right in front of my very eyes! Black Lives Matter, groups like this. This is all communist inspired. You can go right back to the ‘60s, it’s the same thing, same pattern, same slogans, same everything. And you see the leaders and the members of the Black Lives Matter movement wearing red shirts with a clenched fist on the red shirts. The clenched fist, anybody who knows anything knows that the clenched fist is a communist salute. New York Times even had an article on that. The New York Times is not a right-wing paper, and they had an article showing the Nelson Mandela marching with the head of the communist party in South Africa at an open-air rally, giving the clenched fist salute with Joe Slovo. Joe Slovo was head of the South African Communist Party, and Nelson Mandela was head of the African—I forget the name of it—

WW: National Congress.

DL: African National Congress. And he was what we would describe as a terrorist today, when he was arrested. That African National Congress that he was part of, I don’t know if it was that named group then when he was arrested. But when he was arrested, their group, they were famous for doing this to their enemies: putting a gas-filled tire around their necks and setting it on fire! We would call those people terrorists today! That’s what Nelson Mandela was! Nelson Mandela was no innocent freedom-fighter, he was a hard-core communist! And after he got out, he was marching around with Joe Slovo giving the clenched fist salute! And the New York Times had a picture of it, a picture of him marching with Slovo, and identified it as the communist salute. The black power movement adopted the communist salute as their own, at the Olympic Games with their arms in the air, giving the communist salute. And today, it’s being repeated all over again. We’re going to see the ‘60s again, especially during, I believe, this political campaign. I believe that the convention in Cleveland will be Chicago all over again, 1968.

WW: Bringing it back to the ‘60s. What were some of the activities that Breakthrough engaged in between the founding in ’63 and, say, ’67? What were some of the activities you engaged in?

DL: Oh, my. [Laughter]

WW: Little snapshots.

DL: Well, numerous clashes with the anti-war movement here in Detroit. Numerous clashes. Which resulted in arrests several times.

WW: On both sides?

DL: Well, I remember my own being arrested.

WW: That’s fair.

DL: For disorderly conduct, I mean these silly things. They’d get rid of you, and I mean, it was nothing serious, you understand, it was these little misdemeanors. So clashes with the communist-led demonstrations here in Detroit during that time period, and opposition to soviet cultural groups that came into the city. The Moscow Chamber Orchestra. There was another orchestra—I forget the name of it right now—but that was early ‘60s. We had several demonstrations against the communist orchestras when they came into Detroit, and the purpose of those demonstrations was to alert the people going to those concerts just who it was that was entertaining them. People who were financing the war in Vietnam against our soldiers, that was number one. And also to inspire people behind the Iron Curtain who might learn what we were doing here in Detroit through BBC or whatever. So there was that. We also had—see, I don’t really know what this has to do with the Detroit riot, but we also had a parade in downtown Detroit in support of victory in Vietnam. We had floats, we had marchers, we had a permit for that parade. I remember how the police rushed us through it. They rushed us through that, and I’ll never forget. Cavanagh was mayor at that time. They never did that with the anti-war demonstrators, only us. And our parade got hardly any press coverage. So what that told me was, the only way that the opponents of the anti-war, rather the supporters of victory in Vietnam and those opposing the anti-war protestors—the only way you’re going to get any public exposure is by opposing. We had a parade, it was blacked out by the press. Virtually blacked out. We had floats, people marching, it was a tremendous parade! Virtually blacked out! So here’s what we were confronted with, my organization: if you don’t oppose the anti-war protestors, it looks as though there’s no opposition against them. If you do oppose them, the press makes you the villain. So either way, the communists win. And so with that as the—I forget what you would call it, it’s like a double-edged sword—if you do this, you lose; if you do this, you lose. My attitude was we’re going to oppose them, and there will be enough people out here who will see through the propaganda, who will see through the news reports, and see the truth of what it is that we were trying to do. We also had demonstrations during that time against communist meetings at various locations. And the principle meeting place was the communists and their fronts in the Detroit area in the 1960s, the time that you’re asking me about, was Central Methodist Church in downtown Detroit and still is! Central Methodist Church is right next to Comerica Park. Anybody going to the ballgame, you’ll see Central Methodist Church. That was a major meeting place of the communists and their front groups during the Vietnam war, outright treasonous organizations. One of the groups that met there was a Fair Play for Cuba meeting. I remember attending that. It was pro-Castro, and one of the speakers, two of the speakers, Cleague—I can’t remember his name—

WW: Albert?

DL: Albert Cleague, he was a black power leader. At that time, I think he had the Church of the Black Madonna, I believe it was at his church where the Republic of New Africa had a meeting. And they were brandishing weapons and the Detroit Police encountered them. One police officer was killed, another police officer was wounded. Robowsky, I think his name was, and Chopsky, I think the other one was.

WW: The church that happened at was New Bethel Baptist.

DL: Okay, my memory can fail me here on some of these things.

WW: Not to worry. What was the size of Breakthrough during this time? What was your scope?

DL: In terms of activists, I would say anywhere from fifty to a hundred. In terms of supporters, I would say in the hundreds. You have people come and go, the left wing, the same way. So you have people come, and they go, and then there’s new people. So over the years, I would say, and I don’t believe I’m exaggerating, counting the people who would come and they go, over the years, people who were supporting Breakthrough, I would say hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. I’m positive to that. We had a lot of people supporting us. We had no financial backers. I financed a good part of Breakthrough. And it was people who just sent in small donations. We would get a mailing list and we had a mailing list, we’d send out appeals. We’d get $10, $25, that’s how it worked. Our attorney pretty much worked for free. Just the publicity would get him clients. So he pretty much worked for us free.

WW: Did you start a newsletter by this time, or was that later?

DL: We didn’t start the newsletter until after the riot, and it was called “Battle Line” newsletter. And that lasted from about 1967 until about 1972. Also during that time we allied ourselves with a group in Toronto called the Edmund Burkes Society. It was a group similar to Breakthrough who were clashing with the communists, especially the Maoists, in the city of Toronto. They had far more violent clashes than we did. And we formed an alliance. The problem that happened there was the Edmund Burkes society was infiltrated by Nazis and that pretty much brought the group down. This new group called themselves the Western Guard, and it was pretty much pro-Nazi. So we no longer had anything to do with them. The alliance just completely collapsed. But for some time, we were allied with that group in Toronto. There was one other thing, though, in the early ‘60s that you asked me about—oh yes, I want to emphasize—I really want to emphasize—the number of meetings that took place at Central Methodist Church that were communist. And we had quite a few demonstrations outside of Central Methodist Church. The minister there was James Laird. He had a column for the Detroit Free Press. We put so much exposure on that church, he was eventually transferred to, I think, Pennsylvania. And the pastor emeritus at that time of Central Methodist Church was Reverend Henry Hitt Crane. Henry Hitt Crane was one of the individuals cited by the US House Committee on Un-American Activities as one of the top communist party front people in the United States. So that’s Henry Hitt Crane. And when you belong to that many communist party fronts, believe me, you are a communist. There’s no question about it. You’re just hiding behind all these front groups. Henry Hitt Crane was a communist, no doubt about it. And he formed the group, which is now, today, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. That group, they will tell you, was founded—it was a different name then—by Henry Hitt Crane, a communist. And they are very prominent in this area now, especially here in St. Claire Shores, operating under the radar in our schools. And they have established a youth group called the St. Claire Shores Youth Diversity Council. That’s a creation of the Michigan Roundtable. I’ve opposed them here in the city in front of the city council, but it doesn’t do much good, because there are very, very prominent people associated with this group. But what I’m saying here is that that group will tell you that initially, it was founded by Henry Hitt Crane, a communist. And they’re proud of it! So when you ask me what we did? Yes, demonstrations at communist meetings, especially Central Methodist Church, and clashing, opposing, the anti-war protestors. Because if you read their literature—this is very important. If you read their literature, it’s not really the war they were against. They were against American victory! They were marching for a communist victory and American defeat! That is treason! They were burning the American flag! They were carrying the communist flag! And one thing that I want to really emphasize here is that when asked about burning the American flag, here’s what they said: “It’s just a piece of cloth.” But that communist flag they were carrying wasn’t just a piece of cloth, I mean to tell you. And when they flew the communist flags here, we tore them down, because my attitude was, they’re not going to take pictures of these demonstrators carrying communist flags to show our P.O.W.s in Vietnam or Korea or anywhere else. They’re not going to do it anywhere here in Detroit because we’re going to stop them from doing it. And I firmly believe that our opposition to the anti-war demonstrations here in Detroit resulted in a lot less numbers than they had in other cities. Our opposition to those demonstrations did that. And then, of course, there was also our involvement in exposing certain individuals in the Archdiocese of Detroit. I am Catholic, and so consequently, when I saw this, I thought the Archdiocese of Detroit would be on our side. I was anti-communist mainly because of my Catholic education. And I find out, from experience, that the Archdiocese of Detroit, under Cardinal Dearden was not only not on our side, they were actually collaborating with the enemy. We put out leaflets to that effect. And that was right, especially, after the riot. Especially after the so-called “riot” in 1967. Because the Archdiocese of Detroit gave money to these black militant, black power groups, the Association of Black Students at Wayne State University, they gave them $100,000, $64,000. The Ghetto Speaks, Eastside Voices, they had been in Detroit led by Frank Ditto. They gave them money. And this group called for violent revolution, killing the pigs, meaning the police. Violent revolution. And the Archdiocese of Detroit gave them thousands of dollars. And the Black Panther Party, which was a Marxist, Leninist party, I read in some government document, I can’t remember what it was now, but that the Archdiocese contributed $100,000 to the Black Panther Party. And so, where was the Archdiocese getting this money? From Catholics contributing to the Archdiocese in development fund, that’s where the money was from. So consequently we exposed that with leaflets all over the Archdiocese of Detroit, at churches on Sunday mornings. And as a consequence, the Archdiocese and development fund was—they got rid of that, and now it’s the something else. But that was all a consequence. And then of course there was Bishop Thomas Wimbleton, who—that’s a whole other story. But Wimbleton supported the communists throughout the Vietnam War, we had a number of clashes with him.

WW: Were you still living in the city of Detroit during all of this?

DL: Yeah, I was at my parents’ home as a matter of fact, because I had a room upstairs so it was cheaper living for me. So I was living there, and my city job was civil service really enabled me to engage in these activities without getting fired. If I had been working for a private company, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. I had vacation time, I didn’t go on vacations. I used my vacation time to engage in these activities and to defend myself in court numerous times. So what I’m trying to say is that by being a member of civil service, I was able to engage in these activities without fear of being fired, unless I was arrested for some serious crime. The reason they’re not going to do that—get rid of me—is because they would have had to get rid of a number of leftists as well, who were in civil service. So they didn’t. I had the press ask me many, many times, “Don, how do you get away? How come you haven’t been fired?” Especially after Coleman Young became mayor. I don’t know. They asked the director of my department: “He does his job, we can’t fire him. He does his job.” So in addition to working 40 hours a week for the city of Detroit, I was involved in that. I didn’t have very much time for anything else, I’m telling you. Because leading an organization like Breakthrough required all of my free time.

WW: Going into 1967, how do you interpret what the events were? Do you see them as a riot? Because you said “so-called riot.”

DL: No, I see them the way the black militants see them, a black rebellion. That’s how they call it. A rebellion. To this day, they call it that, the black militants. You’re asking me how did I see it at the time? Very truthfully, it didn’t turn out the way I saw it. You must understand that at that time there were major violent disruptions. I refuse to call it a riot, it was not a riot. If it was not brought about by subversives, if it wasn’t brought about, it was that police breaking up that blind pig, if that’s something that just happened, it was exploited and taken advantage of by subversive groups to promote their ends and their goals. And at that same time, you had it going on in Watts, Newark, there were several other cities, so this happened just by coincidence? Oh no, it looked pretty organized to me. Same thing with Black Lives Matter. This isn’t just some local group, this is a national organization. Then you’ve got Sharpton’s group, that’s a national organization. They are national.

WW: Bring it back.

DL: Bring it back? Okay. No, wait a minute, at that time, you had Rap Brown, you had Stokely Carmichael, you had these black power militants who were promoting revolution—revolution!—and so I thought, the way I saw this, these were dry runs. This wasn’t just an ordinary riot. These violent in Newark, Watts, Detroit, other places—this was how I saw it at the time—were dry runs for a major violent revolution in this country that would maybe bring about the communist conquest of the United States. Now time has proven that that view that I had at that time was very, very premature. But please understand, that you had these black power militants preaching violent revolution and overthrow of the American government. And you had a group set up at Wayne University, the Association of Black Students promoting that very thing. Lonnie Peak was one of the leaders of that, Dan Aldridge was one of the leaders of that. Lonnie Peak later became a city official, and I believe he became a minister later on, in later years. But at that time he was very active. And the Association of Black Students, they held a symposium at Wayne State University, I believe it was in 1968. It was either ’68 or ’69. They had a symposium, and I have the program from that symposium. There’s a poem in there, in which they call for the murder of the police. Kill the police, murder the police, calling for violence. This was the Association of Black Students at Wayne University. Then you had the Eastside Voice of independent Detroit which was headed up by Frank Ditto. They had a publication called The Ghetto Speaks. This was all after the riot, all this was the aftermath of the riot. These were militant organizations. Are you wanting me to talk about the riot right now, the aftermath of it?

WW: I was just about to bring you back to that.

DL: Because that’s really where I became very much involved. But right now you’re asking me how I viewed it at the time, and so I think I just answered that.

WW: Yes.

DL: I saw it as dry runs for the big push that would result in the takeover of the United States by the communists.

WW: And now, just a couple of small questions. How did you first hear about what was going on in the city?

DL: You mean how did I hear of the violence?

WW: Yeah.

DL: I was at a friend’s—a Breakthrough member’s—he and his wife were visiting his parents. They lived in Detroit right by the City Airport. I happened to be there that Sunday when all of this broke out, and I remember we heard the—there were like helicopters, I think, that went over the neighborhood—and then we later on, we heard about what was going on. And also, this might sound really stupid, but it is a fact: I thought that—seeing this as I did, which I just described, I saw this as an opportunity on the part of the left wing in the city of Detroit to use it as a cover to attack my place of residence. I had members of Breakthrough there. We were armed in case anybody attempted to burn the house, attack the house, all under the guise of the riot. Never happened, but I was prepared for that. That’s pretty much how I saw it. Dry runs.

WW: And before we move to the aftermath, did you see the violence? Did you anticipate violence that summer or was it a surprise to you? In Detroit. Because you mentioned that Watts and Newark, did you say to yourself, “It’s coming here”?

DL: No, I told you, I saw the Detroit so-called riot as part of this. This was not something that just happened like the riot in the ‘40s. That was a genuine riot. This was, if it was not an organized rebellion from the beginning, it was seized upon to become that.

WW: Yeah, I’m asking if you saw it coming to Detroit.

DL: Saw what coming? That particular riot, did I see that coming? No.

WW: Did you anticipate a rebellion or an attempted—

DL: No, no, no, no, no. But when it happened—

WW: You knew it.

DL: —the way I saw it—as I said, dry runs. And then, well I’m getting ahead of myself because we had rallies afterwards, I mean public meetings afterwards. We’re getting into the aftermath of it now.

WW: Yep, we can get into that now. Well, did you have any experiences from that week you’d like to share?

DL: You mean the week of the riot?

WW: Yeah.

DL: I just shared one of them. I did not go to work for three or four days. I felt it was far too dangerous. A number of people didn’t go to work, I wasn’t the only one. And I had members of Breakthrough—several members of Breakthrough—at my place of residence in the event that my enemies would use the riot as a cover to attack my residence, maybe burn it down. I was prepared for that. Thank God it didn’t happen. But I was prepared for it. You’re asking me how I viewed it, that’s how I viewed it. I was probably the only one in the entire city that viewed it that way, ‘cause the people in the city of Detroit are viewing it the way the news media are reporting it to them. Not me. I’m viewing it with the knowledge of communist activity in the city of Detroit. That’s how I’m viewing it. Other people are not viewing it that way. I’m probably one of a very few that view it that way.

WW: Now moving into the aftermath. How did the rebellion affect Breakthrough? Did it?

DL: Oh, it sure did! I mean our major focus was to promote victory in Vietnam, an American victory, a communist defeat, and to oppose the anti-war movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, which I have just said was really to end the war with a communist victory and an American defeat. That was the whole purpose of it. That’s what we were opposed to. The riot—I hate to use the term, because the militants call it a rebellion, and that’s what I believe it was, so I’ll refer to it as the “rebellion” from here on—

WW: That’s perfectly fine.

DL: The rebellion changed course for us. And if you want to tell me what happened that brought that about, I think I’ll do it right now—

WW: Go right ahead.

DL: Because no one you talk to is going to tell you what I am now going to tell you because there’s no one that even knows about it, or will recall it. I do, because I experienced it first-hand. Immediately following that rebellion, the white leadership, government, of Detroit, Mayor Cavanagh—it was pretty much white, and there were white neighborhoods in Detroit. I lived in a white neighborhood. And so, the black power leaders, the black leaders of the city of Detroit, they took advantage of this rebellion to now flex their muscles politically and they called on the mayor of Detroit—it’s so important to understand here, I didn’t mention this, the mayor of Detroit—they had the police out there, anybody that experienced this out there on the television news—the police stood by and let them burn and loot, they did nothing to stop them, nothing! And then after 24 hours, the governor sent in the National Guard, and I’ll never forget it. He said, “Well, the rioting has now become intolerable.” And, publically, I scorched the governor for [JY2] making that statement because what he was saying was that for 24 hours, all the burning and the looting was tolerable. Just imagine that, it was tolerable. Now if I had been mayor of Detroit, that looting would have ended in a big, big hurry because they would have all been arrested and some of them would have been shot! And that would have been the end of the riot in the city of Detroit. But Cavanagh, no. Police stand by and let it all happen. And then the National Guard did, too, for a while, before they really put it down. So naturally the black leaders in Detroit, they’re flexing their muscles. The city government isn’t going to do anything, so now we’re going to take advantage of this, so here’s what happened: about a month after that rebellion, it’s reported in the paper that these black leaders in Detroit—I can’t name them right now, I don’t know their names, I just remember reading it in the paper—that there’s going to be a black rally, a black power rally, in the city council chambers at the city county building, approved by the mayor of Detroit, Jerome Cavanagh. So I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to be at that. I’ve got to see that. I have to see where this is going.” So I went through with a Breakthrough member, and we were in the auditorium of the city county building, where the city council held their meetings when they expected large members of the public in attendance. When we got there, this Breakthrough member and I, we stood in the side aisle by the wall, just observing—that’s all we intended to do, was just observe, just observe what was happening—these black leaders—I can’t name a one of them—they were already sitting in the chairs of the city council members, ready for the rally when I noticed that this woman went up to them and pointed me out to them. Now the woman, I happened to know, was Naomi Komarowsky. Naomi Komarowsky was the wife of Conrad Komarowsky who was a member of the communist party and a writer for the communist publication “The Worker.” She was his wife. They were both communists. Now I didn’t see Conrad Komarowsky there, but I did see Naomi Komarowsky. And she is the one, a communist, who pointed me out to these black leaders. Several of them came up to me and here is what they said, I remember it as though it happened just yesterday: “Lobsinger, don’t even open your mouth because we’re running things now.” Those are the exact words that were said to me. And I said to myself, I looked right at them, and I said to myself, Okay, you win this round. You win this round. I’m not going to open my mouth, but you sure as hell are going to hear from me. So I got Breakthrough together, the Breakthrough leaders together after that, and I said, “We’re changing direction right now from the Vietnam War to opposing the black power movement in the city of Detroit” and holding public meetings around the city, at halls, telling the people what happened at the city county building, who was behind these riots, what was likely to happen again, what they should be prepared to do if they did happen again. In other words, if there was another rebellion, what would happen, we believe, was that there would be entire neighborhoods unprotected by the police and so consequently they should have weapons to defend their lives and their property and food to last for a number of days, in case all the power went out. We held these meetings across the city, in various parts of the city, and we couldn’t find halls big enough to accommodate the people that came, and these meetings were almost totally blacked out in the media! No reporting in the media! Maybe a little paragraph. I mean, this is big news! There was a rally on the northeast side of Detroit, cars were coming from every direction! There wasn’t enough parking space for them! The hall accommodated 300-400 people. There were so many people we had to set up speakers outside. So then we rented a bigger hall over on 7 mile by Gratiot, the Flamingo Hall, a much bigger hall. Accommodated 800 people. More people came, then even more people came, and we had to put up speakers outside to address the people at this meeting. And I’m telling you what we told them, “Be prepared for another one.” Be prepared for something far greater: neighborhoods unprotected by the police that will have to defend your own property. That was the gist of our message. Blacked out by the press. This is a big story! This is a big, big story! Then we had meetings on the northwest side. Some of those meetings were cancelled under pressure from the mayor of Detroit, I’m positive. Every instance, we couldn’t find halls big enough. Then, when the rallies were over, these public meetings were over, then the Detroit Free Press ran a feature article in which they made it look like we were just a bunch of crazies overreacting to something that never really happened, as we described it. That’s what the article amounted to. So it was a smear article in the Detroit Free Press, even though they blacked out all these meetings before hand, and they did not tell the truth at all as to what we were saying to the people of these rallies. By the way, part of the reason we got people to come to these rallies in the numbers that we did was that in the neighborhoods surrounding the halls where we were holding the meetings, we saturated the neighborhoods with leaflets and flyers telling them, “Will you be prepared for another riot if there is one?” And that’s why people came. They came walking—it’s unbelievable the response that we got to those leaflets. Each instance in the area where the meeting was going to be held, we saturated the area with flyers, and that’s why we got the numbers that we did. Now, this is a meaningful, in my opinion: at these meetings I scorched the mayor of Detroit for having the police stand down while these stores were burned and looted. I scorched the mayor for this. I scorched the governor for this. For twenty-four hours, the rioting was “tolerable,” according to Governor George Romney, because, “it’s now become intolerable.” Those were his words. And I reminded the people at the rally what the governor said and what Cavanagh said, and we put out leaflets: Wanted for…whatever. Malfeasance of duty or whatever, against Cavanagh and Romney. 1969 comes, and Cavanagh is running for mayor—no, ’68 comes. Early 1968. We had a huge demonstration at Grosse Pointe High School when Martin Luther King was invited to speak there. That gymnasium was packed. It was a cold winter night and it was snowing. We had about two to three-hundred people outside that school protesting Martin Luther King. Because Martin Luther King and his communist associations and his communist background, Martin Luther King was no patriot! He was an enemy of the United States! He supported the communists during the Vietnam War! All of his loyalists and supporters will admit it! Will admit it, that he supported the communists during the Vietnam War! We knew that. That’s why we opposed Martin Luther King. And we had a huge demonstration outside Grosse Pointe High School in early 1968. And inside, too, to the point where Martin Luther King had a press conference the next day and said that never in his experience did he experience anything like this opposition at Grosse Pointe High School at an indoor meeting. Those are King’s own words. Well, then King was assassinated a couple weeks later, and the mayor Cavanagh immediately imposed a curfew in the city of Detroit. A curfew. And the only reason that he imposed that curfew was because he knew that if he didn’t stop things right in its tracks, right there, that we would’ve come after him. And he was up for re-election next year, so he imposed a curfew. And we did not have the violence in Detroit that other cities had because there was major violence in other cities in the United States after King was assassinated, but not in Detroit, and we’re the reason for that. We’re the reason for that. And then after King was assassinated, oh brother. After King was assassinated, at the time, he was organizing a poor people’s march on Washington, then he was assassinated and Ralph Abernathy, his chief aide, took over. He resumed the poor people’s march. So they came to Detroit. This was in 1968, not long after King was assassinated. Abernathy picked up the Poor People’s March but they came to Detroit first, and they had a march here in Detroit. Oh gosh, I remember this like it happened yesterday. They had a march here in Detroit. The Poor People’s March, as a prelude to the one in Washington. Father James Groppi from Milwaukee, an agitator, a priest agitator from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who was very well-known at that time, was one of the leaders of that march, along with Ralph Abernathy and a number of others. The march got to Cobo Hall where they were going to have a rally and then, there was violence that broke out—I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were, but the mounted police had to go in to try to calm it. There was a clash between the Mounties—the mounted police—and the Poor People’s March. When they left, before they left, they demanded that Cavanagh, Mayor Cavanagh, punish those mounted police for their actions at that Poor People’s March gathering, I believe it was at Cobo Hall. And they demanded that those police officers be punished and as a consequence of that—and they also said they were going to come back to Detroit after Washington, they were going to come back to Detroit. I remember that distinctly, that they promised that they were coming back to Detroit. As a consequence of that clash, between the Mounties and that group. I told you about the public meetings we had to tell people about the riots, the rebellion, what they needed to do to prepare in the event there was another one. Now, we held public meetings again and we put out leaflets telling people to come, and so on, in defense of the police and in defense of the Mounties. We held only one meeting, I think, at that time, at the Flamingo Hall in northeast Detroit at 7 mile and Gratiot. We packed the place, it was 700 people. And I remember, before I went there to speak that night—I was always the main speaker at these meetings—Mayor Cavanagh was on television news and said he was going to get rid of the mounted police. He had already suspended the Mounties that were involved in that clash. He had suspended them. And I heard him say in the news he was going to get rid of the mounted police. And at the rallies, I’m going to tell you right now one of the things I said to the people at that rally, “Mayor Cavanagh was on television tonight—” and, let’s see, how did this go? Okay. I said at that rally to these people, I quoted the mayor, I said, “I know there’s a representative of the mayor here in the audience tonight. I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re here.” And I said, “The mayor made a statement tonight that he’s going to get rid of the mounted police because they have outlived their usefulness.” And I said to the people there and to the mayor’s representative who I was sure was there, I said, “I want you to take this back to the mayor for me, tonight. It’s not the Mounties who’ve outlived their usefulness, Mr. Cavanagh; it’s you!” And that about brought the roof down. Then, as an individual, I gave my public support to George Wallace of Alabama who was running for the President of the United States on the democratic ticket and he won the primary in Michigan. And the roof came down when I said that too, that I believed that George Wallace should be the next President of the United States. That was in 1968. So in 1969—by the way, Cavanagh reinstated the Mounties as a consequence of our meetings. He reinstated the Mounties and he never did get rid of the mounted police. I worked downtown and I am telling you, when I walked downtown on my lunch hour and the Mounties would see me, they practically saluted me, because they were still in existence. Cavanagh was definitely going to get rid of the mounted police. We saved the mounted police in the city of Detroit. 1969 comes, mayoral election, Cavanagh made this public statement: “Since Don Lobsinger is so critical of my administration, why doesn’t he run for mayor against me?” Yeah, that’s kind of a good idea. So I announced that I would run for mayor of Detroit against Jerome Cavanagh. And by god, if a couple weeks later, he didn’t drop out of the race. Now the heavies got into it, Roman Gribbs and Mary Beck and others whose names won’t even come to me now, Richard Austin…and then there was another man who was an instructor at Wayne University. The press blocked out my campaign. They just blacked it out. They blacked it out and they mentioned four major candidates: Austin, Gribbs, Beck, and this other man whose name will not come to me right now. Well there was something like 31 candidates for mayor, and there were only four major candidates, according to the press. And when that primary election was over, I came in fifth, and I almost beat the fourth one. No publicity. I was a major name in the city of Detroit. A major name! Press blacked that out. They just blacked it out. As I said, Cavanagh dropped out of the race, and the winner of the election turned out to be Roman Gribbs who became Mayor of Detroit, then later, Coleman Young. Have I answered your question?

WW: Yes.

DL: You wanted to know how I saw the rebellion at the time? The aftermath? The major, major event was that black power rally in the city council chambers which I witnessed and was told, I’m repeating this, was told by the black leaders who had me pointed out to them by a member of the communist party, I was told by them, “Don’t even open your mouth because we’re running things now.” That experience, that event, led to Breakthrough, kind of postponing our opposition to the Vietnam War, and taking on the black power movement in the city of Detroit. And not just right after that, almost forever after that. Black Panthers and everybody.

WW: You said Battlefield ended in ’72—

DL: Battleline.

WW: Battleline, sorry, ended in ’72. How long did Breakthrough keep going for?

DL: With reduced numbers, at least until early ‘90s.

WW: Wow, that’s very long.

DL: Because we went to the support of Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn, most people don’t remember that. In 1992 they were prosecuted for murder in the killing of that black druggy, Malice Green and along with the number of others, we went to back their support. So with far less numbers, Breakthrough was still in existence in the early ‘90s. But I want you to understand, now, that I always said, and I still say it to this day, that so long as I have breath in me, Breakthrough lives. So even if I’m the only one, Breakthrough still exists. And we’re sitting here now talking.

WW: What year did you leave the city?

DL: 1992. I was pretty much forced out by that time. Coleman Young was mayor. I was pretty much forced out by that time because I was no longer protected by civil service. It was now unionized. And they were able to work it in such a way that they were able to lay me off. I took a demotion and a transfer to another job in the same office building, but another job. So then they laid me off again. So then I just simply put in for retirement. That was in late 1992. As a consequence of having been demoted, all the vacation time and sick time that I had accumulated on higher pay was reduced to my salary at that time. So I lost quite a few thousand dollars because of it. But remember, Coleman Young was mayor at the time, so it was time for them to get rid of me.

WW: You refer to yourself as a refugee from the city of Detroit.

DL: Well, I didn’t in this interview.

WW: Not today, but you have.

DL: Yes, I have. As a matter of fact, when I addressed the Board of Commissioners here in Macomb County, almost for an entire year, month after month after month, in opposition to the Black Ministers’ Alliance, which was out here in Macomb County, inciting, opposing the county government on accusations of racism, I read that in the paper, and I thought, I’m not going to let you get away with that! So I went in front of the Board of Commissioners, meeting after meeting after meeting, in the mid-90s, and yes, I identified myself as a refugee from the city of Detroit. Which I was. Which I was. The blacks took over the neighborhood and simple fact of the matter is, this is a fact, if it makes me a racist, well, I plead guilty, because facts are facts. And the fact is there was no crime in the neighborhood in which I lived until the blacks moved in, especially when they moved in in large numbers. I mean, there were people murdered on their front lawn just a few doors away. We didn’t experience that kind of crime. There was no crime like that until the blacks took over the neighborhood. Once I left the city of Detroit, at that time, you had to be a resident of the city of Detroit in order to be employed. So once I was no longer employed by the city of Detroit, I moved out to St. Claire Shores. But the neighborhood had become black, and I remember coming home one night and the black neighbor saying to me, “Your kind is not welcome here.” And I thought to myself, this is my neighborhood. How dare you talk to me like that! That’s all I could think of. Now I want to make something very, very clear in this interview right now: I am not against black people and never have been. I worked with black people, I got along with them, even during these years of activity, I got along with the black people at work. They knew me personally. They knew I was not what the press was branding me. They knew that. And I got along with them very well. So I’m not against black people. What I am against is the black leadership because it’s communist and socialist, and Martin Luther King, who was made a hero, who all the blacks worship as their hero—well, unfortunately, Martin Luther King, back in the ‘60s, conservative groups had a photograph of him at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, which was a communist training center. And pictures of Martin Luther King at that training center were in conservative publications across the country. And Carl Prussian, who was a member of the FBI, said Martin Luther King belonged to a number of communist front organizations. And a woman by the name of, her name will not come to me right now, it will not come to me right now—Brown was her last name—she exposed Martin Luther King in a book that she wrote saying that she identified him as working with the communists. Then when Martin Luther King was killed, the communist press eulogized him, they would never eulogize an enemy like they eulogized Martin Luther King. The reason being because Martin Luther King took the side of the communists during the Vietnam War. He supported the North Vietnamese communists, he praised Ho Chi Mihn, and he identified the United States as the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world when we shared the planet with the Soviet Union and communist China, how dare him accuse his own country of being the most violent nation in the world when we shared the planet with, as I said, with the Soviet Union and communist China! He displayed his sympathies for all to see, at that time! Martin Luther King was a traitor to the United States and a monument in his honor in Washington is a national disgrace, and I will say that publically ‘til the day I die. I don’t care if I’m the only voice in the land that says so. But that does not make me against the black people. I am not against the black people. What I am against is their leadership which is misleading them.

WW: That is all I have. Thank you very much for sitting down with me, Mr. Lobsinger. Greatly appreciate it. I’m glad we were able to make this appointment. 

[TIME STAMP END OF INTERVIEW 01:16:56]

[End of Track 1]

Original Format

WAV

Duration

1hr 17min

Interviewer

William Winkel

Interviewee

Donald Lobsinger

Location

St. Claire Shores, MI

Files

!Twitter_Profile_2.jpg

Collection

Citation

“Donald Lobsinger, June 23rd, 2016,” Detroit 1967 Online Archive, accessed April 20, 2019, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/287.

Output Formats