Protests are in the news today. My cousin, Fr. Thomas P. Craven, was the leader of one in Philadelphia in 1975. He made the front page.

The protest was a public show of support and call for justice for a family from Puerto Rico whose home was firebombed. A mother, her three children, and a friend were killed in the fire. As the crowd grew, the demonstration became less peaceful and more agitated. This was not what the organizers had planned.

It is only natural that Fr. Craven would speak out against a horrible act of violence committed against a Puerto Rican family. He spent time in Puerto Rico following his ordination. After returning to Philadelphia, he served as director of Casa del Carmen, the Catholic social service center for Hispanics and also was director of the Hispanic Apostolate for the Archdiocese. Fr. Craven was very involved with the welfare of Spanish-speaking people throughout his priestly ministry. I am proud that he took an active role in seeking justice for them.

Here are clippings about the demonstration from the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1975:



This is from an article published by the Philadelphia Daily News on the same day:


There are pictures of the demonstration in Grandmom’s collection of photo albums. I am not sure who took them; maybe Fr. Craven’s sister?



The confession of one of the accused firebombers is a disturbing story of someone taking the law into his own hands, a local government official no less. This article is from the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1975:



In January of 1978, Ronald Hanley was found guilty for his role in the killing of five people by arson. He received the maximum punishment, a life sentence plus 35 years.

Robert Wilkinson served 15 months in prison before he was acquitted after a key witness changed his testimony.

David McGinnis confessed to actually throwing the firebomb. He made a plea bargain with federal authorities and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Six Philadelphia homicide detectives were sent to prison for 15 months after being convicted of violating the civil rights of witnesses and suspects brought to the police station after the firebombing.


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