Communist weapons cache uncovered in Brooklyn
November 13, 1996
From Correspondent Peg Tyre
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Social workers following up on an anonymous child-abuse complaint in New York found more than they bargained for when they entered an apartment in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
With the aid of police, they discovered a stash of high-powered automatic weapons and ammunition hidden in a false-backed closet Monday night.
The social workers had suspected the closet might contain children, according to Detective William Allee of the New York Police Department.
Instead, authorities stumbled onto a group known as the Provisional Party of Communists, whose roots can be traced to a deceased East Coast immigrant labor activist.
Police arrested 32 people on weapons charges, while the social workers took three children into protective custody. One of the 16 women arrested was also charged with child abuse.
The confiscated arsenal included over 40 weapons ranging from automatic fire arms to pipe bombs. Authorities even discovered a machine pistol hidden in a viola case, conjuring up images of Al Capone and 1920s mobsters.
Police have so far failed to turn up a reason the Provisional Communists were hoarding weapons.
The Brooklyn group was founded by labor activist Eugenio Parente-Ramos, who died last year. Parente-Ramos is best known for his work founding the Eastern Farm Workers, a widely respected organization that helped migrant farm workers in New York state.
Federal agents who raided the Provisional Party of Communists in 1984 called it a cult. They said the group recruited at private northeast universities, brainwashing young recruits.
Although no weapons were found during that raid, agents claimed the Provisional Party of Communists was planning a series of violent attacks in the United States.
But no one was ever prosecuted in that case, and Parente-Ramos' long-time lawyer, Harley Lewin, called the charges preposterous.
"Through the years that I was involved in working with them, it was an organization that was built around the protection of migrant workers," said Lewin. "This business of apocalypse now, it's just nonsense, utter nonsense."
Neighbors were mystified by the raid, describing the Provisional Communists as a family-type group that did everything together. But they also worried that so many firearms had found a home in their neighborhood.
"It's rather frightening to know that weapons and ammunition and the high caliber and the large volume was found," admitted one man. "That's pretty frightening."
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