International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 3-4 (July-December 1988)

Letters on the Curtis Case

Handwritten letter from Perry J. Chapin, president, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Des Moines, Iowa to Keith Morris.

Keith Morris:

Received your letter of October 17, 1988. This Central Body, myself or none of the officers support, have supported, or intend to support Mark Curtis. We went on record several months ago to beware of the material being distributed.

To the best of my knowledge Curtis has never had any active role in this Central Body or any of its activities. If there are claims contrary to this they are false.

I can only sympathize with you and your family, and will personally denounce any organization or individual who says we could support Mark Curtis or any of his activities.

I don’t know if you remember Keith but I do know you personally and I have all the respect and admiration for you. I will read this response to our membership.

Thank you for making me aware of your thoughts I am, sincerely, Perry J. Chapin, President.

My secretary is on vacation or this would be typed and you are free to show this correspondence to anyone you see fit.

Letter dated October 24, 1988 from Randall M. Slocum, secretary-treasurer, Local 75, American Federation of Musicians, West Des Moines, Iowa to Keith Morris.

Dear Mr. Morris:

Today I received your letter dated October 17, 1988. I was deeply distressed to hear of the obvious lies and misinformation your family has been subjected to following the brutal attack on your daughter. On behalf of the Officers and Executive Board of this local, I would like to convey our most heart-felt sympathy.

I would like to assure your that neither Mark Curtis nor any other known members of the Socialist Workers Party are members of this Local. No statements of support for either Mr. Curtis or the SWP have been or will be issued from this office. Any claims to the contrary should be regarded as FALSE.

It is a sad commentary about our society that the innocent victim is often victimized again and again by the publicity generated by the crime. I can only hope that there is a silver lining in the cloud that has hung over your family for so long!

Letter dated October 24, 1988, from Ed Sparks, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 387 in Des Moines, Iowa to Keith Morris.

Dear Sir:

Pertaining to your letter of 10/17/88, in which you accused me of backing Mark Curtis. Allow me to set the record straight. I have never backed Mark Curtis nor supported him in any manner which is connected with the abuse of your daughter. The only connection I have had is to protest the beating of Curtis by the police. It is my opinion that the police could have apprehended Curtis without the beating.

I have never commented on his guilt or innocence, only the beating which you and I both know takes place with Des Moines Police.

Kindly extend my feelings of remorse to your daughter. It is my hope that she will mend and not bear any emotional scars. Please acknowledge receipt of this letter.

Letter dated October 17, 1988 from Marti Anderson, director of Polk County Victim Services in Des Moines, Iowa to Martin McLaughlin, editor of the Bulletin.

I am a feminist who has been actively working to root out racism, sexism, and violence in our society for nearly twenty years. I was appalled at the magnitude of support mobilized for Mark Curtis in the peace and justice community. Curtis sexually assaulted a fifteen year old black girl. When caught at the scene with his pants down, he accused the police of beating him. I do not condone violence in any form, including police brutality. I do believe though, that any violence committed by the police does not diminish the reality or the seriousness of his attack on the victim. Curtis’ supporters have drawn international attention to the issue of police violence at the expense of a child rape victim. What are their priorities? Where is their commitment to ending violence against women and children?

The call for dropping Curtis’ rape charges by groups and individuals usually aligned with the anti-rape movement particularly distressed myself and other activists in this work. How can people mobilize against the violence of war, racism, sexism, oppression of the poor and destruction of the environment while denying public justice for the violent attack of a child?

Mark Curtis was convicted of sexual assault. Physical evidence at the child’s home showed that the attack occurred. The victim and her eleven year old brother identified him as the person who attacked her. Two police officers caught him with his pants down around his knees trying to get out through the back of the house. The conviction was clearly justified. Had we not been able to obtain a conviction with this kind of clear evidence, the morale of the rape care movement would have been devastated. Our ability to help future rape victims through the criminal justice process would have been seriously eroded.

I urge those who called for the dismissal of sexual abuse charges against Curtis to examine their attitudes about rape and personal violence. I invite them to consider that people are complex and that seemingly good people do bad things. I believe that Mark Curtis is a good organizer, a charismatic speaker and a political pacifist. He may have been the victim of police brutality. This does not, however, eliminate or justify the fact that he is a rapist and must be held accountable for his act of violence.

Letter dated November 3, 1988 from Detroit City Councilman John Peoples to Keith Morris.

Dear Mr. Morris:

This letter is a response to your letter dated October 17, 1988 which gives your perspective of a most unfortunate experience by your 15 year old daughter.

Upon reviewing your letter it is obvious that the Detroit City Council was misled and misguided in its approval of the Mark Curtis Resolution. The Detroit City Council has a standard procedure for approving resolutions. Our procedure begins with one council-member bringing a resolution to the table, upon review at the table by all council-members usually the resolution is put on the agenda as a line item for a vote. The resolution in support of Mark Curtis followed the council procedure.

At this time I would like to go on record withdrawing my individual support of the Detroit City Council’s Resolution supporting Mark Curtis. A copy of this letter will be forwarded to my colleagues on the Detroit City Council and the Chief of Police (Des Moines, Iowa).

Please forgive my previous action of endorsement, if I can be of any further assistance please contact my office.

Sincerely, John W. Peoples

Letter dated November 1, 1988 from Detroit City Councilman Mel Ravitz to Keith Morris.

Dear Mr. Morris,

Thank you for your recent letter about the terrible event your daughter and your family have undergone. Your letter confirms my belief that I acted hastily in joining my Council colleagues in support of Mark Curtis. Even before receiving your account of the matter I had begun to have some serious second thoughts about my previous support. I’ve done some checking on my own and have concluded that it is improbable that Mr. Curtis was “framed.”

You and your family have my apology for my precipitous judgement. I hope your daughter can recover from this trauma and you and your family return to some degree of normal living.

Best wishes, Sincerely, Mel Ravitz

Letter dated November 3, 1988 from Joan Ruddock, Labour Party MP for Lewisham, Deptford, a London constituency, to Keith Morris.

Dear Mr. Morris,

Thank you very much for your lengthy and courteous letter about Mark Curtis.

I was quite amazed at its contents because I had absolutely no knowledge of the case and regret to say that I had taken at face value what I had been told about the circumstances of his conviction.

I hope that you will understand that at the Labour Party conference (which is where I signed the petition) many comrades present cases of human rights violations and seek solidarity on the basis of a short written text.

On the evidence of your letter it is quite clear to me that I should not have signed the petition.

Please accept my sincere apologies to you and your family.

Yours sincerely, Joan Ruddock

Letter from W.S. Kelton, chairman of Local 800 of the United Transportation Union, in Mahwah, New Jersey to Keith Morris.

Dear Mr. Morris

With this letter I withdraw all support from Mark Curtis. To put it briefly the story I was told differs substantially from yours. May I say I was taken.

I am sorry for the pain and suffering your family has endured and wish you the best in the coming years.

Letter dated November 21, 1988 from Ross Evans, district assistant secretary of Auckland & Tomoana Freezing Works, Abattoir & Related Trades Employees Industrial Union of Workers to Richard Phillips, member of the Socialist Labour League, Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International:

Dear Brother

I would like to apologise firstly for the delay in answering your letter and newspaper articles in regards to ‘MARK CURTIS’. I have only just returned from extended leave overseas and finally sorted through the mountain of paper on my desk.

I must say from the outset after reading all the material you sent and a lengthy letter sent to Frank Barnard by Keith Morris that I have the utmost regret in ever signing my name in support of the Mark Curtis Campaign and will endeavour to officially make it known that I wish to have my name withdrawn from such a campaign.

I will also write to Mr Keith Morris and his family and apologise and suggest to him that my apology is not only from my heart to his family but he will be at liberty to use it wherever he needs to even if only used at kids schools.

In retrospect I can remember being a little reluctant to sign because of the limited information supplied, but the case presented certainly looked to be a “jacked up one,” against a prominent Meat Workers Union Official without too much mention if any of the young girl involved.

Although the immediate response could be not to sign any future petitions a gut feeling tells me that I will, but before I do I will assure you far more research will be put into such a decision for the future. Thank you for your information and the time and effort on this issue.

Yours fraternally,

Ross Evans
District Assistant Secretary