“Operation Quarterback”: Police and Protection in Phase II
Phase II of the plan to desegregate Boston’s schools, set forth by Judge Garrity’s court ruling, initiated a public plea for increased student safety. Boston Police were actively involved in the implementation and monitoring of busing. They thoroughly recorded attendance issues, incidents and disturbances both on and off school properties, and public protests to the action. However, despite very little public announcement, Phase II introduced the active presence of the U.S. Marshals to multiple schools in order to take preventative measures against the massive uprisings and disturbances that had occurred during Phase I in South Boston.
In August 1975, the U.S. Marshal Service launched “Operation Quarterback” to formally prepare for the potential of resistance amidst a city-wide climate of dissension. The initial report states, “It appears that there is unanimity for the conclusion that Phase II will be more difficult to implement than Phase I and that the climate for violence and resistance to the Court order has increased.”
The intent of the plan outlined the need for Boston Police to maintain a highly visible presence, particularly on the opening day of school. The increased presence of law enforcement for this event was not limited to the city police, but included state police, district police, and National Guard. “Operation Quarterback” provided for additional support by the Marshal Service in the form of formalized mobile teams stationed throughout the city and static teams at high-risk schools. All participating officials wore visible armbands and badges to identify their presence. The schools in this plan included: Hyde Park, Barton Rogers, Roslindale, South Boston, Charlestown, and Madison Park. In total, 65 officers were assigned and deployed on the first day of school following several days of preparation and briefing with 60 deputies on standby.
The involvement of the U.S. Marshals indicated a federal acknowledgment of the potential risks associated with continued implementation. Their purpose included both safety enforcement and the gathering of intelligence which required substantial preparation. A concluding statement of the plan read, “Violence may be expected to range from fist fights between students in school, through isolated acts of rock and bottle throwing, to concerted acts of mob violence which may degenerate into community or city-wide riots.”This stood in stark contrast of the public picture of optimism school officials and the media were attempting to portray.
Local news teams conducted on-site interviews on the first day of school at several of the newly incorporated campuses such as English High School in Jamaica Plain. Reporters interviewed students about their outlook for the year and initial experiences. None of the rioting and violence from the first day the buses rolled into South Boston the previous year w, yet behind the scenes, scores of law enforcement were stationed throughout the city prepared for any measure of uprising. While the first few days of Phase II’s implementation seemed generally quiet, perhaps due to this effort by Boston’s police and the U.S. Marshals, violence and conflict within neighborhoods and classrooms continued.