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February 22, 1961 – UN Security Council – Adlai Stevenson address and riot – NBC Special Program – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
February 22, 1961 – In what was his first major address as UN Ambassador, Adlai Stevenson was witness to a violent outbreak in the gallery just above the assembly; protests over the situation in the Congo which, like the protest at the Security Coucil as spiraling out of control and in danger of becoming a full-on civil war and another potential East-West confrontation.
Introduced at the Security Council was a resolution aiming to diffuse the impending civil war:
Resolution of 21 February 1961
The Security Council,
Having considered the situation in the Congo,
Having learnt with deep regret of the announcement of the killing of the Congolese leaders, Mr. Patrice Lumumba, Mr. Maurice Mpolo and Mr. Joseph Okito,
Deeply concerned at the grave repercussions of these crimes and the danger of widespread civil war and bloodshed in the Congo and the threat to international peace and security,
Noting the report of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, dated 12 February 1961, bringing to light the development of a serious civil war situation and preparations therefor,
1. Urges that the United Nations take immediately all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of civil war in the Congo, including arrangements for cease-fires, the halting of all military operations, the prevention of clashes, and the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort;
2. Urges that measures be taken for the immediate withdrawal and evacuation from the Congo of all Belgian and other foreign military and paramilitary personnel and political advisers not under the United Nations Command, and mercenaries;
3. Calls upon all States to take immediate and energetic measures to prevent the departure of such personnel for the Congo from their territories, and for the denial of transit and other facilities to them;
4. Decides that an immediate and impartial investigation be held in order to ascertain the circumstances of the death of Mr. Lumumba and his colleagues and that the perpetrators of these crimes be punished;
5. Reaffirms Security Council resolutions 143 (1960) of 14 July 1960, 145 (1960) of 22 July 1960 and 146 (1960) of 9 August 1960 and General Assembly resolution 1474 (ES-IV) of 20 September 1960 and reminds all States of their obligations under these resolutions.
The Security Council,
Gravely concerned at the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Congo and at the prevalence of conditions which seriously imperil peace and order and the unity and territorial integrity of the Congo, and threaten international peace and security,
Noting with deep regret and concern the systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the general absence of the rule of law in the Congo,
Recognizing the imperative necessity for the restoration of parliamentary institutions in the Congo in accordance with the fundamental law of the country, so that the will of the people should be reflected through the freely elected Parliament,
Convinced that the solution of the problem of the Congo lies in the hands of the Congolese people themselves without any interference from outside, and that there can be no solution without conciliation,
Convinced further that the imposition of any solution, including the formation of any government not based on genuine conciliation, would, far from settling any issues, greatly enhance the dangers of conflict within the Congo and the threat to international peace and security,
1. Urges the convening of the Parliament and the taking of necessary protective measures in that connexion;
2. Urges that Congolese armed units and personnel should be reorganized and brought under discipline and control, and arrangements made on impartial and equitable bases to that end and with a view to the elimination of any possibility of interference by such units and personnel in the political life of the Congo;
3. Calls upon all States to extend their full co-operation and assistance, and to take such measures as may be necessary on their part, for the implementation of the present resolution.
Mid-way while voicing support for the resolution, Stevenson was addressing the Security Council, a scuffle broke out in the Gallery and quickly escalated.
Capturing all of it was NBC Radio, who were recording the proceedings at the time. Within minutes of the outbreak, NBC broke into all its programs and aired the address and the reactions – here is that event as it happened on February 21, 1961.