When his son was arrested for melting down quarters for their silver content, Joe Colombo, the reigning boss of the Profaci crime family, started the Italian American Civil Rights League. The reason for this was to bring to the public eye, especially the Italian Americans. Colombo felt that he FBI was unfairly associating all Italian Americans as all being involved with organized crime. Thousands of Italian Americans joined the league and fearing retaliation from these thousands of potential voters, many local politicians gave their support to the Civil Rights league. On June 29, 1970, a huge rally took place where more than fifty thousand people attended. The docks were closed so union members could attend and Italian American stores were closed in honor of the rally and to show their support. The support was so overwhelming that Governor Rockefeller and United States Attorney General John Mitchell declared that the term “mafia” would no longer be used within their area of jurisdictional authority.
However, the league’s Man of the Year began to draw the ire of other crime families as he openly talked about the FBI’s discrimination toward Italian Americans and when one of Colombo’s soldiers, Rocco Miraglia was arrested, a list of names and dollar amounts were found in a briefcase that Miraglia was carrying. Colombo testified before the grand jury that the names and the dollar amounts were those of people and the monies they raised for the league. One name on the list was “Carl” and Colombo testified that it was Carlo Gambino and the thirty thousand next to his name was Gambino’s donation to the civil rights league. He other crime bosses felt that Joe Colombo was becoming too public. It wasn’t just other families that were getting upset with Colombo either. He was having trouble within his own family.
The Gallo brothers were not at all happy with the leadership of the Colombo Family and hadn’t been since they tried to take over the family in the 1960’s. One of the brothers, “Crazy Joe” Gallo was particularly upset with the leadership and people knew it. After serving a nine year term in state prison, Joe Gallo was still upset with Joe Colombo’s leadership. So upset that he was the prime suspect in the attempted murder of Joe Colombo. It was 1971 and it was the second annual Italian American Civil Rights League rally. Joe Colombo was again the key speaker and organizer but he could feel the air was different this time around. He knew he had lost some respect with the other families and even his supporters. As Colombo made his way to the podium to speak, he was shot three times by an African American man named Jerome Johnson. As Johnson was being arrested and taken away, he was shot and killed. It is unclear if he was shot in retaliation for shooting Colombo or if he was shot to keep quiet.
Joe Gallo was known for working with African American criminals and even tried to get the different families to work with them, stating that they could be beneficial, however the families wanted nothing to do with them. After investigations, there was no proof that Joe Gallo had any ties with Jerome Johnson nor did Carlo Gambino or any other member of the crime families. Apparently Jerome Johnson acted alone. Joe Colombo did not die from his wounds but was in a coma for the next seven years until he finally died. After Colombo was shot and living in a vegetated state, Vincenzo “Vinny” Aloi was the acting boss of the family until Carmine “Junior” Perscio was released from prison and then he reigned as the boss for awhile. Crazy Joe Gallo wanted to take over as the boss but he was killed in Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street in 1972.
For a more in depth study of the Colombo Crime Family please follow the links posted.