Wednesday, 15 February 2012

1967 Newark's race riots

Men yell at the National Guardsmen and New Jersey state police were called out 14 July 1967 to aid Newark police, following the 2nd night of disorder in this, New Jersey's largest city.
Even though this blog was originally supposed to be about the 1970s we cannot forget the race riots that happened in July 1967. They changed Newark's landscape forever. Here are some photos of what happened.

Two years before the riots there was The Newark Community Union Project (NCUP) Police Brutality March across Broad & Market Street in Newark, N.J. in 1965.

Springfield Avenue in July 1967.
Burn, baby, burn... Broad Street in flames...
some brothers being frisked by the National Guards...
 more of the same...

The scene at Jones Street in Newark as the National Guard patrols - 15 July 1967.
National Guards take over Newark.

'Are you talking to me?' - Newark N.J.  July 1967.

It's hard to find the way back home in this town...
National Guardsmen search civilians at bayonet point in Newark, N.J., 17 July 1967. 
Who's the aggressor and who's the victim? The image speaks for itself. 

all of a sudden Newark, U.S.A. was a bit like Vietnam. 

12 July 1967, during San Francisco's Summer of Love, the Newark Riots began. They lasted until 17 July 1967. The six days of rioting, looting, and destruction left 26 dead and hundreds injured.  

According to a Rutgers University study on the riot, many African-Americans, especially younger community leaders, felt they had remained largely disenfranchised in Newark despite the fact that Newark became one of the first majority back major cities in America alongside Washington, D.C. In sum, the city was entering a turbulent period of incipient change in political power. A former 7-term congressman representing New Jersey's 11th congressional district, Mayor Hugh Addonizio (who was also the last non-Black mayor of Newark) was charged with failing to incorporate Blacks in various civil leadership positions and to help Blacks get better employment opportunities. Black leaders argued that the Newark Police Department was dominated by white officers who would routinely stop and question Black youths with or without provocation. 

Despite being one of the 1st cities in the U.S. to hire African-American police officers, the Department's demographics remained at odds with the city's population, leading to poor relations between Blacks and the Police Department. Only 154 of the 1322 police officers were Black (11%) while the city remained over 50% Black.

This unrest came to a head when 2 white Newark policemen, John DeSimone and Vito Portrelli, arrested a Black cabdriver, John Weerd Smith, for improperly passing them on 15th Avenue. Smith was taken to the 4th Police Precinct, which was across the street from Hayes Homes, a large Public Housing Project. Residents of Hayes Homes saw an incapacitated Smith being dragged into the precinct, and a rumour was started that he had been killed while in police custody. Smith had been moved to a local hospital. 

This set off 6 days of riots, looting, violence, and destruction - ultimately leaving 26 people dead, 725 people injured, and close to 1,500 arrested. Property damage exceeded $10 million. 

In an effort to contain the riots, every evening at 6:00 PM the Bridge Street and Jackson Street Bridges, both of which span the Passaic River between Newark and Harrison, were closed until the next morning. 

read more about the Newark 1967 riot:

Newark's 4th Precinct found itself in the precarious position of being surrounded by public housing projects whose thousands of occupants they were not in complete sympathy with. The 12-story Hayes complex in particular offered a commanding view of the 4th Precinct. During the riot, snipers atop the Hayes complex would fight pitched duels with officers a 100 yards below. 

the 4th Precinct

People protest in front of Newark's Town Hall with signs wanting the National Guard out of Newark. Aftermath of Newark Riots: 13 July 1967.

Scudder Homes prepped for long over-due demolition.

below: Newark's tragic triangle - Decades of disgust and resentment finally give way to demolition as the Scudder Homes are reduced to dust in 1987. Off in the distance, Stella Wright (back, right) and the hulking mass of the Hayes Project (far left) await their turn at oblivion. It was the fitting end to the nightmare of high-rise public housing. 

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