The 1960’s are usually associated with Civil Rights and Woodstock. Well those are two of the key events that made the 1960’s as we know it today. The Harlem Riot of 1964 was only one of three riots that happened since the founding of Harlem, New York. The ironic thing about this one particular riot is that it occurred just two weeks after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The situation behind the riot was all over “police brutality”.
On July 16, Police Lt. Thomas G. Gilligan killed 15 year old James Powell.
Supposedly, Powell and two other friends were involved in horseplay with a building superintendent, Patrick Lynch. Lynch supposedly sprayed the boys with his garden hose. The two other boys chased Lynch and as Powell went to follow along with them, Lt. Gilligan intervened and shot at him twice, the second bullet being fatal. Lt. Gilligan claims that Powell came at him with a knife and that he was only trying to protect himself.
Later on in the year, a grand jury found Lt. Gilligan not guilty and did not face any criminal charges.
The black community of New York was highly angered at this decision and decided to take matters into their own hands, sparking the Harlem Riot of 1964. The north and the south have struggled with civil rights, mostly known as two different forms of segregation. Although, this riot shows that both the north and south are facing the same issue, civil disobedience. Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) set up a rally on 125th street in Harlem. At first, the rally was intended for the three missing Mississippi civil rights workers. Well, that all changed after CORE heard about this.
They then shifted the mean for the rally to the severe issue of police brutality. Ever since CORE was established, police brutality was their main concern. A few types of examples of police brutality was spraying the black crowds with a fire hose, attack dogs, and physical abuse with weapons (bats). The rally was a success with keynote speaker, 17 year old Judith Howell, who said a few very meaningful words to the crowd. After the rally, all 250 people whom attended, moved to the front of the 28th Police Precinct. Rev. Nelson Duke, Charles Taylor, and Newton Sewell entered the building demanding that Lt.
Gilligan be suspend from his duty. When the three men learned that the incident was under investigation, they left the building without causing any problems. When they walked out and told the 250 people standing in front, the crowd was not pleased at all. On the night of July 19, 1964, thousands of Negros (Reported by the New York Times) ran threw Harlem and began to riot. They pulled fire alarms, broke store windows, and enacted in felonious acts such as burglary, destruction of property, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and more. This riot continued for five more nights.
The destruction and chaos continued and gradually got worse. Five hundred police men, including police tactical forces, blocked off 125th street between 3rd and 8th avenue. They stood shoulder to shoulder, creating human barricades, but still, the riots continued which called for more police. What was so ironic about these riots was that none of them happened during the day. They only occurred at night time. Eventually, everybody who lived in this vicinity was implicated to be involved, even if they were against it. The riots eventually subsided and came to an end on July 24th, 1964.
One person killed, 118 injured, and 465 men, women, and children were arrested during this riot. Police brutality was a major issue during the reign of Civil Rights. White police officers could do what they wanted to a black person and get away with it. It was utterly disgusting and hope that it never happens again. Riots were a way of symbolizing that the black America would do anything in their power to get what they wanted. They did not want money or any materialistic entities. All they wanted was the feeling of freedom and equality.
Cite this The Issue of Police Brutality
The Issue of Police Brutality. (2017, Feb 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-issue-of-police-brutality/