RebbeDrive presents a large photo collection, documenting the protests after the Crown Heights Riots. The Riots began 27 years ago.
The Crown Heights riot was a race riot that took place from August 19 to 21, 1991 in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York City. It turned black residents and Orthodox Jewish residents against each other, causing the deterioration of already tense racial relations. The riots began on August 19, 1991, after two children of Guyanese immigrants were accidentally struck by one of the cars in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZATZAL. One child died and the second was severely injured.
About three hours after the riots began, early on the morning of August 20, a group of approximately 20 young black men surrounded 29-year-old Australian Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum HY”D, a University of Melbourne student in the United States conducting research for his doctorate. They stabbed him several times in the back and beat him severely, fracturing his skull. Before being taken to the hospital, Rosenbaum was able to identify 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr. as his assailant in a line-up shown to him by the police.
Rosenbaum died later that night.
Nelson was charged as an adult with murder and acquitted. Later he was convicted in federal court of violating Rosenbaum’s civil rights and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Nelson eventually admitted that he had stabbed Rosenbaum.
For three days following the accident, numerous African Americans and Caribbean Americans of the neighborhood, joined by growing numbers of non-residents, rioted in Crown Heights.
During the riots, Jews were injured, stores were looted, and cars and homes were damaged. The rioters identified Jewish homes by their Mezuzos.
An additional 350 police officers were added to the regular duty roster on August 20 and were assigned to Crown Heights in an attempt to quell the rioting. After episodes of rock- and bottle-throwing involving hundreds of blacks and Jews, and after groups of blacks marched through Crown Heights chanting “No Justice, No Peace!”, “Death to the Jews!”, and “Whose streets? Our streets!”, an additional 1,200 police officers were sent to confront rioters in Crown Heights.
On the third day of the disturbances, Al Sharpton and Sonny Carson led a march. The marchers proceeded through Crown Heights, carrying antisemitic signs and an Israeli flag was burned. Rioters threw bricks and bottles at police; shots were fired at police and police cars were pelted and overturned, including the Police Commissioner’s car.
Riots escalated to the extent that a detachment of 200 police officers was overwhelmed and had to retreat for their safety. On August 22, over 1,800 police officers, including mounted and motorcycle units, had been dispatched to stop the attacks on people and property.
By the time the three days of rioting ended, 152 police officers and 38 civilians were injured, 27 vehicles were destroyed, seven stores were looted or burned, and 225 cases of robbery and burglary were committed. At least 129 arrests were made during the riots, including 122 blacks and seven whites. Property damage was estimated at one million dollars.
Two weeks after the riot, a non-Jewish man was killed by a group of black men; some believed that the man had been mistaken for a Jew. The riots were a major issue in the 1993 mayoral race, contributing to the defeat of Mayor David Dinkins, an African American, who was blamed for an ineffective police response.
Ultimately, black and Jewish leaders developed an outreach program between their communities to help calm and possibly improve racial relations in Crown Heights over the next decade.
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