The Full Wiki

Crown Heights riot: Wikis

  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Crown Heights Riot was a three-day riot that occurred in August 1991 in the Crown Heights neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The community was home to approximately 180,000 people – consisting of Caribbean-Americans and West Indians (50%), African Americans (39%), and Jewish residents (11%). The riots began on August 19, 1991 after the child of two Guyanese immigrants was accidentally struck by an automobile in the motorcade of a prominent Hasidic rabbi. The boy subsequently died of his injuries. One historian described the subsequent riot as "the most serious anti-Semitic incident in American history".[1] During the riot one Orthodox Jew was killed. The riot was called a pogrom by some members of the Jewish community.[2]

Contents

Car accident precipitating the riot

At approximately 8:20 p.m. on August 19, 1991, Yosef Lifsh, 22, was driving a station wagon with three passengers west on President Street, part of the three-car motorcade of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, then-leader of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic sect.[3][4] The procession was led by an unmarked police car with two officers, with its rooftop light flashing.[1] Lifsh's vehicle fell behind. He continued through the intersection at President Street and Utica Avenue in an attempt to rejoin the group. Witnesses could not agree upon Lifsh’s speed and could not agree whether the light that Lifsh went through was yellow or red.[4][5] Lifsh’s vehicle struck a car being driven on Utica Avenue, veered onto the sidewalk, knocked a 600-pound stone building pillar down, hit a wall, and killed seven-year old Gavin Cato, the son of Guyanese immigrants. Angela Cato, his seven year old cousin, survived but was badly injured.[6][7]

Lifsh believed he had the right of way to proceed through the intersection because of the police escort.[1] Lifsh said he deliberately steered his car away from adults on the sidewalk, toward the wall, a distance of about 25 yards (22.9 m), in order to stop the car. Lifsh later commented that the car did not come to a full stop upon impact with the building, but rather slid to the left along the wall until it reached the children.

Accounts differ as to the next sequence of events. After the collision, Lifsh said that the first thing he did was to try to lift the car in order to free the two children beneath it.[8] The EMS unit that arrived on the scene about three minutes after the accident said that Lifsh was being beaten and pulled out of the station wagon by three or four black men.[1][9] All accounts agree that Lifsh was beaten before ambulances and police arrived.

A volunteer ambulance from the Hatzolah ambulance corps arrived on the scene at about 8:23 pm followed shortly by police and a City ambulance which took Gavin Cato to Kings County Hospital, arriving at 8:32 p.m. Cato was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.[1] Volunteers from a second Hatzolah ambulance helped Angela Cato, until a second City ambulance arrived and took her to the same hospital.[1][4]

Two attending police officers, as well as a technician from the City ambulance, directed the Hatzolah driver to remove Lifsh from the scene for his safety, while Gavin Cato was being removed from beneath the station wagon.[10] According to the New York Times, more than 250 neighborhood residents, mostly black teenagers, many of whom were shouting "Jews! Jews! Jews!", jeered the driver of the car and then turned their anger on the police.[11] Some members of the community were outraged because Lifsh was taken from the scene by a private ambulance service while city emergency workers were still trying to free the children who were pinned under the car. Some believed that Gavin Cato died because the Hatzolah ambulance crew was unwilling to help non-Jews. Their anger was compounded due to a rumor at the time that Lifsh was intoxicated. A breath alcohol test administered within 70 minutes of the accident indicated that this was not the case. Other false rumors that circulated shortly after the accident included: Lifsh was on a cell phone, Lifsh did not have a valid driver's license, and that police prevented people, including Gavin Cato's father, from assisting in the rescue.[1][12][13]

Later on that evening, as the crowd and rumors grew, people threw bottles and rocks to protest the treatment of the children. At about 11:00 p.m., someone shouted, “Let's go to Kingston Avenue and get a Jew!" A number of black youths then set off toward Kingston, a street of predominantly Jewish residents several blocks away, vandalizing cars and heaving rocks and bottles as they went.[14]

Conflicting community viewpoints

After the death of Gavin Cato, members of the black community believed that the decision to remove Lifsh from the scene first was racially motivated. They also maintained that this was one example of a perceived system of preferential treatment afforded to Jews in Crown Heights.[7] The preferential treatment was reported to include biased actions by law enforcement and allocations of government resources amongst others. Furthermore, many members of the black community were concerned about the expansion of Jews moving into the neighborhood, believing the latter were buying all of the property. [15]

Members of the Jewish community did not share this view. Many believed that allegations of favoritism made by blacks were not supported by facts; a number of studies disproved the allegations, including one study conducted specifically in response to this allegation.[6] It was widely believed in the Jewish community that these allegations were an attempt to mask blatant anti-Semitism committed against Jews during the riot. As examples, they point to anti-Semitic statements made by protesters throughout the rioting, and comments made at Gavin Cato’s funeral. In his eulogy at the funeral, the Rev. Al Sharpton made comments about "diamond dealers" and commented "it's an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights."[16] In addition, a banner displayed at the funeral read "Hitler did not do the job".[6]

Scope of the Riot

About three hours after the riots began, a group of approximately 20 young black men surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old 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. [4] Rosenbaum died later that night. Nelson was charged with murder and acquitted, but later convicted of violating Rosenbaum's civil rights; he eventually admitted that he had indeed stabbed Rosenbaum.[17][18]

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. In the rioting of the ensuing three days, many of the rioters "did not even live in Crown Heights."[1]

During the riots, Jews were injured, stores were looted, and cars and homes were damaged. The rioters identified Jewish homes by the mezuzot affixed to the front doors.[13] Rioters marched through Crown Heights carrying anti-Semitic 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.[13][1]

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.[1] 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.[1]

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,[19] and 225 cases of robbery and burglary were committed.[1] At least 129 arrests were made during the riots,[19] including 122 blacks and seven whites.[20][21] Property damage was estimated at one million dollars.[1]

Shooting in Crown Heights

On September 5, two weeks after the riot had been controlled, Anthony Graziosi, an Italian sales representative with a white beard dressed in dark business attire, was driving in the neighborhood. As he stopped at a traffic light at 11 p.m., six blocks away from where Yankel Rosenbaum had been murdered, a group of four black men surrounded his car and one of them shot and killed him. It was alleged by Graziosi's family and their attorney, as well as Senator Al D'Amato, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, State Attorney General Robert Abrams, former Mayor Ed Koch, and a number of advocacy organizations, that Graziosi's resemblance to a hasidic Jew precipitated his murder. The New York police department, Mayor Dinkins, newspaper columnist Mike McAlary, and the U.S. Justice Department did not agree. The murder was not treated as a bias crime. [22]

Grand Jury

A Grand Jury composed of 10 African Americans, 8 Caucasians, and 5 Latinos found no cause to indict Lifsh. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes explained that under New York law, the single act of "losing control of a car" is not criminal negligence even if death or injury resulted. Lifsh waived immunity and testified before the Grand Jury.[5] About an hour after hearing Lifsh’s testimony, the grand jury voted not to indict Lifsh.[23] Subsequently, Lifsh moved to Israel, where his family lives, because his life was threatened.[24]

Afterwards, Hynes fought unsuccessfully for the public release of the testimony that the grand jury had heard. His lawsuit was dismissed, and the judge noted that more than three-quarters of the witnesses who had been contacted refused to waive their right to privacy. The judge also expressed concern for the witnesses' safety.[5][25][26]

Impact of the riot on the 1993 mayoral race

"The repercussions of the Crown Heights riot, based on the official indifference to the plight of Jews, contributed directly to the defeat of the incumbent mayor of New York,"[27] David Dinkins. He was embattled by many political adversaries in his reelection bid, including vocal proponents of “black nationalism, back-to-Africa, economic radicalism, and racial exclusiveness.”[1]

On November 17, 1992, New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave the Director of Criminal Justice Services, Richard H.Girgenti, the authority to investigate the rioting and the Nelson trial. The Girgenti Report was compiled by over 40 lawyers and investigators, and consisted of a two volume, 600-page document of its findings on July 20, 1993. It was extremely critical of Police Commissioner Lee Brown. The report also embarrassed Dinkins on his handling of the riots.

According to the report, Dinkins hesitated to deploy vast numbers of police to stop the rioting because he had been elected as a peacemaker. However, this strategy proved disastrous.[28] Many Jews criticized Dinkins for this. The first night of the riot, Dinkins, along with Police Commissioner Lee Brown, both African Americans, went to Crown Heights to dispel the false rumors about the circumstances surrounding the accident, but they had no impact on the rioters, most of whom were young black men.[13]

In a 16 minute speech on the Thanksgiving holiday following the riot, Dinkins denied that he had prevented police from protecting citizens in Crown Heights.[1] Many Jews believed Dinkins failed to contain the riot and failed to exercise his responsibility, to the detriment of the Jewish community.[29]

The Crown Heights riot was an important issue raised repeatedly on the campaign trail. Rudolph Giuliani, who would become the next mayor of New York, called the Crown Heights riot a "pogrom" because "for three days people were beaten up, people were sent to the hospital because they were Jewish. There's no question that not enough was done about it by the city of New York"[30] Giuliani won by over 44,000 votes. Support for Dinkins by Jews, Hispanics and Puerto Ricans, Asian-Americans, uniformed police officers, and first-time voters decreased significantly from the previous election.[1]

Healing in Crown Heights

Relations between blacks and Jews in Crown Heights began to improve almost immediately following the rioting. Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden summoned the leaders of each of the ethnic communities to Borough Hall within days after the riots ended, creating what became known as the Crown Heights Coalition. The Coalition, led by the President of Medgar Evers College and Rabbi Shea Hecht, Chairman of the Board of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), functioned for 10 years as an intergroup forum in which to air neighborhood concerns and work out issues. Golden also used the Coalition to initiate interracial projects designed to promote dialogue.[31] One project involved sending a Jewish leader and a Black leader together in a pair to public intermediate and high schools in the area to answer questions from the children about each others' cultures.[32]

A week after the riots, Hatzolah also helped repair an ambulance of a black-owned volunteer service. The following year, the Brooklyn Children's Museum held an exhibit on the contributions made by blacks and Jews in New York. In 1993, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was active in promoting improved black-Jewish relations.[33] In 1993, a series of neighborhood basketball games were scheduled between the two groups, including a scrimmage held as part of the halftime entertainment of a New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers professional basketball game. Also that year, Rabbi Israel Shemtov, whose anti-crime patrol had long been perceived by many black residents as biased against them, rushed to the aid of a black woman who had been shot on the street in Crown Heights, putting her in his car and taking her to the hospital.[34] The Crown Heights Mediation Center was established in 1998 to help resolve local differences, also a direct outcome of the Coalition.[35] On August 19, 2001, a street fair was held in memory of Cato and Rosenbaum, and their relatives met and exchanged mementos of hopes of healing in Crown Heights.

Aftermath

Jews did not flee from Crown Heights after August 1991. In fact, the Lubavitch population of Crown Heights increased after the riot, and the area in which they reside has expanded.[36]

Fictional portrayals in film and television

  • On the sketch show In Living Color the 1991 season 3 premier episode did a sketch called Crown Heights Story.
  • A 2004 television movie, Crown Heights, was made about the aftermath of the riot, starring Howie Mandel.
  • Two episodes of Law & Order, one during season two and another during season four, were based on the riots.
  • Anna Deveare Smith wrote a play called Fires in the Mirror, depicting 29 real interviews with real people involved in the riots.
  • Brooklyn Babylon, a feature film starring Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and The Roots, presents a fictionalized version of Crown Heights neighborhood unrest in the 1990s, set off by a car accident.

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Shapiro, Edward S. (2006). Crown heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn riot. Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press, University Press of New England. ISBN 1584655615. http://books.google.com/books?id=StQXz-ClGuUC. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  2. ^ Kifner, John (August 22, 1991). "Clashes Persist in Crown Heights for 3d Night in Row". The New York Times. p. B1. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE1DA113FF931A1575BC0A967958260&n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FPeople%2FR%2FRosenbaum%2C%20Yankel. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  3. ^ Rabbi Schneerson Led A Small Hasidic Sect To World Prominence - New York Times
  4. ^ a b c d Wilson, Judy (2006). "Crown Heights riot — fact, fiction, and plenty of blame". New Jersey Jewish News. http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/060806/ltCrownHeightsRiot.html. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  5. ^ a b c Kifner, John (September 6, 1991). "Grand Jury Doesn't Indict Driver In Death of Boy in Crown Heights". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE6D61E3DF935A3575AC0A967958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=3. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  6. ^ a b c McGowan, William (Summer 1993). "Race and Reporting". The Manhattan Institute. http://www.city-journal.org/article01.php?aid=1473. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  7. ^ a b Kamber, Michael (January 16, 2002 - January 22, 2002). "Faded Rage". The Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0203,kamber,31532,1.html. 
  8. ^ Myers, Steven Lee (September 7, 1991). "Judge Won't Open Records Of Crown Heights Inquiry". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE1DB163FF934A3575AC0A967958260. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  9. ^ Girgenti Report, 1:79-81.
  10. ^ j. - 5 years later, Crown Heights blacks, Jews coexist warily
  11. ^ McQuiston, John T. (August 20, 1991). "Fatal Crash Starts Melee With Police In Brooklyn". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0D7103FF933A1575BC0A967958260. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  12. ^ Allis, Sam (September 09, 1991). "Racial Unrest: An Eye for an Eye". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,973786-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  13. ^ a b c d Mintz, Jerome R. (1992). Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Harvard University Press. pp. 334–335. ISBN 0674381157. http://books.google.com/books?id=uEP5KNUAFh0C. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  14. ^ Law Library - American Law and Legal Information
  15. ^ village voice > news > Dasun Allah dissects the Crown Heights silence. by Dasun Allah
  16. ^ William Saletan and Avi Zenilman (October 7, 2003). "The Gaffes of Al Sharpton". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2089153/. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  17. ^ Gourevitch, Philip (January 1993). "The Crown Heights Riot & Its Aftermath". The Jewish Forward. http://web.archive.org/web/20040220111847/http://www.ex-iwp.org/docs/1993/Crown+Heights+Riot+Aftermath.htm. 
  18. ^ Newman, Andy (August 21, 2003). "Penalty in Crown Hts. Case Means a Little More Jail Time". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9805EFDB1F30F932A1575BC0A9659C8B63. Retrieved March 3, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Shapiro, Edward S. (June 2002). "Interpretations of the Crown Heights Riot" (subscription required). American Jewish History 90 (2): 97–122. doi:10.1353/ajh.2003.0035. http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/american_jewish_history/v090/90.2shapiro.html. 
  20. ^ Kifner, John (August 24, 1991). "Police Brace For Protest In Brooklyn". The New York Times. p. 27. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE4D7163DF937A1575BC0A967958260&n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FPeople%2FM%2FMaddox%2C%20Alton%20H.%20Jr.. 
  21. ^ "TENSION IN BROOKLYN; Official Tallies of Arrests Differ". The New York Times. August 25, 1991. p. 36. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE6D71F3FF936A1575BC0A967958260. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  22. ^ Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn riot, Edward S. Shapiro, University Press of New England, 2006, p. 57.
  23. ^ Specter, Michael (September 6, 1991). "N.Y. Jury Doesn't Indict Hasidic Driver: Boy's Death in Auto Wreck Set Off 4-Day Race Riot in Brooklyn" (fee required). The Washington Post. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1083487.html. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  24. ^ Haberman, Clyde (September 18, 1991). "Sharpton Tries to Serve Summons In Israel but Doesn't Find His Man". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEFDF173EF93BA2575AC0A967958260. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  25. ^ Yarrow, Andrew L. (September 17, 1991). "Bid to Unseal Crown Heights Testimony Founders". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE3DE1631F934A2575AC0A967958260. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  26. ^ Gavin Cato News - The New York Times - Narrowed by 'LIFSH, YOSEF'
  27. ^ Spencer, B. (2000). The Death of American Antisemitism, p. 52 ISBN 0-275-96508-2
  28. ^ Zakim, L. P. (2000). Confronting Anti-Semitism: A Practical Guide. ISBN 9780881256291, p. 77
  29. ^ Cohen, D. N. Crown Heights Jews feel vindicated by report. Jewish Tribune (Rockland County, NY), July 23-29, 1993.)
  30. ^ Daily News, July 1, 1993.
  31. ^ Beep Honor Peace Coalition: Crown Heights leaders reflect on 10-year milestone, New York Daily News, August 23, 2001.
  32. ^ Goldschmidt, Henry (2006). Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-8135-3883-9. 
  33. ^ Jerome A. Chanes, "Review of the Year: Intergroup Relations", American Jewish Year Book, (American Jewish Committee, 1994) p. 123.
  34. ^ Hasidic Patrol Group Faces Questions After a Crown Heights Clash - New York Times
  35. ^ Conflict Control, The Jewish Week, November 13, 1998.
  36. ^ Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, And the 1991 Brooklyn Riot, by Edward S. Shapiro, p. xvii

External links








Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message