Friday, September 04, 2009

Crown Heights Brooklyn 1991 Riots

Despite living side by side, Hasidic Jews, African Americans, and people from the Caribbean in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, rarely socialized before 1991. The groups occupied separate cultural worlds, and a climate of mutual suspicion and tension prevailed. On 19 August 1991, after a Jewish driver tragically killed a young black child, Gavin Cato, anti-Semitic violence erupted, and African Americans attacked Jews, Jewish property, and city police. Later that evening a mob of about fifteen African Americans shouting "Kill the Jew" attacked Yankel Rosenbaum, a native of Australia. Bearded and wearing a yarmulke, Rosen-baum was beaten and stabbed, but before he bled to death he identified his assassin as sixteen-year-old Lemrick Nelson. Three more days of rioting ensued.

Nelson was acquitted of murder in a state court in 1992, and he later celebrated his acquittal with some of the jurors. In 1994 the federal government charged Nelson and Charles Price, who was accused of inciting the attack, with violating Rosenbaum's civil rights. Convicted as an adult, an unrepentant Nelson received 235 months in prison, while Price received 260 months. New York City then settled a lawsuit by several Crown Heights residents for $1.1 million.

The official state report on the riots criticized New York City Mayor David Dinkins for his inaction during the riots; Dinkins later lost his 1993 reelection bid to Rudolph Giuliani. Community leaders, a community mediation center, and numerous community groups subsequently sponsored integrated activities in efforts to reduce cultural divisions in Crown Heights.

Bibliography by: Carol B. Conaway, "Crown Heights: Politics and Press Coverage of the Race War That Wasn't."

2 comments: said...

i remember the riots well.
enjoy visiting

mordchi said...

we now know that lubavitch was at fault !