Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6, 1988: Riots Erupt in Tompkins Square

In the summer of 1988, several rallies took place in Tompkins Square Park in protest of police efforts to drive out homeless people and others who frequented the park at night by adopting a 1 a.m. curfew. Tension over this issue had been growing for some time among Lower East Side residents; some thought of the city's actions as ridding the park of dangerous drug pushers and skinheads, while others were outraged by the efforts to purge the park of community members who treated it as a home.
A rally had been held on July 31st in which there had been clashes between the protesters and the police but it wasn’t until August 6th that things really turned ugly. On this day, a rally held in the park turned into a riot when police arrived at the scene and began to brutalize the crowd. The rally started at 11:30 p.m. with a few hundred people entering the park, and ended at around 6 a.m. the following morning with many injured and a community even more on edge. In the days after, there were approximately 100 brutality charges made against the police and two police officers were charged with use of excessive force.

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