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AP Was There: 50th anniversary of the Newark riots

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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Fifty years ago, the city of Newark burned as many of its black citizens, frustrated by an oppressive city government and outraged by police brutality, lashed out in a rage lasting four nights.

The uprising in Newark that began July 12, 1967 , was the latest in a series of civil disorders in cities from Boston to Los Angeles during the mid-1960s known as the Urban Riots. Detroit would follow later in the month. The clashes with local, state and federal authorities led to a presidential commission to explore the reasons behind the riots — which exposed for the first time to many whites the persistent inequities in America's cities despite civil rights gains.

On this anniversary, The Associated Press is making available this story about the Newark riots. It was first published on July 13, 1967.


Negroes hurled rocks and firebombs at a police station and demonstrated at City Hall last night and early today after a Negro taxi driver was arrested on a charge of assaulting an officer.

The rampaging crowd, estimated by police at 200 persons, shattered windows in 15 stores near the police station. During the outburst, two liquor stores, two luncheonettes and a supermarket were looted.

A supermarket window had what looked like three bullet holes, but police said no shots were fired to their knowledge.

Officers were issued helmets during the siege but Police Director Dominick Spina kept policemen inside the building while he and representatives of the city's antipoverty agency tried to calm the crowd.

Spina called it the most serious incident of his 25 years on the force.

About 80 persons later went to City Hall but left after police issued tickets to the double-parked taxicabs and cars the demonstrators rode there.

Two policemen were treated for cuts and bruises received from flying objects. Spina said one will be out for a month.

Peace prevailed today without any direct confrontation of police and protesters. Helmeted officers patrolled streets to enforce the calm.

Last Saturday, 19 persons were hurt in a street brawl between police and Negroes, identified as Black Muslims, on the street dividing Newark and East Orange.

The area between downtown Newark and East Orange is predominantly Negro. Newark's population of more than 400,000 is more than 50 per cent Negro.

"Under the pressure of protest and the tempo of social change, we're being compressed in a pressure cooker," said James I. Threatt, Negro head of the city Human Rights Commission, earlier this year.

Spina called the latest disturbance "an isolated incident; teenagers gathered and were incited. We don't know who incited them."

He said an "official inquiry" will be made into the incident and announced Mayor Hugh Addonizio will meet later with civil rights leaders.

Firemen summoned to a car fire near the police building were met with rocks.

At least three firebombs — volatile liquid in bottles — were hurled. One hit a police car but did not ignite.

Spina said a crowd gathered after the taxi driver, John W. Smith, 40, was arrested on a charge of assaulting a police officer. He said a false report of Smith's death fanned the protest, which was calm until shortly before midnight, when rock throwing began.


AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.


For more on the riots, including historical stories and photos, and video interviews with people who lived through them, visit

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