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The Harlem Riot of 1964
The Harlem Riot of 1964 (New York City Race Riot ) was a racial confrontation between residents in several city boroughs and the New York City Police after an African American teenager was shot dead by an off-duty police officer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
On July 16, 15-year-old James Powell, from Harlem was shot and killed by NYPD Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan. The teenage summer student from Robert Wagner Junior High school had been engaged in horseplay with other boys and a building superintendent in front of an apartment building at 215 East 76th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. When the man sprayed the boys with a hose, Powell grabbed a bottle to throw at the man. At this point Lt Gilligan, an off-duty cop who was passing by, saw what was happening and fired a warning shot. The boy lunged at Lt. Gilligan with a knife, cutting his right forearm. Lt. Gilligan then fired his service revolver twice at the boy. As news spread of the killing, a planned rally by CORE shifted from the three civil rights workers missing in Mississippi to the death of Powell and police brutality.
At 9.30pm on 18 July, protesters marched on Harlem’s 28th Police Precinct. But they were met by a wall of ‘tactical police’, who began to push the demonstrators back from the building. Eventually the police charged the main group of protesters, sparking violent retaliation from the crowd. The crowd began to riot. The authorities closed 125th Street between Third and Eight Avenue but this did not stop the trouble spreading as hundreds of people fought with police.
Civil unrest lasted for more than five days with trouble spreading into Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. More than 6,000 police officers were deployed to quell the disorder. There were many violent incidents between police and residents. Stores were looted, people were beaten, and cars and buildings were set alight.