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RIOTS AT TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK [1988]

In the late 1980s, Tompkins Square Park had become a gathering place for homeless populations, squatters, “rowdy” youth and “punks.” In June 1988, mounting opposition from neighborhood residents resulted in the local Community Board recommending a 1 AM curfew on the park, which was adopted by the Parks Department  and enforced the NYPD’s 9th precinct. They confined homeless people to the southeast quadrant of the park and evicted all the rest. On July 31, the park’s residents and other New Yorkers concerned about public access to parks organized a protest against the curfew, which resulted in the arrest of four men on charges of inciting to riot and the injury of six police officers and several civilians. The protesters organized another rally on August 6 which was described by The New York Times as a bloody “war zone” that lasted through the night. About 150-200 protesters came through the St. Mark’s Place entrance holding banners proclaiming “Gentrification is Class War.” Thirty eight people suffered injuries and nine people were arrested. More than 100 police misconduct complaints where made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board as videos and images of the event surfaced. Fourteen officers were tried, but none were convicted. Twenty years later, the Times reflected on the riots as a “cherished memory and a scar, with the protesters seen as either the romantic defenders of a losing cause or merely a collection of hooligans.’ Today, the park’s curfew still stands.