2. The East Village’s Tompkins Square Park Was the Site of Two Notable Riots

Secrets of the East Village-Tompkins Square Park Riot-Manhattan-NYCDrawing of the Tompkins Square Riot of 1874/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A depression hit cities in Europe and North America and led to the financial crisis known as the Panic of 1873. During this time, there were a number of groups and workers’ movements throughout the United States that fought for the fair treatment of workers and to provide jobs to the unemployed through public service projects. One such group was The Committee of Safety in New York, formed in December of 1873. After being refused a meeting with city officials, the committee planned to hold a demonstration in Tompkins Square Park on January 13, 1874.

On the day of the demonstration, 7,000 workers gathered in the park, staging the largest demonstration that New York City had seen. 1600 policemen were stationed in the area, and attacked the workers with clubs and using other means of brutal force. 46 arrests were made and each individual’s bail was set at $1000.

Tompkins Square Park became the site of another notable riot in 1988 when the police enforced a 1 am curfew for the park in an effort to deter drug pushers, the homeless, and young skinheads from causing trouble late at night. The park had previously been open 24 hours, and some residents saw the curfew as the police taking the park away from the public. A rally was held on July 31, 1988, and another on August 6. There were 100 reports of police brutality, and it was revealed that the NYPD was responsible for inciting the riot.

Read about 10 notorious riots in NYC history.