Tuesday, July 12, the People’s Organization for Progress hosted its annual observation of the anniversary of the epic Newark Rebellion.
The gathering took place at at the Rebellion Monument, located at the intersection of Springfield Avenue, 15th Avenue and Irvine Turner Boulevard.
This year’s observation comes on the heels of the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. It also comes as Newark installs its new Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Monday, P.O.P. held its 24th consecutive Justice Monday protest to demand federal investigations into four active police shooting cases in New Jersey. Demonstrators marched from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Peter Rodino Federal Building.
“We cannot sit back and let this review board be reduced to something ceremonial with no real authority and power,” said P.O.P Founder and Chairman Larry Hamm. “So there is nothing ceremonial about this year’s observation in the least,”
On July 12, 1967, John Smith, a Black cab driver, was dragged out of his car and savagely beaten by several Newark police officers and taken into custody at the old Fifth Precinct. Rumors quickly swirled that Smith died inside.
The precinct was quickly surrounded with protesters. Others began throwing rocks and bottles at white-owned property. Over the next several days, the uprising tore down several major corridors in Newark, most significantly Springfield Avenue.
When the state called in troops to occupy the city and put down the rebellion, more than two dozen unarmed civilians were killed. The uprising inspired uprisings in 75 other American cities, many throughout the state of New Jersey.
Just days after the departure of occupying troops, the late Amiri Baraka, who survived a beating and arrest by the police, convened a national Black Power Conference.
The rebellion also triggered a movement in the Black community to vote to elect Blacks to leadership posts in Black-majority communities all over the country. The movement lead to the election of Kenneth Gibson as Newark’s first Black mayor in 1970.