New York Amsterdam News coverage of the 1986 Howard Beach racial incident (227654)
Credit: AmNews Archives

Rev. Al Sharpton and the family of Michael Griffith are gathering on Tuesday, Dec. 20 to commemorate 30 years since the racially motivated 1986 death of Griffith in Howard Beach, Queens.

The event will take place at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church Parish Center located at 1344 Lincoln Place in Brooklyn at 7 p.m.

On the Friday, December 19, 1986, Griffith was one of four Black men four Black men riding in a car when it broke down on the Cross Bay Boulevard near Broad Channel. Three of the men walked about three miles to seek help in the mostly white Howard Beach neighborhood. They were encoutered by a group of white teens and argued then left.

After stopping at a pizzeria the three were confronted by a group of about 10 white men who were with the group they had earlier confronted. Racial slurs were exchanged and a fight ensued. Griffith and one of his friends was seriously beaten. While trying to escape his attackers, Griffith ran in front of a moving car and was killed on Shore Parkway.

The incident ignited racial tensions in the city. Sharpton led a protest march with 1,200 people through the streets of Howard Beach about a week after the incident.

Nine people in total were convicted on a variety of charges related to Griffith’s death. Three of the white attacker were convicted of manslaughter. Jon Lester was sentenced to 10 to 30 years, Scott Kern was sentenced to six to 18 years and Jason Ladone received a sentence of five to 15 years.

In 1999, Pacific Street between Albany and Ralph Avenues in Brooklyn was renamed after Griffith.