Amsterdam News coverage of the 1967 Newark Rebellion (151023)
Credit: Amsterdam News Archives

On Friday, July 12, the People’s Organization for Progress is hosting its annual observation of the anniversary of the epic Newark Rebellion.

A gathering is taking place at the Rebellion Monument, located at the intersection of Springfield Avenue, 15th Avenue and Irvine Turner Boulevard.

On July 12, 1967, John Smith, a Black cab driver, was dragged out of his car and 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.

This year’s observance comes as the Newark Police Department undergoes a major reform effort under the oversight of a federal monitor. Just weeks ago, the city won a victory in the state’s Appellate Court for the first Civilian Complaint Review Board in both the city and the state.

On Monday, P.O.P. held its Justice Monday to protest police brutality across the nation. Demonstrators gathered at the Peter Rodino Federal Building. The protest commemorated the 10th anniversary of the police killing of Jahqui Graham while in custody in East Orange, as well as the killings of Alton Sterling in 2016, Philandro Castile in 2016, Sandra Bland in 2015 and Randy Weaver in 1999, which all took place in July.