New York Amsterdam News coverage of the 1967 Newark Uprising (243757)
Credit: AmNews Archives

On Sunday, activists in Newark came together to commemorate 53 years since the 1967 Newark Uprising.

On July 12, 1967, two white Newark police officers arrested and brutally beat Black cab driver, John William Smith. The beating came as Newark was experiencing fierce racial tensions between Black citizens and white politicians who were running the city.

The night of the beating, an uprising ensued lasting four days leading to over 1,400 arrests, over 700 injuries, and it left 26 people dead. The uprising was part of what was known as “The Long Hot Summer” where 159 other cities also saw uprisings among Black citizens who were experiencing racial injustices across the country.

Last weekend, The People’s Organization for Progress (POP) organized the 1967 Newark Rebellion Commemoration March and Rally on the 53rd anniversary of the uprising. The march started at the monument dedicated to those killed during the unrest, located at Springfield Avenue between Hayes Street and Irvine Turner Boulevard.

Speakers included family members of those who were killed and residents of Newark at that time. Smith’s brother, James, also spoke at the commemoration. Community leaders and activists discussed how the rebellion was sparked by police brutality and how what happened then is still relevant today.

“People want to put the past behind them so they can move forward,” said Lawrence Hamm of POP. “But at the same time the issues of the past continue to bedevil us. So you can’t escape the past.”

Filmmaker and Newark native Kevin McLaughlin recently released the documentary “Riot,” which explores the causes and long-term effects of the Newark Uprising. Narrated by Emmy-winner Andre Braugher, the film features interviews with every mayor elected in Newark since 1967, including current U.S. Senator Cory Booker. There are also interviews with dozens of other witnesses, first-responders, historians and community activists.

The documentary features all-new footage and exclusive footage about the #BlackLivesMatter movement and current other civil unrest across the country.

“I can’t think of any film more fitting for what’s going on in the world today,” said Jerry Nardella of Rainmaker Management, the executive producers of the film. “The similarities between 1967 and today are both amazing and very sad.”