The People’s Organization For Progress (POP) organized a 1967 Newark Rebellion Commemoration March and Rally on the 55th anniversary of the uprising on Tuesday. The march started at the monument dedicated to those killed during the unrest on Springfield Avenue in Downtown Newark.
Speakers included family members of those who were killed during the rebellion, residents of Newark at that time, and community leaders and activists. They discussed how the rebellion was sparked by police brutality and how what happened then is still relevant today.
“The 1967 Newark uprising was sparked by a police brutality incident. At that time people in the city demanded a police review board with subpoena powers. Fifty-five years later we are still demanding the same thing,” said Lawrence Hamm, chairman, People’s Organization For Progress. “It’s a damn shame that we have to fight for something that other cities like New York have had for more than 50 years. However, we will continue to fight until we get it.”
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.
Tuesday’s commemoration also highlighted continuing struggles with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). P.O.P. is a part of a statewide movement to have several major police reform bills passed into law, including the CCRB Bill A1515/S2295 that would mandate Civilian Review Boards with full subpoena power, independent and concurrent investigatory power, and community character for any municipality seeking one.