The Newark Riot of 1967 began with the arrest of a cab driver named
John Smith, who allegedly drove around a double-parked police car at
the corner of 7th St. and 15th Avenue. He was subsequently stopped,
interrogated, arrested, and transported to the 4th precinct headquarters.
During that time he was severely beaten by the arresting officers. As
news of the arrest spread, a crowd began to assemble in front of the
precinct house, located directly across from a high-rise public housing
project. When the police allowed a small group of civil rights leaders
to visit the prisoner, they demanded that Mr. Smith be taken to a hospital.
Emerging from the building, these civil rights leaders begged the crowd
to stay calm, but were shouted down. Rumor spread that John Smith had
died in police custody, despite the fact he had been taken out the back
entrance and transported to a local hospital. Soon a volley of bricks
and bottles was launched at the precinct house and police stormed out
to confront the assembly. As the crowd dispersed, they began to break
into stores on the nearby commercial thoroughfares. Eventually, violence
spread from the predominantly black neighborhoods of Newark's Central
Ward to Downtown Newark, and the New Jersey State Police were mobilized.
Within 48 hours, National Guard troops entered the city. With the arrival
of these troops the level of violence intensified. At the conclusion
of six days of rioting 26 people lay dead, an estimated 725 people were
injured, and close to 1500 people had been arrested.