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More Voices on the 1991 Riot

Phillip Kalantzis Cope

Yesterday, we told you about a post by the Neither More Nor Less blog that marked the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Memorial Day riot in Tompkins Square Park.

Bob Arihood, the author of Neither More Nor Less, correctly noted that we erred in indicating that the riot was sparked because of the park’s homeless population.

“This riot was not about a homeless encampment in Tompkins Square Park . It was the result of the enforcement of the ending time of a concert . the concert goers were mostly drunk . bottles had been stashed in preparation for a riot . Cops and drunks confronted each other and nature took its course”

And longtime resident Martin Johnson offered his recollection of the evening.

“The street and sidewalks were cluttered with the debris of a riot, and police with combat gear were everywhere. When I reached 9th St, a policeman stopped me and asked me where I thought I was going. I told him “home,” and that I lived on Avenue A near 14th. He asked if I had some ID or a utility bill to prove it. My Driver’s License uses my mailing address, so I told him I didn’t have anything other than my word (which had usually been good enough). He threw me against the side of the building which now houses Cafe Pick Me Up and told me I was lying and that if I didn’t get off of *his* block, he was going to shove his nightstick down my throat.

You can read Mr. Johnson’s complete account of the night here.

Join the conversation: Do you have any memories of the riot on Memorial Day 1991? Please share them in the comments section below.