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'DAY OF OUTRAGE' MARCH ENDS IN VIOLENCE
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
|in: New York Times, September 1, 1989|
The vanguard of a mile-long protest march against racism and the recent killing of a black youth clashed with the police last night as it tried to force its way through lines of helmeted, riot-equipped officers on the Brooklyn approach to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Night sticks flailed and bottles and bricks flew as the leading ranks of a predominantly black crowd of 7,500 demonstrators breached the police lines in an attempt to cross the bridge and carry the protest into Manhattan.
At least 20 police officers sustained injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones, and an unknown number of demonstrators were hurt in the 20-minute melee. Four people, including two photographers, were also arrested as the police kept the protesters off the bridge's roadways.
The violence, which erupted just before 7 P.M., was the culmination of a march of angry, chanting demonstrators that had begun at Grand Army Plaza about 5 P.M. and moved northward, noisily but peacefully, through downtown Brooklyn, disrupting traffic at the height of the rush hour.
The demonstration, billed as a "Day of Outrage and Mourning," had been called to protest the killing of a black youth, 16-year-old Yusuf K. Hawkins, by a gang of white youths in Bensonhurst on Aug. 23, and the slaying of the former Black Panther leader, Huey P. Newton, in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 22.
It was by far the largest of a series of protests over the death of the Hawkins youth, whose killing has heightened racial tensions in New York City and forced the issue of race relations to the forefront of the mayoral campaign. [ News analysis, page B2. ] "Whose Streets? Our Streets! What's Coming? War!" the protesters chanted as they moved up Flatbush Avenue, the spine of downtown Brooklyn, in a line of marchers six abreast that occupied half the street and stretched for nearly 20 blocks.
Near the front of the line of march, 12 protesters carried two gray, symbolic coffins for Mr. Hawkins and Dr. Newton, a co-founder of the Black Panthers who became one of the most charismatic symbols of black anger in the 1960's. He was shot last week in a drug-ridden Oakland neighborhood. Carson Leads Protest
The "Day of Outrage" theme of the march echoed that of similar protests in 1987 and 1988 in the wake of the Howard Beach and Tawana Brawley cases, and the killing of Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpurs and other blacks by the police.
In the first of those protests, on Dec. 21, 1987, about 500 people halted subway and bridge traffic between Brooklyn and Manhattan and disrupted more than 700,000 commuters. Later protests were met by well-organized police tactics and caused less disruption.
Robert C. (Sonny) Carson, a Brooklyn community organizer who helped coordinate the earlier Day of Outrage protests, was one of the leaders of yesterday's protest, which involved dozens of organizations that fight discrimination against blacks, Hispanic people, homosexuals and others.
For nearly two hours yesterday, it appeared that the protest, though large, might be free of violence. The protesters seemed well coordinated, and at the direction of monitors with megaphones, had formed a vociferous but apparently disciplined line of march. Hundreds Join In
Waving placards and chanting black power slogans, they moved north on Flatbush Avenue, past rows of stores, and were spontaneously joined by hundreds of people. As reporters and television cameras recorded the march, police on motorcycles and on foot escorted the protesters.
Seeking to avert the mass disruptions of the 1987 protest, the police yesterday set up a series of barriers to halt or divert the marchers to keep them off the heavily traveled bridge roadways. They said the marchers would have been allowed to cross on the bridge's pedestrian walkway had they chosen to do so.
At the first of the police barriers, a line of vehicles and officers at Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street, the protesters were diverted onto Tillary, where they moved westward several blocks. This was in accordance with the police strategy.
Another police line at Tillary and Adams Streets had been set up to divert the marchers to the south, away from the bridge. But led by Mr. Carson, the protesters turned north on Adams, breaching the police line. The officers gave way, apparently to avert a bloody clash. 'Don't Run Around'
A final police line of vans, squad cars and about 40 officers with nightsticks confronted the marchers at the foot of the Manhattan-bound roadway of the bridge, between the Federal Court House and the Concord Village Houses.
The approach at that point has a pedestrian walkway in the center, flanked by Manhattan-bound and Brooklyn-bound vehicular roads. Concrete abutments topped by iron spikes separate the walkway from the roads.
"Just concentrate on making one arrest - don't run around helter-skelter," a sergeant told the thin blue line of officers, elbow-to-elbow, as the vast throng approached.
A protester identified as Coltrane Chemaranga, at the head of the marchers, leaped up on an abutment and told the protesters they were going to take the bridge. "Our right is to fight for our freedom," he shouted over a bullhorn. "If there is no justice, there will never be peace in New York City."
"Take the bridge," the crowd chanted as Mr. Chemaranga leaped down and walked to the center of the police line to confront the commander, David W. Scott, the Police Department's Chief of Patrol. For a moment, they stood stomach to stomach.
Chief Scott said the demonstrators could have used the bridge walkway, but chose instead to confront the police guarding the roadway. It was unclear whether the demonstrators understood this.
"Over the bridge!" someone shouted and the crowd surged forward into the police line. There was pushing and suddenly the clash erupted. Bricks, bottles and other missiles flew at the officers, who responded by swinging night sticks at protesters who tried to push through their ranks. Chief Scott was struck in the right cheek by a missile.
At least 20 officers were hit; one received 25 stitches at Bellevue Hospital for a head wound, the police said. The police said they did not know how many protesters were hurt. Hendrae Smith, 31, of Brooklyn, a demonstrator, and Clayton Patterson, who made videotape of a police clash with civilians at Tompkins Square Park last year, were charged with felonious assault. Anthony Williams, 30, of Brooklyn, a protester, and Steven Ferry, a photographer with a French agency, were charged with disorderly conduct and harassment.
The clashes, and the arrests that followed, were apparently confined to those at the head of the line of march, and many of those far to the rear did not learn of the violence until later. The clash did not end the march, but most marchers left as they learned of the violence.
However, about 800 continued the protest, marching up Adams Street to a junction of seven streets, at Fulton and Greene, called Seven Corners. There, leaders of the march delivered a series of parting remarks to about 200 who had stayed on. Then, at 8:45 P.M., the group dissolved.
"This violence was like Lebanon," said one of the protesters, James Smith, of Brooklyn.
Roy Canton, another protester, said of the police: "Only now are we seeing that these people are ready to kill. People have had enough."