Events in Newark mark 50 years since city riots

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The city of Newark is holding special events this week to reflect on the 50-year anniversary of the Newark Riots.

The 1967 riots started due to tensions over a police arrest of a cab driver in the city. The violence lead to the deaths of 26 people.

“As an immigrant I hear the stories of 1967, but I hear the stories best from people who experienced it,” says Dr. Antoinette Ellis Williams, of Bethany Baptists Church.

People who gathered at the church Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary say that the events in 1967 represent a rebellion against a city that ignored its African-American community.

“The legacy is progress. People became very much empowered by the violence that nobody wanted,” says Abbot Leadership Institute director Junius Williams.

Newark resident Fred Means says that he saw police staking out corners in the early days of the riots, and saw the violence that lead to upheaval.

“It’s taken a long time, but there’s a long way to go,” he says.

Dennis Westbrooks says that he saw the violence all unfold in front of his office.

“I think it was a necessary happening, a necessary change,” he says.

Tensions erupted over the cab driver’s arrest, but plans to demolish housing, discrimination, unemployment and poverty fueled the riots. Some say that the 1967 riots brought the civil rights movement to the forefront of Newark.

It also forced change, as a presidential commission was created to look into the causes of urban riots in several cities that year.

“After the last embers had died out and the smoke cleared, people had realized there’s a new day in Newark,” Williams says.

Events marking the anniversary of the violence will be held every day until Saturday.

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