The Newark Riot of 1967 which took place in Newark,New Jersey from July 12 through July 17, 1967, was sparked by a display of police brutality. John Smith, an African American cab driver for the Safety Cab Company, was arrested on Wednesday July 12 when he drove his taxi around a police car and double-parked on 15th Avenue. According to a police report later released to the press, the police claimed that Smith was charged with “tailgating” and driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Smith was also charged with using offensive language and physical assault.
A witness who had seen Smith’s arrest called members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the United Freedom Party, and the Newark Community Union Project. These civil rights leaders were given permission to see Smith in his 4th Precinct holding cell. After noticing his injuries inflicted by the police, they demanded that he be transported to a hospital. Their demands were granted and Smith was moved to Beth Israel Hospital in Newark.
Around 8:00 p.m. black Newark cab drivers began to circulate the report of Smith’s arrest on their radios. Word spread down 17th Avenue, west of the precinct police station where Smith had been held. Residents in this predominantly black city recalled a long history of similar events with the Newark Police. Many of them angrily gathered on the streets facing the 4th Precinct.
Despite the presence of National Guardsmen and state troopers rioting continued for three more days. As the riot approached its final hours, 26 people, mostly African Americans, were reported killed, another 750 were injured and over 1,000 were jailed. Property damage exceeded $10 million. The riot, the worst civil disorder in New Jersey history, ended on July 17, 1967.