On the fiftieth anniversary of the Newark Rebellion, Institute President and CEO Ryan P. Haygood writes in the New York Times:
Violent encounters with the police catalyzed the Newark Rebellion, just as they did the protests in hundreds of other cities across America in 1967. But these events came after decades of frustration and justifiable anger about the enduring effects of poverty, racism and a lack of opportunity. Indeed, Life magazine described what happened in Newark as a “predictable insurrection.”
As such, what happened in Newark was not a riot. It was a rebellion, an act of empowerment meant to resist the oppressive conditions under which Newark residents had been forced to live. Consider the extreme racial polarization in the city at the time: White people virtually monopolized political power, and the police force was about 90 percent white in a city with a substantial black population…
Indeed, law enforcement abuses in Newark have been so pervasive that in July 2014, the Department of Justice announced a pattern of widespread civil rights violations in the Newark Police Department. It found that Newark’s police officers had no legal basis for 75 percent of their pedestrian stops from 2009 to 2012, which were used disproportionately against black people. In addition, the Newark police detained innocent people for “milling,” “loitering” or “wandering.”
But police abuse is just one of the many challenges that Newark residents face. The city is home to one of the largest transportation hubs in the United States, Fortune 500 businesses, world-class research universities and cultural institutions, and a large network of hospitals and community health centers. And a majority of the people who work here earn more than $40,000 a year, according to a report just released by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
But this prosperity is not shared by a majority of Newark residents. Nearly one in three of the city’s black residents lives in poverty.