The Jersey City Riots of 1964 began on this day, lasting for three nights before police quieted the skirmishes. While the root of the riots was based on the arrest of a pair of Black residents, the especially tense racial climate at the time was also a contributing factor.
The Lafayette section of Jersey City, N.J. was an impoverished African-American neighborhood besieged by many of the ills that are still present today. The arrest of 26-year-old Delores Shannon for disorderly conduct and for being drunk in public was the catalyst. When 34-year-old Walter Mays approached the police to intervene, he too was arrested and they were hauled off to jail.
United in frustration, a few dozen Black people marched to the station to protest. Armed police officers greeted the angry crowd, and they were eventually dispersed but not before some of the group ran down a white motorist, beating him and other occupants in the vehicle.
Mayor Thomas Whelan met with CORE Chairman John Bell, NAACP officials, and City Councilman Fred Martin and members of the clergy to hear out the residents. Many complained of inadequate park space, jobs, and other necessary resources and issued a series of demands. The mayor cited budgetary limits as to why many of the items requested during the session would go ignored.
This only served to fuel the rioters. The riots were eventually quelled when community leaders went into the are and shared that at least one demand, the reopening of two parks, would be heeded and a promise to address other needs would soon come. The riots ended on Aug. 5.
In the end, 46 people were injured and 52 people were arrested. Just over 70 businesses and homes were also damaged.
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