Friday A/V Club: Watch New York Cops Riot Against the Mayor—in 1992

An earlier—and rowdier—revolt at the NYPD


The NYPD's revolt against Bill de Blasio isn't unprecedented. Indeed, when thousands of cops rallied against an earlier New York mayor in 1992, things got a lot rowdier:

That old NY1 report only scratches the surface of what happened. Here's a contemporaneous New York Times report on the riot:

Thousands of off-duty police officers thronged around City Hall [on September 16], swarming through police barricades to rally on the steps of the hall and blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for nearly an hour in the most unruly and angry police demonstration in recent memory.

The 300 uniformed officers who were supposed to control the crowd did little or nothing to stop the protesters from jumping barricades, tramping on automobiles, mobbing the steps of City Hall or taking over the bridge. In some cases, the on-duty officers encouraged the protesters.

The L.A. riots were just four and a half months earlier.

While the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association had called the rally to protest Mayor David N. Dinkins's proposal to create an independent civilian agency that would look into police misconduct, the huge turnout—estimated by the Police Department at 10,000 protesters—and the harsh emotional pitch reflected widespread anger among rank-and-file officers toward the Mayor for his handling of riots against the police in Washington Heights last July, his refusal to give them semiautomatic weapons and his appointment of an outside panel to investigate corruption….

While about 6,000 officers participated in a peaceful rally on Murray Street, more than 4,000 swarmed over police barricades, blocked the entry to City Hall and later marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where they tied up traffic for nearly an hour. Neither the leadership of the P.B.A. nor senior officers of the department were able to control them….

During most of that time, there were no uniformed officers on the bridge, though four officers on scooters arrived shortly after noon. They did virtually nothing to control the crowd. At one point, a New York Times photographer who was taking pictures was surrounded by demonstrators, punched in the back and shoved. A police lieutenant told the photographer, Keith Meyers, that he should leave the bridge. "I can't protect you up here," the officer said. A New York Times reporter, Alan Finder, was also kicked in the stomach.

Make no mistake: I do not in any sense support the PBA in its current battle with de Blasio. But I certainly prefer the cops' current tactics to their conduct in '92. Refusing to make bullshit arrests beats kicking people in the belly any day.

Bonus links: For a much earlier example of New York cops rioting, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

NEXT: More Police WTF: Alabama Man Shot, Killed by Police While Turning in Stray Cat

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I bet they never got the independent review board.

    1. It wouldn’t surprise me if the CCRB has been colonized by the police union.

      Check this out:

      “In mediation, the officer and civilian both voluntarily bypass the investigative process and meet each other one-on-one with a third party mediator to discuss the incident and resolve it. This results in no disciplinary action being taken against the officer and often results in a more satisfied civilian as an outcome.[14]”


      Is this standard procedure? Does the independent commission say, “Yeah, we’ll work on this for you, but first we want you to sit down with the officer that wronged you and talk it out with him face to face”?

      We don’t do that with rapists and their alleged attackers for obvious reasons. If you must have a personal confrontation, one on one, with the officer in question before your complaint can be escalated, that would seem to be one hell of a big deterrent to following through on a complaint.

      They say they don’t use that process if there was “no arrest made and severe force or abuse of authority were not involved”, but as the infamous Torture Memo shows, words like “severe” are open to interpretation–by people who want them interpreted differently. And if a cop doesn’t arrest you after he brutalizes you, then he doesn’t have to worry about the Civilian Complaint Review Board?

      Sometimes cops don’t arrest people they brutalize. It happens all the time.

      1. I had a thought the other day … letting government define its own limits is like letting criminals define crime.

        Then it occurred to me that it is *exactly* the same. In every way. Literally.

        It was both depressing and refreshing.

        1. Well, as libertarians, if there’s anything we mostly agree on, it might be that when you regulate something, the people with the biggest financial interests in that regulation try to influence and colonize the agency that’s regulating them.

          It works that way with banks, airlines, taxicabs, and everything else–including the police, I’m sure. The police unions in New York City have deep pockets and tremendous influence, and as demonstrated in that video up yonder, they care a lot about an independent review board.

          Why wouldn’t they have influenced and colonized it over the last couple of decades?

          An independent review board of the police isn’t the answer. What they need is an independent prosecutors’ office–run by someone whose job doesn’t depend on winning an endorsement from the police unions.

          1. What everybody needs is victim prosecution. Leaving it to government agents is letting the government define its own limits. Oh, and victim prosecution eliminates victimless crimes, although the nannies will always claim that seeing green hair hurts them, so green hair should be prosecutable.

      2. Isn’t it great that it’s called the Civilian Review Board?

  2. “[In 1857, t]he massive police corruption under Mayor Fernando Wood’s administration prompted the New York state legislature to relieve the city official of control over the police force.”

    Imagine today’s state government doing something about police corruption (other than furthering it).

  3. When I think of an NYPD police riot, I think of the Tompkins Square Park Riot–where the NYPD let loose and started beating the shit out of the press and other innocent bystanders.


      1. Now now, Jesse, it’s not like you’ve written a book or are any kind of authority or anything.

      2. Police brutality was a big deal in hardcore circles. There were probably more hardcore songs, back in the day, about police brutality than there were about Reagan.

        Tompkins Square seems to have been swept under the collective memory rug by a lot of people–present company excluded. Maybe it’s because they dismissed the rioters in the press as a bunch of skinheads. Maybe it’s because pre-AOL contemporary history wasn’t covered online. Maybe it was overshadowed by the Crown Heights riot.

        Maybe Tompkins Square was trivialized for being a footnote in Rent; once you’ve made something into a Broadway Musical, who takes it seriously anymore?

        But the NYPD doesn’t seem to have changed significantly in terms of accountability since Tompkins Square. And I have to start sympathizing with civilian rioters at some point.

        People used to think that the problem was that they couldn’t get the police doing this stuff on camera. We still hear people say that wearable cameras and dash cams are the solution. Tompkins Square, Rodney King, and Eric Garner show that it doesn’t if you get it on camera.

        What are civilians supposed to do if catching police brutality on camera doesn’t make any difference?

        1. What are civilians supposed to do

          please stop

          1. Give it a rest. We all know cops are civilians. It’s just differentiating cops from non-cops. For cop purposes, even the military are civilians.

            1. We could use “little people”, as in “You’re not cop, you’re little people” from Blade Runner but little people might find it confusing.

          2. It depends on context. Look at a good dictionary. It will recognize both usages as proper.

        2. The Rio Alto study demonstrates that body cameras do work.

  4. my co-worker’s step-sister makes $74 an hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $16572 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read Full Report…………
    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  5. These are the people who man the gates of civilization, holding back the scourge of anarchism and lawlessness.

    1. “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.”-Richard J. Daley

  6. my co-worker’s step-mother makes $82 /hour on the laptop . She has been fired from work for ten months but last month her pay was $13096 just working on the laptop for a few hours. check here……..

  7. The NYPD is once again proving that those who view them as “Thugs in Blue” aren’t wrong. And as the NYPD’s reputation goes, so goes that of all American police.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.