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.