From August 2—4, 1964, Jersey City, New Jersey, was the site of one of the first race riots to occur after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The New York Times reported that the race riot in Jersey City was instigated by the arrest of a black woman on a disorderly conduct charge. Initial estimates attributed the disorders of the first night to some 800 African Americans who were looting, throwing rocks and stones at cars, and attempting to pull people out of the cars. Civil rights leaders from the Jersey City Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
Attempted to meet with then Mayor Thomas J. Whelan on August 3 to discuss the demands of the black residents of Jersey City. The first meeting with the mayor lasted only twenty-six minutes, and newspaper reports included frustrated quotes from local NAACP president Raymond A. Brown and the local head of CORE, James Bell. Raymond Brown stated that nothing of value happened at the meeting and James Bell believed that the mayor's solution would be to unleash police with nightstick.
Black leaders had a difficult time trying to address the issues of the 280,000 blacks who lived in Jersey City at that time. Black youths interviewed in the paper demanded that the mayor address the main concerns that had led to the rioting. According to one youth, this meant that city officials should agree to hire more black policemen and clean up the city to make it livable. The city had limited the recreational facilities for black youth by closing parks due to what the city claimed was a lack of the necessary funding to keep the parks maintained.
Mayor Whelan was heavily criticized in the media by African American leaders for refusing to negotiate with them about trying to address the poor living standards and social conditions of low-income blacks. The mayor was accused of failing even to provide an open forum to discuss the best ways to proceed. On the second night of the riots, the mayor was interviewed by local reporters, who interrogated him regarding his refusal to discuss the issues with leaders from the African American community. Whelan argued that black leaders had brought in hooligan youth to negotiate with them. He also stated that the expectations for immediate resolutions were unrealistic given the financial state of the city at the time of the riots.
On the third night, 400 policemen were dispatched to deal with rioters. A group of black clergymen also went through neighborhoods in cars with bullhorns and sound equipment usually used by the NAACP for voter registration. The ministers encouraged blacks to stop rioting and announced that one of their demands had been met and that the city had agreed to reopen the two local parks that had been previously closed. The final result of the riots, as reported in national newspapers, was that at least forty-six people were injured, fifty-two people were arrested, and seventy-one stores or businesses were damaged. See also Long Hot Summer Riots, 1965 — 1967.
Further Readings: Apple, R. W. ''Mayor Deplores Jersey City's Lot: Whelan Links Negro Goals to Long-Term Remedies'' in special to The New York Times, August 7, 1964, 12; ''New Racial Riot Hits Jersey City as Parley Fails; Bombs and Bricks Hurled by Gangs of Youths—400 Policemen Called In; Panel Truck Set Afire; Violence Erupts as Negro Leaders and Officials Hold Futile Meetings; New Racial Riot Breaks Out in Jersey City as Parley Collapses'' in special to The New York Times, August 4, 1964, 1; Powledge, Fred. ''Scattered Violence Keeps Jersey City Tense 3d Night: 400 Policemen Confine Most of Rioters to Two Sections—Crowds Watch in Streets Despite Danger'' in special to the New York Times, August 5, 1964, 1; Powledge, Fred. ''Fighting the System: Negro Violence Viewed as a Reaction to Frustrations of Ghetto Wastelands.'' New York Times, August 6, 1964, 18; Wright, George Cable. ''Riots Were Bred in a City in Decline.'' New York Times, August 5, 1964, 36.
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