Friday, May 23, 2008


Not again.....Please not again..........

In my last post, I mentioned how Brooklyn had been eating itself alive in the time I spent there. This was from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's. Crack had taken the entire city by the throat. During the summer months, you had a hard time distinguishing the gunshots from the firecrackers. In the summer of 1991 however, Crown Heights exploded with a wave of racial violence that pitted Jew vs. black, religion vs. race. This was a full year before the LA/Rodney King riots in, and while not on the same scale in terms of size, it was just as ugly. (The Wikipedia article is pretty good, and explains things well.)

Everyone was afraid that these riots would spread. If you worked EMS in that area during that time, you put large swaths of tape over the driver's side and passenger side windows of your ambulance if you had to respond to a call in there. If someone were to throw a projectile into them, the hope was that the tape would minimize the spray of glass particles. You just had to hope no one put something through the windshield.

When riding through Crown Heights back then, it was as if you stepped into a Czechoslovakian revolution. Riot police were everywhere, being taunted by Orthodox Jews and blacks alike. Madness had gripped Crown Heights; madness that was just as potent as the small white rocks that were smoked in glass pipes in alleyways and homes. The old prejudices of fear, religion and race were stoked, and the fires that blazed from the overturned cars and trashcans made you wonder if perhaps a mini-Armageddon was being witnessed.

Everyone was fair game. EMS, police, FDNY, what-have-you. An EMT unit from my station had a brick thrown through the driver's side window of their ambulance. ("Bus," in NYC-EMS vernacular.) The tape did its job, and the both of them escaped without injury. I got lucky, and nothing happened to me during that time, save for being screamed at by protesters when being escorted by police into a building on a call.

If there was any good that came out of the insanity of those days, it is that the Hasidic and black communities started talking to one another after the violence ended. It took a long time, but good relations were established, and it appears as if the report today of the Hasidic boy that was assaulted and robbed was the victim of a gang initiation as opposed to the start of a wider display of hatred. (At least, this is what the video report from NYC Ch. 2 would seem to suggest.)

I hope so. The very idea that the Heights would return to the old bigotries is not something I would like to hear about.

New: Then again, I might be wrong....

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