Tompkins Square Park was not unfamiliar with protests before Aug. 6, 1988. In 1874, the New York City Police Department cut a violent swath through an uprising of thousands of discontented and unemployed citizens—an incident that would eerily echo over a century later.
In 1988, bad blood boiled between residents of the East Village, and the “denizens, drug pushers and skinheads” that were reported by newspapers to be living in the Park. Mayor Ed Koch imposed a 1 a.m. curfew at the park, though it did nothing to ease the mounting tension. On August 6, a protest of the curfew developed quickly into a brawl between hundreds of protesters and 450 riot police. Dozens of police and protesters were hospitalized, including several bystanders who were attacked without provocation.
After complaints and evidence from the riot were reviewed, it was determined—in conjunction with Police Commissioner Ben Ward’s scathing statements—that police were in the wrong and had instigated the riot. The following photo gallery and video of the events that transpired give a glimpse into the raw brutality of that summer night.