It’s been 25 years since the Caribbean combined Jewish Brooklyn community of Crown Heights erupted with rage after two Guyanese seven-year-olds were struck and fatally injured by Lubavitcher Yosef Lifsch whose station-wagon veered onto the sidewalk hitting the youths.
The tragic accident caused the death of the young Gavin Cato.
Compounded with that little Angela Cato his cousin who he was playing with on Aug. 19, 1991 was left pinned under a car for longer than any seven-year-old should ever have to endure.
With no assistance from the Jewish community and alleged unwillingness from a Hassidic ambulance corps nearby, Carmel Cato, Gavin’s father and family members and a mostly Caribbean and African-American assembly of Crown eights residents struggled to lift the car from her fragile body.
Yankel Rosenbaum an Australian rabbinical student paid the ultimate price. Afterwards, he suffered the wrath of angry protesters and was stabbed and killed in what was described as “revenge killing.”
It was during the mayoral rule of David N. Dinkins, the first Black to hold the position. And as far as Sonny Carson, a community activist was concerned the trailblazer regularly exhibited partiality to the Jewish community.
On Aug. 19, 1991 after the tragic car accident Carson and a group of youths took matters into their own hands. They converged outside the police precinct, marched throughout the neighborhood and for three days protested against the alleged favoritism.
Mayor Dinkins seemed cautious throughout but his NYPD Commissioner Lee P. Brown responded with force. What seemed like an entire regiment secured a perimeter of the community. Street soldiers did not seem intimidated by the blue wall of arsenal. Their numbers swelled and nights became a threatening shadow with intensified protests and even stone-throwing.
Initially, the group marched back and forth from the intersection of the traffic infringement at president St. to the 71st Precinct.
Prosecutor Rudolf Giuliani led members of the NYPD to protest against Dinkins’ apprehension by staging a demonstration at City Hall and as history shows, later that year, he handily won his bid to lead the city.
That recurring, three-day procession did not sit well with Jewish leaders and a confrontation ensued.
Although a mass showing of media houses reported on the disruption, it seemed as if the Black press was targeted for confrontation.
Reporting for the New York Amsterdam News, the largest Black outlet, yours truly and Christopher Griffith, a native of Trinidad & Tobago, a photographer were also arrested.
How some members of the NYPD behaved is still a blemish on their reputation.
I was in the midst of reporting on the St. John’s Rape Trial, a case that involved white, male, college students who allegedly drugged a native Jamaican coed after taking her to a frat house where she was allegedly sexually assaulted.
Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church made an appearance at the Queens courtroom on Aug. 20 and after that day’s proceedings I asked if he would mind taking me to the President St. scenario.
Catch You On The Inside!