On August 6, 1988, police clashed with protesters in Tompkins Square Park in a riot that lasted early into the next morning. People had gathered in Tompkins to protest the city’s proposed 1 a.m. curfew, which Mayor Koch said would clean up the “cesspool” of a park. The clash turned violent, and police were widely blamed for their role. The Times reported it as a “police riot,” and a report compiled by the commissioner and department officials reiterated claims that it was an unorganized and confusing mess.
The curfew was instated due to residents’ fear that the park had been taken over by drug dealers and vagrants. Because of the violent riot, Mayor Koch had to temporarily rescind the curfew. The park currently closes at either midnight or dusk, depending on which sign you read.
East Village artist and resident Clayton Patterson shot video of the riot and stills taken from his footage were printed in the Voice. Some of the video can be seen here, and it features images of police beatings as well as injured protesters.
In 2008, the Parks Department reluctantly approved a punk concert to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the riot. This year, a march to honor the recently closed Mars Bar will be held using the date of the Tompkins Square Park riot as a symbolic identifier of how much the neighborhood has changed. The march will start at 8 p.m. on the corner of Third Street and Second Avenue.
The Parks Department is remembering this historic date belatedly with a screening of the Nic Cage film ‘Kick-Ass‘ in Tompkins this Thursday.