Twenty years ago a tragic car accident in Crown Heights Brooklyn escalated into a pogrom against the Jewish people. The media gives it a politically correct description, violence between the area’s Blacks and Jews. However the violence was not two-sided. The Crown Heights riot was an attack on the Jews by the neighborhood’s Caribbean community fueled in part by Al Sharpton, now an MSNBC host and adviser to President Obama.
The events beginning August 19, 1991 were whitewashed by the media and political spin-masters. The below is what really happened, without the myths or the spin.
Black Antisemitism-Summer of 1991
On July 20, 1991, Leonard Jeffries of City College who had a history of anti-Semitic slurs gave a two hour speech
claiming “rich Jews” financed the slave trade, and control the film industry (together with Italian mafia), the Jews use that control to paint a brutal stereotype of blacks. Jeffries also attacked Diane Ravitch, (Assistant Secretary of Education) calling her a “sophisticated Texas Jew,” “a debonair racist” and “Miss Daisy.
Jeffries’ speech received enormous negative press during the first weeks of August. With each criticism leaders in the African-American community rushed to Jeffries’ defense. Black newspapers in NYC and the black radio station WLIB, already a forum for anti-Semitic rants;
joined black activists such Al Sharpton, Colin Moore, C. Vernon Mason, Sonny Carson, and Lenora Fulani expressing their approval of Jeffries’s “scholarship” and denouncing people who criticized his Antisemitism as race baiters.
Al Sharpton’s infamous line, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” wasn’t a response to the Crown Heights violence as typically stated, but about the Jeffries controversy. It was reported Newsday (in an article called “Sharpton Calls for a Boycott of Classes.”) on August 18th the day before the riots.
Initially, Jeffries was fired because of his bigoted speech (he was later reinstated and won a court case surrounding his firing), leading to heightened resentment of Jews by a Black community already being barraged with anti-Jewish incitement from the African-American media.
Crown Heights Ignited
On Monday 8/19/91 a station wagon driven by Yosef Lifsh, hit another car and bounced onto the sidewalk at 8:21 p.m. The station wagon was part of a 3-car motorcade carrying the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. The Rebbe was in a different car.
The station wagon struck two black children, 7-year-old cousins Gavin and Angela Cato who were on the sidewalk. Lifsh immediately got out of his car and tried to help the children gathering crowd started to attack him.
Within minutes, an ambulance from the Hasidic-run ambulance service, and two from the city’s Emergency Medical Service arrived. Also the gathering crowd became unruly. The police who showed up radioed for backup reporting the station wagon’s driver and passengers were being assaulted. Police officer Nona Capace ordered the Hasidic ambulance to remove the battered Yosef Lifsh, and his passenger from the scene.
The injured children went by separate city ambulances to Kings County Hospital. Gavin Cato was pronounced dead; his cousin survived.
A rumor spread that the Hasidic ambulance crew had ignored the dying black child in favor of treating the Jewish men. This falsehood was later used by Al Sharpton to incite the crowd.
Charles Price, an area resident who had come to the scene of the accident, incited the masses with claims that, “The Jews get everything they want. They’re killing our children.” Price later pled guilty for inciting the crowd to murder Yankel Rosenbaum.
According to the New York Times
, more than 250 neighborhood residents, mostly black teenagers, many of whom were shouting “Jews! Jews! Jews!”
A rumor spread that
Lifsh was intoxicated. A breath alcohol test administered by the police proved his sobriety. Other falsehoods were circulated; Lifsh did not have a valid driver’s license, the police prevented people including Gavin Cato’s father, from assisting in the rescue.
Ignited by the falsehoods, resentment exploded into violence. Groups of young black men threw rocks, bottles and debris at police, residents and homes.
Three hours after the tragic crash, 29-year-old Australian Jewish scholar Yankel Rosenbaum was attacked by a gang of Black teens. He was stabbed four times. Cops quickly arrested Lemrick Nelson, who was identified by Rosenbaum as his attacker.
Rosenbaum’s wounds were not fatal he was expected to recover, Mayor Dinkins visited Rosenbaum at the hospital. Yankel died at 2:30am Tuesday because the hospital staff missed one of his knife wounds.
The next evening, according to the sworn testimony of Efraim Lipkind
, a former Hasidic resident of Crown Heights, Sharpton started agitating the crowd.
“Then we had a famous man, Al Sharpton, who came down, and he said Tuesday night, kill the Jews, two times. I heard him, and he started to lead a charge across the street to Utica.”
With each passing hour the violence worsened, Jewish leaders began to desperately complain about the lack of protection to the authorities. They said, the rioters were being allowed to rampage unchecked, too little force was being brought to bear, and too few arrests were being made. Area Jews felt the police were under orders to hold back, that the police were cowering in the face of rioters who only grew wilder as they sense the appeasement.
The campaign of street violence against the Crown Heights Jews lasted for three days/four nights after the accident. On Thursday, cops finally restored order. Although the continual violence was stopped, spurts of against Jews continued for weeks after the riot was deemed contained.
Yankel Rosenbaum wasn’t the only person murdered by the rioters. On September 5th, Italian-American, Anthony Graziosi
, was dragged out of his car, brutally beaten and stabbed to death because his full beard and dark clothing caused him to be mistaken for a Hasidic Jew.
reported that New York City Mayor David Dinkins responded by deploying 2,000 police officers and making a personal visit to the troubled neighborhood under a hail of rocks and epithets hurled at him by fellow blacks.
During the funeral of Gavin Cato on August 26th, Al Sharpton gave an anti-Semitic eulogy, which fueled the fires of hatred.
“The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. … All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds.”
Regarding the Mayor’s call for peace Sharpton pontificated:
“They don’t want peace, they want quiet.”
Sharpton and the lawyer representing the Cato family counseled them not to cooperate with authorities in the investigation and demanded a special prosecutor be named.
Sharpton was asked about the violence, he
justified it, “We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system,”
The first Sabbath after the riot was over Sharpton tried unsuccessfully to kick up tensions again by marching 400 protesters in front of the Lubavitch of Crown Heights shouting “No Justice, No Peace.“
Sharpton called for the arrest
of Lifsh. Even though more than twenty similarly accidental vehicular deaths had occurred in Brooklyn since 1989 without a single arrest several involving local Hasidim run down by blacks. The agitator’s pressure led Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, into convening a grand jury.
When the investigation of the accident did not produce a criminal indictment against Yosef Lifsh, Al Sharpton encouraged the Cato family to seek big-bucks damages in a civil suit against Lifsh (who had since fled to Israel for his own safety). Sharpton announced that he would personally serve papers on Yosef Lifsh in Israel. He bought tickets and hopped an El-Al flight on the weekend of Yom Kippur. At Ben Gurion Airport, a woman spotted Sharpton hailing a cab and yelled to him, “Go to hell!
“I am in hell already,” shot back. “I am in Israel.”
Sharpton abandoned Crown Heights as soon as the anti-Semitic violence had died down. Sadly had he not exploited the death of Gavin Cato for his own “resume”, what was by all accounts, a disorganized group of ruffians the first night of the riot might well have dissipated the morning after the accident.
There were no reports during the three days and four nights of rioting in Crown Heights, and the marches that followed, that any black leader, stood up to denounce the Antisemitism or the violence of the rioters, not even the even the ones who professed to be clergymen.
The violence was one-sided a rampage by some of the neighborhood’s 180,000 strong black majority against a Jewish minority of 20,000.
The preferred media explanation was the Crown Heights riot was two-sided, both blacks and Jews were equal in their violence.
Maybe the media sugarcoats the riot because it was unprecedented in American history. Perhaps it is impossible for the liberal psyche to perceive blacks as purveyors of bigotry, instead of being the victims of hate.
Complicating the issue at the time was just five months earlier the infamous Rodney King beating occurred. This act of police brutality against the African American King was repeated ad nauseum on TV.
After the King case, who could believe that blacks in America could ever take over the role of racists, but that is what happened, blacks were shouting anti-Semitic slogans, and explicitly proclaiming themselves to be the reincarnations of Hitler, they sought to destroy and/or drive out their Jewish neighbors by force.
The deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum are viewed as some sort of a” tit for tat.” This is a misrepresentation of the facts. Cato’s death was the result of a tragic accident; Rosenbaum was deliberately stabbed four times by an angry mob. Sadly Anthony Graziosi’s death has been forgotten.
Many in the Jewish community felt the city’s first Black Mayor, David Dinkins was complacent in the violence, holding back the police from protecting the Jewish community, but that has never been proved.
What’s more likely is that lack of police action was caused by Dinkins’ incompetence instead of a conscious decision to allow the violence against the Jewish community to continue.
Nevertheless the pogrom dealt a death blow to Dinkins’ mayoral career. Jews had voted for him in overwhelming numbers to give him a narrow victory over Rudy Giuliani in 1989, switched sides, giving Giuliani the win against Dinkins in 1993.
To this day, the media refuses to acknowledge that African-Americans can be racists, and Antisemitism is still ignored by the media. News networks invite anti-Semitic representatives of CAIR or former CIA agent Michael Scheuer to participate on their programs as experts, but these same “experts” contend that American Jews run the media and the Government. Huffington Post regularly allows Media Matters’ MJ Rosenberg on their front page where he too uses anti-Semitic stereotypes.
As for Al Sharpton, he went on to lead a second pogrom, against a Jewish-owned business in Harlem. I suppose it was his experience in leading two anti-Semitic pogroms that gave Sharpton the expertise he needed to be an adviser to the first “post-racial “President, Barack Obama and the latest evening anchor for MSNBC. Sharpton’s rise to respectability proves how little has been learned from the Crown Heights anti-Jewish violence which took place twenty years ago.