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Why Would A Person Destroy Their Community?

5-Cr.-The-Star-LedgerBlocks of stores were destroyed by the rioters (image courtesy of The Star Ledger)


William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews


( week is the 53rd Anniversary of the Newark riots, also known by those who were there as the "Battle of Newark". The six-day conflict broke out on July 12, 1967, and ended on July 18, 1967. Soldiers from South Jersey who belonged to the 50th Armored Division,1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment (aka "The Jersey Blues") were called early in the morning on July 12 to report to their respective armories either in Woodbury, or Pitman. When we arrived at the armories we were told to get CNBNews Exclusivedressed in our fatigues and grab our rifles. We were loaded onto trucks and headed up the NJ Turnpikes. We didn't find out where we were going until we got off at the Newark exit. Driving on the outskirts of the city you could smell and see a heavy cloud of smoke hanging over the buildings in the distance.


Bellmawr, Mt. Ephraim, Haddon Heights,  Gloucester City, Brooklawn, Audubon, Woodbury along with many other communities in the state had residents who belonged to the Guard that were activated that day.  Besides myself, there was Ed Barnett, Billy Carr, Jim Coppola, Chalie Cloud, Ed DiGiacomo, brothers Earl and Paul Fowler, Gerald Healey, the Jackson brothers, the MacAdams brothers (Joe, Ed, Jeep, and Horace), Ed McGregor, Sam McQuaid,  Ralph Richards, Charlie Savage, Chalie Tourtual, Sid Vaultier, Don Wilson, and Skip Zirbser.

Screen Shot 2020-07-12 at 13.19.54The smoke from the fires hung over Newark for days (image courtesy of historycomestolife)

The Newark riot began as a crowd of around 200 assembled outside the Fourth Precinct station house to protest the arrest of a cab driver with chants of "police brutality." Rocks and bottles were thrown, and the crowd was eventually dispersed. Yet, that night bands of angry looters caroused through the city, smashing windows (mostly of liquor stores), strewing merchandise in the streets, and pulling fire alarms.  At around 4:00 a.m. a looter was shot while trying to flee from two police officers.  By early Friday morning, five people had been killed and 425 people were jailed. Hundreds were wounded.  More than 3,000 National Guardsmen arrived later in the day along with 500 state troopers.  

 Over the next six days, we stayed on the streets of Newark trying to keep the peace. We witness the residents torch and loot their neighborhood stores one block at a time. In between dodging bullets, rocks, and bottles we watched in amazement as black business owners wrote “Soul Bros” on their front windows hoping to keep rioters from breaking into their properties. But eventually, the rioters destroyed those stores too, stole the goods, and set the places on fire.  

When the riot was over 26 people had been killed and property damage was in the millions of dollars. Most recently the city has seen a renaissance but it took all this time for it to happen. 

Sadly, even though 50 plus years have passed since that riot, some people living in major inner cities today still feel the only way to change things is to burn and loot the very businesses that have provided them jobs, food, appliances, medicine, sporting goods, and other necessities. Night after night we see them burning and looting the cities of Atlanta, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, New York, Washington DC. 

To this day it is very hard to understand the rationale of a person that feels this is the way to bring about change. Where did this reasoning come from?  Why after all these years does this lunacy still occur? 


1967 Newark riot film courtesy of


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