The 1967 Newark Riots

by William McTernan


After eight years as a reporter for the Newark Evening News, I had recently taken a job at Newsday, a newspaper on Long Island in New York. When the riots erupted, the editor turned immediately to me and I headed west to cover the devastation of my home town. The city had been sealed off but my press card brought me past the police barriers.
Newark was like a war-movie set. There were no cars, no people, the only sounds were distant gunshots.

As I walked west on New Street, police officers who were taking cover in doorways, shouted at me. I'd shout "press" and brandish my press pass and they'd wave me on.

At Newark College of Engineering, young men in uniform were crouching below the low wall that surrounded the school. They'd gotten word that there was a sniper in the tower that dominated the neighborhood. A nervous kid fired his rifle. "Damn it, cease fire. Don't fire," shouted a young lieutenant.

Down by Penn Station, Ironbound residents had placed barriers. Some of them were armed with rifles and shotguns. God help any passerby with a black face.

I was covering the death of the city in which I had been born and raised. Some say there's a renaissance going on. I've visited Newark a few times since the riots. I can't see the rebirth. I hope it's real.


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