The Crown Heights riot was a race riot that took place from August 19 to 21,
1991, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York City. Black residents
turned against Orthodox Jewish Chabad residents, resulting in a deterioration of
already tense racial relations in the densely populated community. The riots
began on August 19, 1991, after two children of Guyanese immigrants were
accidentally struck by a car running a red light while following the motorcade
of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of Chabad, a Jewish religious
movement. One child died and the second was severely injured.
In the wake of the fatal accident, some black youths attacked several Jews on
the street, seriously injuring several and fatally injuring an Orthodox Jewish
student from Australia. Two weeks after the riot, a non-Jewish man was killed by
a group of black men; some believed that the victim had been mistaken for a Jew.
The riots were a major issue in the 1993 mayoral race, contributing to the
defeat of Mayor David Dinkins, an African American. He was blamed for an
ineffective police response.
Ultimately, black and Jewish leaders developed an outreach program between
their communities to help calm and possibly improve racial relations in Crown
Heights over the next decade.
Yankel Rosenbaum Killing
About three hours after the riots began, early on the morning of August 20, a
group of approximately 20 young black men surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum, a
29-year-old Jewish University of Melbourne student in the United States
conducting research for his doctorate. They stabbed him several times in the
back and beat him severely, fracturing his skull. Before being taken to the
hospital, Rosenbaum identified 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson Jr. as his assailant
in a line-up shown to him by the police. Rosenbaum died later that night
because the doctor didn't notice a stab wound in his chest. Nelson was charged
with murder as an adult; he was acquitted at trial. Later he was convicted
in federal court of violating Rosenbaum's civil rights and was sentenced to 10
years in prison. Nelson eventually admitted that he had stabbed
1. "Beep Honor Peace Coalition: Crown Heights leaders reflect on 10-year
milestone"[permanent dead link], New York Daily News, August 23, 2001.
24. Gourevitch, Philip (January 1993). "The Crown Heights Riot & Its
Aftermath". The Jewish Forward. Archived from the original on December 5, 2013.
25. Newman, Andy (August 21, 2003). "Penalty in Crown Hts. Case Means a
Little More Jail Time". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 8,
2009. Retrieved March 3, 2009.