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1991 SPECIAL REPORT: "CROWN HEIGHTS RACE RIOTS"

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Above All That Drama

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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 and Orthodox Jewish Chabad residents turned against each other, 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 one of the cars in 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.

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