Subversive Historian – 09/04/08

The Peekskill Riots

Fifty-nine years ago on this day in people’s history, concert-goers near Peekskill, New York were assaulted by a racist and anti-communist mob. On September 4th, more than twenty-thousand people turned out to hear musicians like Paul Robeson and Pete Singer perform for a Civil Rights Congress benefit. The outdoor event, which was already rescheduled due to previous violence, ended in disaster once more when a mob armed with rocks and baseball bats attacked concert-goers injuring at least 140 people as they left. Police and state troopers stood idly by as cars fled the barrage of stones thrown and people were dragged from their vehicles and beaten. Thomas Dewey, the governor of New York at the time, blamed the violence on the “communists” and a civil suit was subsequently dismissed.

The only claim more outrageous than that would have been if he had said the mob threw stones because the music was bad, but with Paul Robeson, that couldn’t have been the case!

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