Clayton’s Corner: Drugs and Anti-Police Protests

Posted on: January 31st, 2020 at 5:03 am by

In the 1980s, abandoned buildings dotted Ludlow Street between Stanton and Rivington, on the east side. Often these spaces became a drop-off for garbage and home base for drug dealers selling product. The spray-painted message warned sellers would be photographed.

Due to the number of locations that sold illegal drugs, as well as the volume in the community, corruption in the police department was pretty obvious. Enough that local protesters often carried signs warning kids to be careful of drug-dealing cops. Ultimately, Mayor Dinkins’ Mollen Commission examined drug corruption on the police force, and implicated 9th Precinct cops in selling illegal hard drugs. In the above photo is John Penley, a local political protestor, while on a march to the 9th precinct.

By 1992, Tompkins Square Park was a “Tent City” counting hundreds of homeless. The protest community would take over Avenue A. There were many running protests and standoffs with the police, demanding action about the homeless crises.

Large fires were set in the street and the protests continued all night long. Sometimes over a few days. The Red flag is the Squatter Symbol. Squatting the abandoned buildings was one of the strategies used to house the homeless.

There was a group called the Bottle Brigade whose job it was to go around and collect bottles to throw at the police. The street was Avenue A around Tompkins Square Park.

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