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Mon, 08.19.1991

Crown Heights, a sign of the times

*On this date in 1991 the Crown Heights riot occurred. The deaths of Melbourne Hasidic scholar Yankel Rosenbaum and Black seven-year-old Gavin Cato that day ignited the worst three days of race riots ever seen in New York.

Gavin Cato was adjusting the chain on his bicycle on a Crown Heights street when a car being driven by a Hasidic man struck him. The man said he accidentally mounted the footpath while trying to catch up to a motorcade for a Jewish leader. The boy died instantly. News of the accident spread quickly through the Brooklyn Black community, sparking an outbreak of rioting and looting. Yankel Rosenbaum was visiting New York to pursue his rabbinical studies.

A group of Black men attacked him on the streets of Crown Heights three hours after the accident. Witnesses said the men shouted, "Get the Jew!" as one of them stabbed Mr. Rosenbaum. The 29-year-old Melbourne scholar bled to death the following day from an injury that somehow went undetected in the hospital emergency room.

The Associated Press
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