Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3,000 Beatniks Riot

After World War II, Washington Square Park filled up with young people and musicians, their numbers growing over the years. By 1961, neighbors had had enough of the bohemians, urging the parks commission to put an end to the folk music--and to the racial mixing that went on around the bongo drums, as recounted by John Strausbaugh in his invaluable history The Village.

The ensuing protest, an occupation of the park’s large central fountain, inspired a hysterical headline: "3000 Beatniks Riot in Village."

It was also captured in the extraordinary documentary film Sunday by Dan Drasin.

In crisp black and white, we see and hear the protesters as they fight for their right to play folk songs, carrying signs that read “Keep Strumming” and “We Want Folk Singing.” In arguments with the police, one young man says, “Real estate’s at the bottom of this.” Another says, “They’re trying to kill the Village.” The musicians won that battle and kept on singing through the decades, but war is long and “They” have kept trying to change the nature of the Village and Washington Square Park.

The fight continues to this day.

Watch the film and hear more about it at NPR.


laura r. said...

remember washington sq well. every sunday in 1963, around the fountain. best social scene around.

Anonymous said...

In a few years, there would be riots in Harlem and, later, riots on Christopher Street. This video reminds me of TV coverage of police aggression exhibited against Occupy protestors. The NYPD, it appears, believes in doing the Reich thing!

DrBOP said...

I think the cops in NYC have been over-reacting for about 300 years......surprised they didn't go after the toddlers at the end of the vid.

When I hit town in the Spring of '63, this was still a hot topic.....and OF COURSE if everyone who said they were there were, the crowd would have been over 5000 folks :+)

But the BEST thing about this footage is that.....


Such a mensch!

Anonymous said...

Love the film, there's my pop at 4:48 admonishing a cop for restricting free speech and not chasing criminals.

laura r. said...

the people won, as the scene did not dissappear. the music was really low key so i cant understand the problem. but yes, the park did have many degenerates, drug dealers, addicts. i sat on those benches untill 1966. there was one section called "junkie row". i went to izzy youngs folklure center in 1963-4 for the folk dancing. fast foward: if i owned realestate now, i would want to clean up the park. the ironic thing is that the folksingers were not attracting the drug dealers/addicts. it was the opening of an all night whelans drugstore (first chain store, discount), 6th ave & w. 8th st. then the area became a heroin & speed dealing place.

Mitch said...

Wow - a pretty weak-tea riot. A bit of shoving and a woman screaming, but not much else.

I still like looking at the pre-reno Washington Sq. I proposed to my wife there.