1970's

Ramon Rivera
A young Ramon Rivera addressing the community. His vision has always been to “organize the community and empower them; to become self-motivated and independent so that we can made decisions ourselves.”

STEPS TOWARDS ACCOUNTABILITY

The riot resulted in some of the most violent interactions between Puerto Ricans and police. Newark residents, Fernando de Cordova was fatally shot and David Perez was clubbed to death. Following the acquittal of the officer who shot de Cordova, a new protocol established in 1975 required officers to wear visible nametags and file a report every time a weapon was fired while on duty. Although a civilian review board had yet to be established, residents and the Newark police department made a step towards police accountability.

COMMUNITY ACTION BECOMES COMMUNITY SUPPORT

In response to the riot, Mayor Gibson stated, “The reason we had a disturbance in Newark is because we had 10,000 people in a park. It had nothing to do with bilingual education, housing or any other socio-economic factor.” For many Puerto Ricans, Gibson’s response demonstrated the cultural disconnect between the black and brown communities. Puerto Ricans realized to effectively address the cultural issues in their community they needed to invest in their own institutions. One notable organization strengthened by the riots was Ramon Rivera’s La Casa de Don Pedro. For over 40 years La Casa has been committed to issues affecting Latinxs in Newark. Today, the organization honors the legacy of Rivera’s activism against police misconduct by serving on Newark’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.

 

Ken Gibson and Ramon Rivera
Mayor Kenneth Gibson with Ramon Rivera, Director of La Casa de Don Pedro and once a Gibson supporter. Given the city’s economic issues as well as Gibson’s political inexperience, the ties with the Puerto Rican community were later severed. Gibson’s promise to tackle the issues that plagued the Puerto Rican community went unfulfilled.

The Puerto Rican community has yet to see indications that the Gibson administration is going to deal with equity in reference to them. The attitude is one of skeptical hope, and what the Gibson administration does or does not do will have tremendous impact on black and Puerto Rican relationships.

—Hilda Hidalgo