No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark

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Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Jan 1, 1971 - African Americans - 398 pages
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Some of the literature published in the wake of the Newark riot seems as though it was written from among the city’s smoldering ashes. As physically connected to the Newark riots as Tom Hayden and Amiri Baraka were, former-journalist Ron Porambo provides a gritty, folk analysis of the Newark riots in his book No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark. A nice change of pace from the overly political or scholarly jargon, Porambo’s coarse narrative is framed between the end of the riot and the election of Kenneth A. Gibson, Newark’s first black mayor. The Porambo narrative consistently blasts the white establishment, especially the government and organized crime (Mafia). However, Porambo’s main concern is that the policemen and National Guardsmen escaped justice for murdering Newark citizens during the riots. As his title suggests, no policemen or National Guardsmen were ever indicted. Recent scholarship by Komozi Woodard and Kevin Mumford suggests that Porambo had quite point. In their analyses of Newark, Woodard and Mumford elaborate on the “sniper myth” that drove the use of excessive force during riots. Woodard builds on Porambo’s narrative of police brutality during the riots, describing the arrest and beating of Black Nationalist leader Amira Baraka. Mumford quotes Newark’s Eric Mann—1967 riot witness and white radical—who argues “essentially there are two riots in Newark. One was started by black people and one by the State Police. The first riot was over in two days. It took very few lives but a hell of a lot of property. The second riot was pure retribution on the part of the National Guard and State Police.” Writing in 1971, this is also Porambo’s contention. Unfortunately for the former-journalist who dedicated a career to advocating for Newark’s downtrodden—and who allegedly supported himself while writing the book by working at a car wash—Porambo was shot twice after publishing this book. He eventually embarked on a life of crime before being sentenced to life in prison for murder in the early 1980s. Writing in 1977 and at considerable distance from the riots, Albert Bergesen still chooses to focus his research on the “police civilian encounters in the black community.” Building on Hayden and the Kerner Report, Bergesen makes his mark by empirically quantifying the riots; recreating July 12-17 by way of statistical analysis. Bergesen concludes that 81% the total riot “violence emanated from officials.” 



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