Flashback: Sharpton's Role in the Crown Heights Riots

"If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."

On August 19, 1991, a tragic accident left 7-year old Gavin Cato dead. Searching for an outlet, many in the community placed the blame for the death of the young African-American child on the Jewish driver of the car and the Jewish emergency responders who failed to revive the child. Some discontented members of the neighborhood proceeded to exploit the situation by encouraging violence, culminating in deadly riots that led to the death of Jewish community member Yankel Rosenbaum, who was stabbed repeatedly in the back and beaten severely by a group of young black men shouting “kill the Jew.” Without any connections to the crime or any remote culpability to the death of Gavin Cato, Rosenbaum was targeted due to his religious affiliation.

Before the riots, Sharpton yelled, "if the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house." In the days following the death of these two innocent individuals, Rev. Sharpton would lead a march through Crown Heights, over the objections of Mayor David Dinkins. At the march, Yankel Rosenbaum was never mentioned, and protestors chanted "No Justice, No Peace" as they marched through the New York Streets. A few days after the death of Rosenbaum, at a eulogy at Cato’s funeral, Sharpton stated, “All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatch, no skinnin' and grinnin'." One banner at the rally read, "Hitler did not do the job."

On the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riot, Sharpton recognized the violent nature of his diction, stating "our language and tone sometimes exacerbated tensions and played to extremists." However, this revelation has not altered the Reverend's style. Some two decades later, Sharpton would scream “No justice, no peace” in Sanford, Florida to call for the arrest and conviction of George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Sharpton was a host on MSNBC at the time.

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