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Police Power and Race Riots

Urban Unrest in Paris and New York

By Cathy Lisa Schneider

Publication Year: 2014

Three weeks after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a New York City police officer shot and killed a fifteen-year-old black youth, inciting the first of almost a decade of black and Latino riots throughout the United States. In October 2005, French police chased three black and Arab teenagers into an electrical substation outside Paris, culminating in the fatal electrocution of two of them. Fires blazed in Parisian suburbs and housing projects throughout France for three consecutive weeks. Cathy Lisa Schneider explores the political, legal, and economic conditions that led to violent confrontations in neighborhoods on opposite sides of the Atlantic half a century apart.

Police Power and Race Riots traces the history of urban upheaval in New York and greater Paris, focusing on the interaction between police and minority youth. Schneider shows that riots erupted when elites activated racial boundaries, police engaged in racialized violence, and racial minorities lacked alternative avenues of redress. She also demonstrates how local activists who cut their teeth on the American race riots painstakingly constructed social movement organizations with standard nonviolent repertoires for dealing with police violence. These efforts, along with the opening of access to courts of law for ethnic and racial minorities, have made riots a far less common response to police violence in the United States today. Rich in historical and ethnographic detail, Police Power and Race Riots offers a compelling account of the processes that fan the flames of urban unrest and the dynamics that subsequently quell the fires.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The City in the Twenty-First Century


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 1-40

On the night of July 18, 1964, three weeks after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, New York City police lieutenant Thomas Gilligan shot and killed James Powell, a fifteen-year-old black student, outside his high school in upper Manhattan. An altercation had ensued when Patrick Lynch, the...

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1. Policing Racial Boundaries and Riots in New York (1920–1993)

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pp. 41-87

The Great Migration, which began in 1916, brought half a million blacks north. The boll weevil had ruined the southern cotton harvest, wiped out white landowners, dried up credit, and forced black sharecroppers and tenant farmers into debt. The simultaneous decline of King Cotton and the...

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2. Policing Racial Boundaries and Riots in Paris (1920–2002)

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pp. 88-134

Until 2005 most French scholars insisted that racism was a distinctly American phenomenon. French workers, Michelle Lamont argued, ‘‘define the poor and black as ‘part of us,’ using the language of class solidarity.’’1 Although they reject North Africans, it is because they believe that Muslims...

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3. Boundary Activation without Riots: New York (1993–2010)

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pp. 135-179

Rudolph Giuliani opened his 1993 mayoral campaign (having lost the previous race, in 1989, to now-mayor David Dinkins) by addressing a mob of some ten thousand ‘‘raucous beer-drinking, overwhelmingly white police officers who had just finished a march on City Hall to protest a Dinkins-backed...

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4. Boundary Activation and Riots in Paris (2002–2010)

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pp. 180-232

On October 27, 2005, in Clichy-sous-Bois, Siyakha Traore´, a twenty-threeyear- old man of Mauritanian descent, was on his way to the grocer to break his Ramadan fast when he saw Muhittin Altun, a friend of his younger brother, running wildly and howling, ‘‘Bouna, Zyad, Bouna, Zyad.’’ Smoke...

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pp. 233-256

In 2002 Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor as the Republican Party candidate, although he later declared himself an independent. Bloomberg made Ray Kelly his police commissioner (the same position Kelly had occupied under David Dinkins). The New York Times christened Bloomberg...


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pp. 257-294


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pp. 295-300

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pp. 300-304

All those who shared their stories, read drafts of this manuscript, or provided me a home or home base in a foreign country are owed a debt of gratitude. My research began in New York (although I had no idea, at the time, of the direction it would take) when I was an Aaron Diamond Fellow...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209860
E-ISBN-10: 0812209869
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246186

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 6 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: The City in the Twenty-First Century
Series Editor Byline: Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 887973247
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Police Power and Race Riots

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Race riots -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Race riots -- France -- Paris.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Race relations.
  • Paris (France) -- Race relations.
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