As I look back now on those days, I realized that what had begun, as a visceral response to the killing of Jose “Kiko” Garcia was really the culmination of the utter madness that Crack had wreaked on our neighborhood. Crack changed everything, Washington Heights went from a poor but mostly peaceful place to an outright war zone almost overnight. The lawlessness and outright thuggery had turned Washington Heights into the East Coast’s most active drug market in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The money that flowed into the neighborhood corrupted everything it touched.
This sad state of affairs could not continue, something had to give. By the same token, the police tactics being used against the community at large, not just the drug dealers, were only quasi-legal and were extremely heavy handed. There were many occasions when the cops would stop and frisk my friends and I for no apparent reason. It was a regular occurrence, we already knew the routine. We also knew not to mess with the cops, as you would either end up arrested or if you were lucky with a black eye.
Living in Washington Heights in those days, even if you were just a kid, felt like you were living under siege. That fateful night, 18 years ago, all those factors came into play and the entire neighborhood lost its collective mind.
Check out Part 1 of the Riots Remembered: Here