The Riot of 1969

Much has been written about the riots that occurred in Camden in 1969 and in 1971. With just about everyone who has commented and is commenting to this day on the subject already starting out with pre-conceived notions of the events, I'm of the opinion that just about everything one might read will be colored by the author's intent to assign blame, justify misbehavior, and denigrate or enhance the reputations of person or persons involved at the time.

If you go on the Internet to look for information about the Riot of 1969 in Camden.... the first race riot of the era, the deadliest, and the one that had the most impact on the city..... you will find next to nothing. It's treated as if it never happened, and I find that disturbing.... I will go one better. I find that disgusting. 

Academia... the ideologically driven class of elitists who sit in their ivory towers and consider themselves "our betters"... has failed Western Society, and frankly, I wouldn't shed tears if a generation or two of so-called professors were burned at the stake. The Riot of 1969 destroyed the downtown business district and chased a lot of people out of the city. A policeman and a little girl were killed by a sniper... who was never caught or prosecuted. While not a death blow to the city... that would come two years later.... the Riot of 1969 was for all intents the beginning of the final act of "The Death of an American City" 

The two riots destroyed business, homes, and lives... and the political class' response was shameful. The two riots were the  worst events to hit the city of Camden until crack cocaine hit the streets in 1985-1986. The Riot of 1969 fatally weakened Camden. The riot of 1971 mortally wounded Camden. Crack cocaine was the coup de grace.

I'll post news articles and pictures relating to the 1969 riot. Feel free to e-mail me with nay comments or questions. I don't know if I'll have the answers, but never say never... even in Camden.

Phil Cohen
October 2011

September 3, 1969

He said the bloody suspect pic: Bobby Kirkbride is the white cop, he says he thinks the Hispanic cop was from juvenile bureau who wound up with some personal issues later on, but he cant remember his name.

August 21, 1969

Steve Quarles in North Camden, Kenny thinks 5th street. He thought the big guy was Jim Stetser. 


Camden Courier-Post - February 1, 2007


Courier-Post Staff

Politicians may call it civil disturbance, but to the people who fled in terror from shattered glass and firebombs in Camden's downtown in 1969, it was a riot.

Like other cities that had seen manufacturing shut down and middle-class white families flee to suburbs, Camden was struggling to maintain its tax base. Some small retailers were holding on, but they were losing their customers to malls.

On the day after Labor Day in 1969, unfounded rumors spread that a young black girl had been beaten by a white police officer. At dusk, about 300 people gathered several blocks for Cooper University Hospital.

Shots rang out, killing rookie police officer Rand J. Chandler and Rose McDonald, 15.

For two days, the city went wild. No one was charged with either killing, which investigators attributed to a sniper.

Tempers cooled and those living and working in Camden tried to forget about the violence.

The cool-down lasted almost two years, until July 30, 1971, when the beating by police of a Hispanic motorist, a former Camden resident who had moved to Salem County, stirred the city's Hispanic population.

Six days after the beating of Rafael Rodriguez Gonzales, who identified himself to police as Horacio Jimenez, a group of Puerto Rican leaders complained the beating was unprovoked. They called for the suspension of two officers involved.

Mayor Joseph M. Nardi took no action. Two weeks after the beating, Camden Police Chief Harold Melleby charged officers Gary Miller and Warren Worrel with atrocious assault and battery, but they stayed on the job.

On the night of Aug. 20, 1971, more than 15 fires were set and three people were shot; 87 people reported injuries.

Camden's 328-member force was supplemented by 78 state troopers and 70 officers from suburban departments.

A mediator was appointed by Gov. William Cahill and met with representatives of city government and the Hispanic community. He recommended suspension of the two police officers.

Nardi conceded.

Within hours of the city's announcement that the police officers were suspended, crowds dissipated. Assault charges against Miller and Worrell were upgraded to murder when Jimenez died. The charges were downgraded to manslaughter and both were acquitted by a jury.