“Whose Streets? Our Streets!” Photo Exhibit Capture the Power of Protest in the Streets


A new exhibition looks back on the anarchic energy of New York City, reminding us of the impact individuals can have on social change

‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’: New York City, 1980-2000 will be showing at the Bronx Documentary Center, New York City, between 14 January and 5 March

New York’s streets were turbulent in the 1980s and 1990s, as residents marched, demonstrated, and rioted in response to social changes in their city as well as national and international developments. The profoundly unequal economic recovery of the 1980s, dependent upon investment banking and high-end real estate development, led to heated contests over space and city services, as housing activists opposed gentrification and called attention to the plight of thousands of homeless New Yorkers. Immigration made New York City much more diverse, but a significant proportion of white New Yorkers opposed civil rights and acted to maintain racial segregation.

Attempts to combat the high crime rates of the 1970s and early 1980s exacerbated concerns about police brutality, as innocent black and Latino New Yorkers died at the hands of the police. The culture wars wracking the nation had particular resonance in New York, a center of avant-garde art as well as of gay and lesbian and feminist activism, on the one hand, and home of the Vatican’s spokesman in the U.S., Cardinal John O’Connor, and a significant culturally conservative Roman Catholic population on the other.

A cohort of photographers, born between 1950 and 1970, committed themselves to documenting these struggles for social change as they unfolded. Progressive and independent, some published their work in The Village Voice, the nation’s first alternative newsweekly, and some joined the cooperative photo agency Impact Visuals, dedicated to social documentary photography. Collectively, their photographs, which have never before been exhibited together, chronicle New York’s history from 1980-2000.

Squatters attempt to defend their building by blocking the street with overturned cars and trash before an expected attack by the police on East 13th Street, 1995 Photography Andrew Lichtenstein
Pro-choice demonstrators in downtown Manhattan protest the July 3rd, 1989 Supreme Court Webster decision which limited Roe V Wade. 24 were arrested, including activist Mary Lou Greenberg, as they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge
Photography Nina Berman
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn residents hold up watermelons to mock black protestors in the largely Italian neighborhood following the acquittal of Keith Mondello in the shooting death of 16-year-old African American Yusef Hawkins on May 19, 1990.
A group called “Women in Mourning and Outrage” hold up photographs of Amadou Diallo during a rally in front of the UN. The rally was held after the acquittal of four NYC police officers involved in the shooting of Mr. Diallo, who was unarmed.
A man protests the death sentence handed down against Mumia Abu Jamal who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer.
Tompkins Square Park riot, New York City, 1988
Day of Outrage demonstration at the Jay Street-Borough Hall subway station following the Howard Beach verdict on December 21, 1987. Three defendants were found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Michael Griffith who was beaten and chased to death
Pro-choice rally, NYC 1992


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