In a new video in VICE’s “I Was There” series, Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson talks about filming the Tompkins Square Park riot of 1988.
Years before everyone had cell-phone cameras, Patterson was one of the first to embrace the use of the then-still-new handheld video camera as a documentary tool.
Back in the late 1980s, protesters — including East Village squatters — were clashing with police over the imposition of a curfew on Tompkins Square Park, which had never had one. Another flashpoint a bit later on would be the homeless “Tent City” in the park.
Patterson’s videotape from that night of Aug. 6, 1988, resulted in the indictment of six police officers.
VICE has given The Village Sun permission to post the video, which is compiled from Patterson’s extensive archives.
Once Clayton’s video got shown on local television the public perception of the riot changed from…….a neighborhood-troublemaker violent riot…… to a police riot that brutalized an entire community. Without his and Elsa’s video the cops would never have changed their original lies about what really took place. Also, because many of us saw this happen in real time, we soon realized the power of visual documentation to expose police brutality.