Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Columbia Avenue Riot

Violence During the Riot

A black and white photograph of a man with blood on his face and hands by his head surrounded by two police officers holding batons.

Philadelphia police were restricted from unholstering their guns or using excessive force during the riots, but some rioters were injured while police subdued them. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

Police Commissioner Howard Leary stationed nearly 1,800 Philadelphia police officers around Columbia Avenue during the riot and ordered his officers to use minimal force to prevent the riot from spreading and to protect other civilians, without provoking more uproar. Leary prohibited officers from unholstering their firearms unless provoked with a deadly weapon. One of the two deaths that occurred during the riot was from a police officer who shot a rioter who had a knife. More than 200 people suffered bodily injuries while participating in the riot. Fights broke out among rioters, and, like the man in this photograph from August 29, police subdued rioters with batons before arresting them. Over a hundred police officers themselves were hurt from rioters throwing rocks, bottles, and other objects.

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