1984 Riots (Lawrence MA)

riot1Hispanic immigration began in the 1960s, first from Puerto Rico and then from the Dominican Republic.  By 1984 there were more than 10,000 Hispanics living in the city.  The native “Lawrencians” perceived the newcomers as a threat in housing, job competition, and city culture.  It was a hot, muggy evening, August 8, 1984, when a confrontation broke out over a broken car windshield.  It started at the corner of Haverhill and Oxford Streets and moved to 448 Haverhill Street where Gary Gill was allegedly beaten with bats by the group of Hispanics.  This morphed into a group of between 250 to 300 people on Oxford Street throwing rocks at each other and passing cars.  During that five hour period guns were fired, 42 cars were stoned, and at least five buildings were set fire by way of Molotov cocktails.  The local police took five hours to respond and they found that the “riot” was over.  Twenty-two people were admitted to local emergency rooms and no one was killed.


The next night police were out in force, but again 300 to 400 rioters used the same means of the night before to incite each other to violence.  August 10 the City was put on an 8:00 PM curfew.  That was the end of the 1984 riots.

The Library has these two photographs and a paper written about the riots.

21 Responses

  1. I grew up on Oxford St. Attended St Ann’s church. Saw this riot on the evening news and cried for an hour. Lawrence was a beautiful place
    to grow up. Lived I Lawrence from 1932-1951. Does anybody remember the St Anns Crusaders? I have pictures I would like to pass them on. If interested please send e-mail to rmotto1932@gmail.com.

  2. My Dad went to St Anns- he was born un 1937, lived in Lea Street. He told a funny story about having a wad of cotton in his mouth due to being at the dentist; a nun thought he had gum and told him to spit it out. He said no, it wasn’t gum; she wasn’t having any of it and told him to spit whatever it was into her hand. She got a bloody rank wad of cotton and punished him for spitting it out! He went home and told his mother he wasn’t going back! He later played basket ball for St Francis and Central Catholic. I lived in South Lawrence during the riots- to us, it was a world away

  3. just maybe if the police responded in less than 5 hrs. ,say 15,30 minutes it wouldn’t have escalated, duh!

  4. I was 10-11 years old i lived on the far end of Haverhill st…. I’ll never forget those two days so much damage and violence…… We went down towards the rioting an saw how much damage had been caused what a shame that had to happen.

  5. Hi my name is Michael medina i was the coused of the 1984 riot in lawrence mass and i think your people need to hear the real story so get in touch with me.

    • My name is Lisa twomblyI lived in lawrence most of my life. I’ve heard so many different stories about the riots. Can u tell me your side of it?

    • Oh so you really know what happened the cause so you shot the liquor store owner died for nothing. My uncles best friend Gary got beaten. But I’m sorry did we react to strongly back then oh fucking well

    • I’m sorry for you un educated people who run or say shit about the riots in 1984. The liquor store got robbed bye Hispanics. Gary was there and he took a beating. My uncle took war the next day

    • Ok so you were the reason why this happened really. So you shot the liquor store owner really. Then you beat my uncles best friend to almost a pope. So please tell me what do u know

    • I’d like to hear your side

      • I’d like to definitely hear more!!! My father is Bruce Gill he gave me a piece of the story briefly and my Uncle is Gary Gill who I haven’t seen sense I was a kid. I was at a gathering when I heard my uncle was part of this. And I was to young to remember any of this in 1984. So please give me some in site!!!

    • How can I get in touch with you

    • What is your story Mihael?

  6. I remember the oxfords st riot I was at my uncles n cousins house when it started the Santanas btw my name is Edwin Hernandez n I grew up in Lawrence my whole life on May st.

  7. Hey Michael what’s the real deal? @michaelmedina

  8. I was with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Tactial team then and we went to Lawrence for that riot and it was scary, believe me the city was a mess

  9. I grew up in Lawrence (lower Tower Hill) and hate to see what has happened to it, instead of just throwing federal/state dollars at problems without finding the root causes someone in government state/federal should develop a workable plan for improvement.

  10. That’s My Dad in the Door way then Lt. Richard Shafer later to be Lawrence Fire Chief.

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