When: December 20, 1986
The facts: On their way out of a Howard Beach pizzeria, where they'd stopped to grab a slice after their car broke down, Michael Griffith and his friends, all black youths, are accosted and chased by a group of white teenagers from the neighborhood yelling "Kill the n-----s." Griffith is struck by a car on the Belt Parkway and killed. Mayor Ed Koch calls it a "racial lynching," the most horrendous incident in his nine years as mayor. Many New Yorkers meet Al Sharpton, Vernon Mason, and Alton Maddox for the first time. Mason and Maddox represent two of the victims and Charles Hynes leads the prosecution which results in three murder convictions.
The protests: Sharpton works the media and helps arrange a march of 1,200 mostly black demonstrators through the neighborhood. Residents respond by shouting at the protestors and racial tensions grow.
Landmark case: "For the first time in a race case, to our knowledge, [the governor appointed] a special prosecutor, Charles Hynes. That was a landmark. Because that was the first time the state conceded there was a problem in how the criminal-justice system responds to racial violence."
Al Sharpton in the 30th anniversary issue of New York Magazine.