Inspiring Pictures of NYC Protests from the ’80s and ’90s


With the Women’s March in the rearview mirror and new talk about tax day protests, scientists marching on Washington and more, it’s clear we’re in a new era of mass demonstrations. Just in time, Whose Streets? Our Streets!‘’ a photography exhibit, looks back on New York City’s protest during the turbulent ’80s and changing ’90s. The exhibit shows some ugly or questionable moments too, including racist mobs, but the images we’ve included below are mostly images of resistance and dissent, whether in the form of rallies and marches or direct action and civil disobedience.

The protesters are standing up against police violence, institutionalized misogyny and labor exploitation.

Credits: The exhibit, currently showing at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York City, is co-curated by Meg Handler, former photo editor of The Village Voice, historian Tamar Carroll, author of Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty and Feminist Activism, and Michael Kamber, founder of the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC). The exhibit was designed and produced by the BDC’s Cynthia Rivera and Bianca Farrow. Exhibition photographs are viewable at

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. © Andrew Lichtenstein

A protester is carried away during an ACT-UP Stop the Church direct action at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on December 10th, 1989. © Brian Palmer

Picketing restaurant waiters and community members protest outside Jing Fong Restaurant, the largest restaurant in Chinatown, whose management illegally took waiters’ tips to pay for social security. The NY State Attorney General fined the ownes $1.13 million in 1995. © Corky Lee

Manhattan, March, 1999. Demonstration in front of the New York Stock Exchange to demand the indictment of the four policemen who killed Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old unarmed immigrant from Guinea. © Andrew Lichtenstein

[I’m pretty sure this was my first protest ever! -Ed.]

Tompkins Square Park riot, New York City, 1988. © James Hamilton

NYC protesters take to the streets in response to the acquittal of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. Some Asian-owned groceries such as this one were vandalized. April 1992. © Linda Rosier

The Women’s Action Coalition demonstrates at the opening of the Guggenheim Soho to protest the lack of women artists in the museum’s inaugural exhibition. June 25, 1992. © Lisa Kahane

Pro-choice demonstrators in downtown Manhattan protest the July 3rd, 1989 Supreme Court Webster decision which limited Roe v. Wade. This was a turning point in the pro-choice movement. Twenty-four protesters, including activist Mary Lou Greenberg, were arrested as they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge. © Nina Berman

A group called “Women in Mourning and Outrage” hold up photographs of Amadou Diallo during a rally in front of the United Nations. The rally was held after the acquittal of four New York City police officers involved in the shooting of Mr. Diallo, who was unarmed. February 27, 2000. © Ricky Flores

Day of Outrage demonstration at the Jay Street-Borough Hall subway station following the Howard Beach verdict on December 21, 1987 in which three defendants were found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Michael Griffith, who was beaten and chased by a white mob onto a highway, where he was struck by a car. © Ricky Flores

Pro-choice rally. NYC 1992. © Sandra Lee Phipps

A man protests the death sentence handed down against Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer. © Sylvia Plachy