1975 Riot

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On the evening of Saturday May 17, 1975 a major disturbance involving an estimated 150-200 people and 40 police officers occurred at the corner of Vernon Street and Water Street. The riot has been called the "Vernon Street Incident" as well as the "Water Street Riot". There was detailed coverage of the incident in the Wakefield Daily Item on Monday, May 19 and subsequent days, with a photo of police in riot gear in front of the Wakefield Bowladrome. The melee began with a large party at 10 Vernon Street which generated numerous complaints. After being told to disperse, the party continued, generating more complaints, and rocks and bottles were thrown at police. Eventually ten local police officers arrived in riot gear followed by assisting officers from Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, as well as State Police. News reports stated that eight people were arrested as well as sixteen injured, with two being sent to the hospital. Later and additional three individuals were charged. There was some controversy over the police response, with many people saying that they felt the officers reacted with excessive force, smashing car windows and clubbing youths. The Police Chief at the time was William R. Connors. A statement was also released by State Respresentatice Anthony Gallugi expressing his concern over the incident and that he would relay any comments from citizens to the police and Board of Selectmen.