Clay Risen at The Morning News:
The nation’s capital wasn’t the only place teetering on the edge of violence. Memphis remained surprisingly calm, but in the middle of the state, four thousand Tennessee National Guardsmen deployed in northern Nashville after reports of vandalism and looting began pouring into police headquarters. Farther east, in Raleigh, North Carolina, a march near predominantly black Shaw University descended into a window-smashing spree, and police sealed off the area. Cops used tear gas in Jackson, Mississippi, after a mob started breaking car windows and set a reporter’s car on fire. Molotov cocktails ignited a furniture store in Houston. Hartford, Connecticut, and Tallahassee, Florida, experienced minor riots, while police battled with youths throwing bottles and rocks in two separate sections of Newark.
But with Memphis intact, the real concern shifted to New York. Ever since the 1965 Watts riot, the media, the public, and the city and federal governments had assumed that the Big Apple was in for a major conflagration—“the mother of confrontations between black youths and the police force,” as New York magazine later characterized it. Almost as soon as the news of King’s death hit the airwaves, Harlem residents were out in the streets. Music-store owners pointed speakers out their front doors, playing recordings of King’s speeches. Like the crowds in Washington, most people were looking for comfort, conversation, and more news. But others were expressing their anger in more direct ways, harassing motorists and roughing up pedestrians.