2014-07-03 / Around Town

Jazz Festival Riots

The wildly-popular Newport Jazz Festival kicked off the Fourth of July weekend in 1960, but the concert scene soon erupted in violence when thousands were not able to attend the Saturday night performance on July 2. Riots broke out, Governor Christopher Del Sesto declared an emergency, and National Guard, Navy, Marine, and law enforcement personnel were deployed to restore order and expel troublemakers. Tear gas and fire hoses were used to control the crowds, but rioting erupted anew in beach areas on Sunday afternoon. More than 200 were jailed and dozens were injured.

Newport County was sealed off to incoming vehicles, all liquor sales were banned, and the entertainment license of the Jazz Festival was revoked. Roadblocks were set up between Tiverton and Portsmouth and only residents and those on official business were allowed to pass. (Note: The Pell Bridge did not exist.) Louis L. Lorillard, president of the Newport Jazz Festival, told city councilors the next morning, “This is the end of the Jazz Festival forever.” Fortunately, he was wrong.

Return to top