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The Garbage Offensive, 1969.

3rd Avenue and 111th Street

In a direct response to community feedback, the first public campaign of the Young Lords became the Garbage Offensive (1969). In contrast to wealthier communities, trash was regularly left to fester in East Harlem and other poor communities of color throughout the city. It was the summer of 1969, and garbage was piled up on streets throughout the neighborhood, creating a slew of public health concerns. In protest of poor sanitation services, the Young Lords confronted the local NYC Sanitation depot, demanding brooms to clean the streets.


They took the brooms to 111th street and 3rd Avenue, and together with community members; they swept the garbage into the middle of the street, forming barricades that halted traffic. To prevent motorists from removing the garbage cans, they set the barricades on fire, forcing the police and fire department to intervene. They mobilized the press to document the offensive and effectively shamed the city into providing better sanitation services. At the end of the offensive, they returned the brooms to the NYC Sanitation depot.

The Garbage Offensive, 1969, by Hiram Maristany

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