Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The Attica prison uprising, the worst incident ever of its kind, took four days and ended in an assault by more than 1,500 police and National Guardsmen that claimed 43 lives. Subsequent investigations determined that state officials were at fault in their handling of the prisoners and the situation, but Gov. Nelson Rockefeller decided in 1976 to take no disciplinary action against the officers. In 1991, after 20 years of legal maneuvering, 1,280 inmates filed a $2 billion lawsuit in federal court against former state prison officials claiming abuse. The suit is still pending. An excerpt from The Post of September 10, 1971:
By Richard S. Usiak
United Press International
ATTICA, N.Y., Sept. 9 --
Rioting prisoners at the Attica state prison took 36 hostages today and promised to kill them if authorities used force. Officials said about 1,000 prisoners were involved in the rioting this morning in the cellblocks, although their number dropped to 500 by midnight. A total of 32 guards and four shop foremen were captured.
Monroe County Under-sheriff Andrew Maloney said the prisoners had made it "quite clear that if police use force, they will kill the hostages."
Eight other guards were beaten, stripped and then released earlier in the day. At least 11 guards were injured, one seriously.
As dusk fell 11 hours after the rioting started, the rebellious inmates held their captives blindfolded in a tight circle in the prison yard.
Corrections Commissioner Russell G. Oswald was meeting with prisoners.
They presented him with a list of 15 demands ranging from wages and more religious freedom to more recreation and an end to censorship of letters and magazines.
Oswald, in the presence of television crews and newsmen invited in by the inmates as witnesses, signed a statement guaranteeing "no administrative reprisals" would be taken against the prisoners for today's action.
Some of the prisoners later, however, demanded that a federal judge guarantee no reprisals.
Oswald and about 20 prisoners huddled at a picnic table, some of them wearing football helmets and others with shirts or towels around their heads.
Earlier in the day inmates burned down the prison chapel, a garage and three other buildings while sirens blared and prison guards ringed the massive concrete walls of the 40-year-old structure that until recently was regarded as a model of security in New York's correctional system.
One of the released guards, William Quinn, 28, the father of two children, was taken to Northside General Hospital in Rochester for possible neurosurgery. Officials said he suffered severe head injuries. The other guards were less seriously hurt.
Quinn was thrown, naked, from a second story window after he was beaten, officials said.
The other guards were less seriously hurt ...
Officials said they could not immediately determine the cause of the riot, but one spokesman said it may have been triggered by a disturbance Wednesday night when one inmate was locked up after throwing a piece of glass at an officer ...
"The place is blowing up," one guard said. "This is the worst trouble we've ever had."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com