NYC Self-Defense Case Recalls Bernard Goetz


When New York City’s crime rate was much higher in the 1980s, people flocked to martial arts classes for self-defense and for many, carrying a concealed knife or pepper spray became a prudent precaution, says the New York Times. A bloody melee last week on a Harlem street is flashing New Yorkers back to that era of anticrime tactics. Maurice Parks, 39, a subway motorman who had just ended his shift, was assaulted by a group of muggers armed with at least one knife. Parks, who had studied martial arts, was prepared. After he was knocked down and robbed, he pulled a knife of his own, and fought back in a ferocious exchange that killed a man who may have been trying to intervene, and left two others – including Parks – hospitalized with stab wounds.

“While I don't think people should carry knives, some undoubtedly do,” said ex-Mayor Edward Koch, whose tenure included the shooting in 1984 of four aggressive teenage panhandlers on a subway train by Bernard Goetz. The case provoked passions, with some condemning Goetz as a vigilante, and others calling his action a galvanizing event for a city that had been too willing to accept a relentless rise in crime. Goetz “was part of a national syndrome,” Koch said. “There was a feeling that crime had gotten so far out of hand that you could not depend on government to stop it. That feeling stopped in the early 1990s.” The case involving Parks “is an aberration, not a norm.”


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