Roy Innis and the Reverend Al Sharpton were two of New York City’s most prominent Black community activists in the 1980s. But they were on different ends of the spectrum. Innis was conservative, while Sharpton was a solid Democrat.
Innis was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality from 1968 until his death. CORE was a civil rights organization.
Sharpton Jr., a Baptist minister, talk show host, and politician, is the founder of the National Action Network. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election.
Both were based in New York City, and he often butted heads.
The fight was during the taping of a show on Aug. 11, 1988, on leadership in the Black community. The show was hosted by controversial TV host Morton Downey Jr., who is white. The show was held at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, with more than 1,000 people in attendance.
During the show, Sharpton ″basically questioned Innis’ ability and his authority as a Black leader today.”
In NYC’s Black community, Innis had been criticized because of his support for Republican President Ronald Reagan and subway gunman Bernhard Goetz, a white man who shot four Black youths he said he feared would rob him.
He was also critical of Sharpton and Sharpton’s involvement with Black teenager Tawana Brawley, who accused four white men of kidnapping and raping her over a four-day period in November 1987 and smearing her with feces. At the time, the city was torn over whether or not the story was true. Sharpton was one of Brawley’s biggest defenders and supporters.
Innis also conducted his own investigation of the Brawley affair and” concluded that the Black teenager’s story of being raped by whites was not substantiated, The Washington Post reported.
Sharpton is an adviser to Brawley, who Brawley has refused to cooperate with the investigation.
During the heated discussion, the Brawley situation came up. Eventually, the disagreement between the two led to a physical altercation.
″Innis stood up and was basically telling Sharpton to let him speak … and towered over him,″ a producer for the show told the Associated Press. As Sharpton started to get up, Innis pushed him. Sharpton fell back into the chair and toppled over onto the floor.″
“He tried to ‘Bogart’ me in the middle of my statement,” Innis told The Washington Post.
“I said no dice. I don’t allow that and I said I would not be intimidated,” Innis said. “We stood up and the body language was not good. So I acted to protect myself. I pushed him and he went down.”
Sharpton, on the other hand, said he did not threaten Innis and that the CORE leader as the true aggressor.
“Roy did a lot to dispel his image as law-and-order man,” Sharpton said. “I think he hurt himself a lot.”
The two were to late meet up for a charity boxing match, which did not seem to take place.
Photo: Screenshot from Twitter video clip, https://twitter.com/therobmilton/status/1562609408999190528?s=20&t=gQlx-YabNubd8drNQDUMMg