After 2.30 am, in the remaining hours of darkness, only isolated incidents occurred. It appears that the crowds on the streets dissipated. As a result, what the NYT described as “Flying squadrons of radio cars and emergency cars and motorcycle squads carrying patrolmen armed with riot guns, quickly put down these disturbances.” The final shots of the riot would not be fired until after 5am, as dawn approached. First, a group of men on a roof on 138th Street allegedly shot at police in a riot control truck. Charles Alston fell from the building fleeing police and was the final arrest of the riot. Half an hour later, back on 8th Avenue, an officer shot and killed 19 year-old James Thompson, after allegedly interrupting him looting a damaged grocery store across the street from his home.
Although Harlem’s riot ended with clashes with police, it was not a total break with the past. To the extent that they could, Harlem’s residents attacked whites. A spatial perspective highlights that the new forms of racial violence that appeared for the first time in Harlem resulted at least as much from the targets available to blacks as a change in their motives or the nature of racial antagonism. There were fewer whites to attack in the new, larger black neighborhood, and few whites responded to racial violence by venturing into that area (and were less motivated to do so when provocations did not involve clashes between black and white populations, but between blacks and police and storeowners). Rather than a break with the past, the 1935 riot involved the layered violence that Dominic Capeci and Martha Wilkerson have argued characterized the later riot in Detroit in 1943: a transitional moment that “piled distinct layers of violence atop one another” to encompass both violence against individual whites, and against white authority and property.
When Harlem rioted again, in 1943, aware of both the riot in Detroit and the 1935 riot in Harlem, the behavior of the crowds showed smashing windows and looting had been established as a mode of racial violence. The event that triggered the riot, a clash between a police officer and a black serviceman, did not have the connection with business that Rivera’s apprehension at Kress’s in 1935 did. The hotel in which the clash occurred was not on 125th Street, nor were the other related locations where crowds gathered – the police precinct and the hospital to which the serviceman was taken. Nonetheless, when violence broke out, crowds headed to 125th Street to break windows, moving from there to Harlem’s other commercial districts. Looting came sometime later. The damage and theft, and attacks on police, occurred on a far larger scale than in 1935: more than 1450 stores suffered damage and losses; and more than 60 police were injured, in both cases more than five times the number in 1935. That violence was in inverse relationship to attacks on whites. Black crowds found far fewer white targets for their anger – only at 125th St and St Nicholas Ave, on the western boundary of black settlement, did black crowds find white pedestrians and streetcar passengers to attack. More so than in 1935, “125th Street would never be the same again” after the riot: the event helped give the place new meaning. Many white stores hired black staff, and some white businesses did not reopen after the riot, bankrupted by their losses. Rather than a white place apart from the black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods that surrounded it as it had been in the 1920s and 1930s, 125th Street became a black place, “Harlem’s Main Street.”