NEW YORK (AP) _ Jittery businesses from tony Fifth Avenue to downtown Brooklyn shut down Friday and thousands of workers were sent home early over fears of violence stemming from the Rodney King verdict.

Violence materialized by evening when black protesters in Harlem pulled two white men out of a truck, stabbing one in the back and leaving the other with cuts and bruises, police said.

Also Friday evening, 200 protesters rushed the front doors at Madison Square Garden chanting ''Prosecute the cops 3/8 Peace now. Justice now.'' The group, which had split off from a peaceful demonstration in Times Square, quickly left. About a half-dozen people were arrested.

Nearly 80 people were arrested as a band of almost 1,000 young protesters roamed through Manhattan.

Earlier reports of rioting, including one that violence forced the closing of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, proved unfounded but prompted some store owners to closed for the day.

''A lot of misinformation is circulating throughout the city,'' said police Lt. Robert Nardoza.

The exodus caused early traffic clogs out of Manhattan. Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal were packed with commuters taking an early good-night.

Some businesses near Times Square closed in anticipation of a rally. About 300 people gathered there and marched awhile.

Non-essential staff at the United Nations was sent home. The Lord & Taylor department store on Fifth Avenue was closed early. Time-Warner Inc., the fire department, and The New York Times and New York Telephone sent some workers home. Even the FBI allowed clerical workers to leave early.

Major brokerages, banks and financial markets also sent employees home early. Although stock and bond markets remained open, trading slowed to a crawl.

''All the brokers closed, so without them it's tough to do business,'' said Kevin Flanagan, a money market economist at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.

Nearly all businesses in the central shopping district of Harlem closed as about 200 protesters marched by.

In Brooklyn, many businesses in the pedestrial Fulton Mall downtown closed after high school students smashed some windows during a march that drew about 400 teen-agers. A street vendor was assaulted.

''Downtown Brooklyn is like a ghost town,'' said Jerry Sanford, a fire department spokesman.

Unease spread to suburban New Rochelle, where about 200 youths looted stores at a mall and police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who blocked an exit of the mall's garage. The youths also overturned cars and threw bricks.