Burning buildings during the riots
|Date||August 11–16, 1965|
|Goals||to end mistreatment by the police and to end discrimination with their housing, employment and their schooling systems|
|Methods||Widespread rioting, looting, assault, arson, protests, firefights, property damage, murder|
|Resulted in||the people of Watts being left unemployed in poor conditions|
The Watts riots, sometimes referred to as the Watts Rebellion,took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from August 11 to 16, 1965.
Watts is a neighborhood in southern Los Angeles, California. It is located within the South Los Angeles region, bordering the cities of Lynwood and South Gate to the east and southeast, respectively, and the unincorporated community of Willowbrook to the south.
Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California; the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City; and the third-most populous city in North America, after Mexico City and New York City. With an estimated population of nearly four million people, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis.
On August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye, an African-American motorist on parole for robbery, was pulled over for reckless driving.A minor roadside argument broke out, and then escalated into a fight with police. Community members reported that the police had hurt a pregnant woman, and six days of civil unrest followed. Nearly 4,000 members of the California Army National Guard helped suppress the disturbance, which resulted in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage. It was the city's worst unrest until the Rodney King riots of 1992.
In United States law, reckless driving is a major moving traffic violation. It is usually a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention and is often punishable by fines, imprisonment, or driver's license suspension or revocation.
The California Army National Guard is the land force component of the California National Guard, one of the reserve components of the United States Army and is part of the National Guard of the United States. The California Army National Guard is composed of 18,450 soldiers. Nationwide, the Army National Guard comprises approximately one half of the US Army's available combat forces and approximately one third of its support organization. National coordination of various state National Guard units are maintained through the National Guard Bureau. Due to the non-exclusive, non-rival nature of the Army National Guard and U.S. military as a whole, the California Army National Guard operates as a public good.
The 1992 Los Angeles riots were a series of riots and civil disturbances that occurred in Los Angeles County in April and May 1992. Unrest began in South Central Los Angeles on April 29, after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for usage of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King, which had been videotaped and widely viewed in TV broadcasts.
In the Great Migration of 1915-1940, major populations of African Americans moved to Northeastern and Midwestern cities such as Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City to pursue jobs in newly established manufacturing industries; to cement better educational and social opportunities; and to flee racial segregation, Jim Crow laws, violence and racial bigotry in the Southern states. This wave of migration largely bypassed Los Angeles.
The Great Migration, sometimes known as the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration, was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West that occurred between 1916 and 1970. It was caused primarily by the poor economic conditions as well as the prevalent racial segregation and discrimination in the Southern states where Jim Crow laws were upheld.
The Northeastern United States, also referred to as simply the Northeast, is a geographical region of the United States bordered to the north by Canada, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Southern United States, and to the west by the Midwestern United States. The Northeast is one of the four regions defined by the United States Census Bureau for the collection and analysis of statistics.
The Midwestern United States, also referred to as the American Midwest, Middle West, or simply the Midwest, is one of four census regions of the United States Census Bureau. It occupies the northern central part of the United States. It was officially named the North Central Region by the Census Bureau until 1984. It is located between the Northeastern United States and the Western United States, with Canada to its north and the Southern United States to its south.
In the 1940s, in the Second Great Migration, black workers and families migrated to the West Coast in large numbers, in response to defense industry recruitment efforts at the start of World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 directing defense contractors not to discriminate in hiring or promotions, opening up new opportunities for minorities. The black population in Los Angeles dramatically rose from approximately 63,700 in 1940 to about 350,000 in 1965, rising from 4% of L.A.'s population to 14%.
In the context of the 20th-century history of the United States, the Second Great Migration was the migration of more than 5 million African Americans from the South to the Northeast, Midwest, and West. It began in 1940, through World War II, and lasted until 1970. It was much larger and of a different character than the first Great Migration (1916–1940), where the migrants were mainly rural farmers from the South and only came to the Northeast and Midwest.
The West Coast or Pacific Coast is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. As a region, this term most often refers to the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. More specifically, it refers to an area defined on the east by the Alaska Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The United States Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Los Angeles had racially restrictive covenants that prevented specific minorities from renting and buying property in certain areas, even long after the courts ruled such practices illegal in 1948 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. At the beginning of the 20th century, Los Angeles was geographically divided by ethnicity, as demographics were being altered by the rapid migration from the Philippines (then-U.S. unincorporated territory at the time) and immigration from Mexico, Japan, Korea, and Southern and Eastern Europe. In the 1910s, the city was already 80% covered by racially restrictive covenants in real estate.By the 1940s, 95% of Los Angeles and southern California housing was off-limits to certain minorities. Minorities who had served in World War II or worked in L.A.'s defense industries returned to face increasing patterns of discrimination in housing. In addition, they found themselves excluded from the suburbs and restricted to housing in East or South Los Angeles, which includes the Watts neighborhood and Compton. Such real-estate practices severely restricted educational and economic opportunities available to the minority community.
In the United States and Canada, redlining is the systematic denial of various services to residents of specific, often racially associated, neighborhoods or communities, either directly or through the selective raising of prices. While the best known examples of redlining have involved denial of financial services such as banking or insurance, other services such as health care or even supermarkets have been denied to residents. In the case of retail businesses like supermarkets, purposely locating stores impractically far away from targeted residents results in a redlining effect. Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets particular neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite, not to deny residents loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than in a non-redlined neighborhood where there is more competition.
Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case that struck down racially restrictive housing covenants.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.
Following the U.S. entry into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the federal government removed and interned 70,000 Japanese-Americans from Los Angeles, leaving empty spaces in predominantly Japanese-owned areas. This further bolstered the migration of black residents into the city during the Second Great Migration to occupy the vacated spaces, such as Little Tokyo. As a result, housing in South Los Angeles became increasingly scarce, overwhelming the already established communities and providing opportunities for real estate developers. Davenport Builders, for example, was a large developer who responded to the demand, with an eye on undeveloped land in Compton. What was originally a mostly white neighborhood in the 1940s increasingly became an African-American, middle-class dream in which blue-collar laborers could enjoy suburbia away from the slums.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise preemptive military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into World War II the next day. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.
The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific Coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. These actions were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
Little Tokyo also known as Little Tokyo Historic District, is an ethnically Japanese American district in downtown Los Angeles and the heart of the largest Japanese-American population in North America. It is the largest and most populous of only three official Japantowns in the United States, all of which are in California. Founded around the beginning of the 20th century, the area, sometimes called Lil' Tokyo, J-Town, 小東京 (Shō-tōkyō), is the cultural center for Japanese Americans in Southern California. It was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995.
In the post-World War II era, suburbs in the Los Angeles area grew explosively as black residents also wanted to live in peaceful white neighborhoods. In a thinly-veiled attempt to sustain their way of life and maintain the general peace and prosperity, most of these suburbs barred black people, using a variety of methods. White middle-class people in neighborhoods bordering black districts moved en masse to the suburbs, where newer housing was available. The spread of African Americans throughout urban Los Angeles was achieved in large part through blockbusting, a technique whereby real estate speculators would buy a home on an all-white street, sell or rent it to a black family, and then buy up the remaining homes from Caucasians at cut-rate prices, then sell them to housing-hungry black families at hefty profits.
The Rumford Fair Housing Act, designed to remedy residential segregation, was overturned by Proposition 14, which was sponsored by the California real estate industry, and supported by a majority of white voters. Psychiatrist and civil rights activist Alvin Poussaint considered Proposition 14 to be one of the root causes of black rebellion in Watts.
Because of discrimination Los Angeles' African American residents were excluded from the high-paying jobs, affordable housing, and politics available to white residents; moreover, they faced discrimination by the white-dominated Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).[ citation needed ] In 1950, William H. Parker was appointed and sworn in as Los Angeles Chief of Police. After a major scandal called Bloody Christmas of 1951, Parker pushed for more independence from political pressures that would enable him to create a more professionalized police force. The public supported him and voted for charter changes that isolated the police department from the rest of the city government. In the 1960s, the LAPD was promoted as one of the best police forces in the world.
Despite its reform and having a professionalized, military-like police force, William Parker's LAPD faced repeated criticism from the city's Latino and black residents for police brutality—resulting from his recruiting of officers from the South with strong anti-black and anti-Mexican attitudes. Chief Parker coined the term "Thin Blue Line", representing the police as holding down pervasive crime.
Resentment of such longstanding racial injustices are cited as reasons why Watts' African-American population exploded on August 11, 1965, in what would become the Watts Riots.
On the evening of Wednesday, August 11, 1965, 21-year-old Marquette Frye, an African-American man driving his mother's 1955 Buick, was pulled over by California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer Lee Minikus for alleged reckless driving .After administering a field sobriety test, Minikus placed Frye under arrest and radioed for his vehicle to be impounded. Marquette's brother, Ronald, a passenger in the vehicle, walked to their house nearby, bringing their mother, Rena Price, back with him to the scene of the arrest.
When Rena Price reached the intersection of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street that evening, she scolded Frye about drinking and driving, as he recalled in a 1985 interview with the Orlando Sentinel .But the situation quickly escalated: someone shoved Price, Frye was struck, Price jumped an officer, and another officer pulled out a shotgun. Backup police officers attempted to arrest Frye by using physical force to subdue him. After community members reported that police had roughed up Frye and kicked a pregnant woman, angry mobs formed. As the situation intensified, growing crowds of local residents watching the exchange began yelling and throwing objects at the police officers. Frye's mother and brother fought with the officers and were eventually arrested along with Marquette Frye.
After the arrests of Price and her sons the Frye brothers, the crowd continued to grow along Avalon Boulevard. Police came to the scene to break up the crowd several times that night, but were attacked when people threw rocks and chunks of concrete.A 46-square-mile (119 square kilometer) swath of Los Angeles was transformed into a combat zone during the ensuing six days.
After a night of increasing unrest, police and local black community leaders held a community meeting on Thursday, August 12, to discuss an action plan and to urge calm. The meeting failed. Later that day, Los Angeles police chief William H. Parker called for the assistance of the California Army National Guard.Chief Parker believed the riots resembled an insurgency, compared it to fighting the Viet Cong, and decreed a "paramilitary" response to the disorder. Governor Pat Brown declared that law enforcement was confronting "guerrillas fighting with gangsters".
The rioting intensified, and on Friday, August 13, about 2,300 National Guardsmen joined the police in trying to maintain order on the streets. Sergeant Ben Dunn said: "The streets of Watts resembled an all-out war zone in some far-off foreign country, it bore no resemblance to the United States of America."By nightfall on Saturday, 16,000 law enforcement personnel had been mobilized and patrolled the city. Blockades were established, and warning signs were posted throughout the riot zones threatening the use of deadly force (one sign warned residents to "Turn left or get shot"). 23 of the 34 people killed during the riots were shot by law enforcement or National Guardsmen. Angered over the police response, residents of Watts engaged in a full-scale battle against the law enforcement personnel. Rioters tore up sidewalks and bricks to hurl at Guardsmen and police, and to smash their vehicles.
Those actively participating in the riots started physical fights with police, blocked Los Angeles Fire Department personnel from using fire hoses on protesters, or stopped and beat white motorists yelling racial slurs in the area. Arson and looting were largely confined to local white-owned stores and businesses that were said to have caused resentment in the neighborhood due to low wages and high prices for local workers.
To quell the riots, Chief Parker initiated a policy of mass arrest.Following the deployment of National Guardsmen, a curfew was declared for a vast region of South Central Los Angeles. In addition to the Guardsmen, 934 Los Angeles police officers and 718 officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were deployed during the rioting. Watts and all black-majority areas in Los Angeles were put under the curfew. All residents outside of their homes in the affected areas after 8:00pm were subject to arrest. Eventually nearly 3,500 people were arrested, primarily for curfew violations. By the morning of Sunday, August 15, the riots had largely been quelled.
Over the course of six days, between 31,000 and 35,000 adults participated in the riots. Around 70,000 people were "sympathetic, but not active."Over the six days, there were 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage. Many white Americans were fearful of the breakdown of social order in Watts, especially since white motorists were being pulled over by rioters in nearby areas and assaulted. Many in the black community, however, believed the rioters were taking part in an "uprising against an oppressive system." In a 1966 essay, black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin wrote:
The whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life.
Despite allegations that "criminal elements" were responsible for the riots, the vast majority of those arrested had no prior criminal record.
Parker publicly said that the people he saw rioting were acting like "monkeys in the zoo." [ citation needed ]Overall, an estimated $40 million in damage was caused ($320,000,000 in 2019 dollars), with almost 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. Homes were not attacked, although some caught fire due to proximity to other fires.
|Businesses and private buildings||Public buildings||Total|
|Damaged/burned: 258||Damaged/burned: 14||Total: 272|
|Looted: 192||Total: 192|
|Both damaged/burned & looted: 288||Total: 288|
|Destroyed: 267||Destroyed: 1||Total: 268|
Debate rose quickly over what had taken place in Watts, as the area was known to be under a great deal of racial and social tension. Reactions and reasoning about the riots greatly varied based on the perspectives of those affected by and participating in the riots' chaos.
National civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke two days after the riots happened in Watts. The riots were partly a response to Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment sponsored by the California Real Estate Association and passed that had in effect repealed the Rumford Fair Housing Act.In 1966, the California Supreme Court reinstated the Rumford Fair Housing Act in the Reitman v. Mulkey case (a decision affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court the following year), declaring the amendment to violate the US constitution and laws.
A variety of opinions and explanations were published. Public opinion polls studied in the few years after the riot showed that a majority believed the riots were linked to communist groups who were active in the area protesting high unemployment rates and racial discrimination.Those opinions concerning racism and discrimination were expressed three years after hearings conducted by a committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights took place in Los Angeles to assess the condition of relations between the police force and minorities. These hearings were also intended to make a ruling on the discrimination case against the police for their alleged mistreatment of members of the Nation of Islam. These different arguments and opinions are often cited in continuing debates over the underlying causes of the Watts riots.
A commission under Governor Pat Brown investigated the riots, known as the McCone Commission, and headed by former CIA director John A. McCone. It released a 101-page report on December 2, 1965 entitled Violence in the City—An End or a Beginning?: A Report by the Governor's Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, 1965.
The McCone Commission identified the root causes of the riots to be high unemployment, poor schools, and related inferior living conditions that were endured by African Americans in Watts. Recommendations for addressing these problems included "emergency literacy and preschool programs, improved police-community ties, increased low-income housing, more job-training projects, upgraded health-care services, more efficient public transportation, and many more." Most of these recommendations were never implemented.
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Marquette Frye died of pneumonia on December 20, 1986 at age 42.His mother, Rena Price, died on June 10, 2013, at age 97. She never recovered the impounded 1955 Buick which her son had been driving, because the storage fees exceeded the car's value.
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Mass racial violence in the United States, also called race riots, can include such disparate events as:
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), officially the City of Los Angeles Police Department, is the police department of Los Angeles, California. With 9,974 officers and 3,036 civilian staff, it is the third-largest municipal police department in the United States, after the New York City Police Department and the Chicago Police Department. The department operates in an area of 498 square miles (1,290 km2) and a population of 4,030,904 people.
The 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 1967 Detroit Rebellion or 12th Street riot was the bloodiest incident in the "Long, hot summer of 1967". Composed mainly of confrontations between black residents and the Detroit Police Department, it began in the early morning hours of Sunday July 23, 1967, in Detroit, Michigan. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the city's Near West Side. It exploded into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot 24 years earlier.
A Los Angeles Police Department C.R.A.S.H. initiative that began in April 1987, Operation Hammer was a large scale attempt to crack down on gang violence in Los Angeles, California. After a group of people at a birthday party were shot down on their front lawn in a drive-by shooting, Chief of Police Daryl F. Gates responded with a roundup of gang members. At the height of this operation in April 1988, 1,453 people were arrested by one thousand police officers in South Central Los Angeles in a single weekend.
Daryl Gates was the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from 1978 to 1992. His length of tenure was second only to that of William H. Parker. As chief of police, he took a hardline, aggressive, paramilitary approach to law enforcement. Gates is co-credited with the creation of SWAT teams with LAPD's John Nelson, who others claim was the originator of SWAT in 1965. Gates also co-founded D.A.R.E along with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The 1967 Newark riots was one of 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the "Long Hot Summer of 1967". This riot occurred in Newark, New Jersey, between July 12 and July 17, 1967. Over the four days of rioting, looting, and property destruction, 26 people died and hundreds were injured.
The Plainfield riots was one of 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the "Long Hot Summer of 1967". This riot was a series of racially charged violent disturbances that occurred in Plainfield, New Jersey, which mirrored the 1967 Newark riots in nearby Newark.
Billy G. Mills is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge and a former Los Angeles City Council member, serving from 1963 to 1974. He was one of the first three African-Americans elected to the council.
The 1943Detroit race riot took place in Detroit, Michigan, of the United States, from the evening of June 20 through the early morning of June 22. The race riot was ultimately suppressed by the use of 6,000 federal troops. It occurred in a period of dramatic population increase and social tensions associated with the military buildup of World War II, as Detroit's automotive industry was converted to the war effort. Existing social tensions and housing shortages were exacerbated by the arrival of nearly 400,000 migrants, both African-American and White Southerners, from the Southeastern United States between 1941 and 1943. The new migrants competed for space and jobs, as well as against white European immigrants and their descendants.
Riots often occur in reaction to a perceived grievance or out of dissent. Riots may be the outcome of a sporting event, although many riots have occurred due to poor working or living conditions, government oppression, conflicts between races or religions.
The 1943 race riot in Beaumont, Texas, erupted on June 15 and ended two days later. It related to wartime tensions in the overcrowded city, which had been flooded by workers from across the South. The immediate catalyst to white workers from the Pennsylvania Shipyard in Beaumont attacking blacks and their property was a rumor that a white woman had been raped by a black man. This was one of several riots in the summer of 1943 in which blacks suffered disproportionately as victims and had the greatest losses in property damage. The first took place in the largest shipyard in Mobile, Alabama in late May; others took place in Detroit and Los Angeles in June, and Harlem in August.
Avondale is a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. It is home to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The population was 12,466 at the 2010 census.
Crime in Los Angeles has varied throughout time, reaching peaks between the 1970s and 1990s.
A race riot took place in Harlem, New York City, on August 1 and 2 of 1943, after a white police officer, James Collins, shot and wounded Robert Bandy, an African-American soldier; and rumors circulated that the soldier had been killed. The riot was chiefly directed by black residents against white-owned property in Harlem. It was one of six riots in the nation that year related to black and white tensions during World War II. The others took place in Detroit; Beaumont, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; and Los Angeles. In Beaumont and Mobile, the riots were white defense industry workers attacking blacks.
The King assassination riots, also known as the Holy Week Uprising, was a wave of civil disturbance which swept the United States following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. It was the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War. Some of the biggest riots took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City.
The 1967 Milwaukee riot was one of 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the "Long Hot Summer of 1967". In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, African American residents, outraged by the slow pace in ending housing discrimination and police brutality, began to riot on the evening of July 30, 1967. The inciting incident was a fight between teenagers, which escalated into full-fledged rioting with the arrival of police. Within minutes, arson, looting, and sniping was ravaging the North Side of the city, primarily the 3rd Street Corridor.
From the mid 1960s until the late 1980s, Chicago's Marquette Park was the scene of many racially charged rallies that erupted in violence. The rallies often spilled into the residential areas surrounding the park.