Waukegan riot of 1966

Last updated

Waukegan riot of 1966 was a period of conflict between police and some residents of the town's predominantly African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods on the south side that occurred in the midst of the tumult sweeping America in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

Puerto Ricans Ethnic group

Puerto Ricans are people of ethnic origins in Puerto Rico, the inhabitants, and citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and their descendants. Puerto Rico is home to people of many different national origins as well.

On Friday, August 26, an African-American police officer named Ernest Jones attempted to arrest Roosevelt Saunders, an African-American man. [1] A fight ensued, and Saunders escaped into a crowd, and several days of rioting followed. [2] The fact that the catalyzing encounter involved two African-Americans prompted some to suggest that the unrest was not about race, but the event underscored a deep sense of disempowerment among the African-American community. [3] By August 28, 200 police were called to a 2 square mile area bounded by the streets of Genesee, 10th, and McAllister, and South Avenue. [4] As a mostly young crowd battled with police, a Puerto Rican family of six got caught in the crossfire, their car being hit by a Molotov cocktail while returning from church. The Waukegan branch of the NAACP later raised money for these victims. [5] By the night of 29 August, police with riot helmets and shotguns had established a curfew beginning at 7:30 pm for the region enclosed by Belvidere Street, McAlister Street, South Avenue. and Lake Michigan. [6] Over 100 African-Americans were arrested over the course of the weekend. [7] Waukegan Mayor Robert Sabonjian had harsh words for those involved in the riots, calling them "local hopheads, narcotic addicts, drunkards, and just plain scum" and vowing that anyone involved in public housing would be evicted. [8] He also reportedly issued an order to police of "shoot to kill." [9]

Molotov cocktail incendiary weapon using flammable liquid in a bottle

A Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, bottle bomb, poor man's grenade, Molotovin koktaili (Finnish), polttopullo (Finnish), fire bomb or just Molotov, sometimes shortened as Molly, is a generic name used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, Molotov cocktails have been used by street criminals, protesters, rioters, criminal gangs, urban guerrillas, terrorists, hard-line militants, anarchists, irregular soldiers, or even regular soldiers short on equivalent military-issue weapons. They are primarily intended to ignite rather than obliterate targets.

Subsequently, Sabonjian held talks with community leaders and the NAACP, which vowed to open dialogue about segregation, police brutality, and the lack of recreation facilities in African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods of the city. [10] Talks fell apart, though, when Sabonjian reiterated charges at the meeting that the NAACP had orchestrated the August unrest. [11] He refused to apologize for the remarks, prompting the NAACP to walk out of talks. [12] They were also upset by Sabonjian's proposed measure in the city council, which required that all civil rights demonstrations consist of less than 100 people and, moreover, that all participants in these demonstrations ought to have their names submitted to the city police department four days beforehand. [13] In response, the NAACP along with other community leaders organized a march of over 200 people on 10 September through downtown Waukegan. The crowd, mostly African-American, carried signs protesting segregated schools and racist housing policies. [14]

The march coincided with a push toward desegregation aimed at Whittier Elementary School. Almost entirely African-American, Whittier's enrollment stood in contrast to Waukegan's four other elementary schools, two of which were all white and two of which were 99% white. [15] As of early September, the Whittier community protested this segregation by boycotting, with less than a quarter of students showing up for class. [16]

In the wake of the march, Sabonjian backpedalled from the limit on crowds to less than 100 people, but he maintained the requirement that names of participants be submitted to the police department beforehand, ostensibly to prevent felons from involvement. [17] Subsequent meetings between Sabonjian and the NAACP proved more productive. By late September, they had agreed to building a recreation center in the area of the August unrest as well as initiatives aimed at providing jobs for minority groups. [18] Sabonjian's rhetoric, however, did not moderate. In October 1966, he referred to those involved in the riot as "animals." [19]

Related Research Articles

Mass racial violence in the United States, also called race riots, can include such disparate events as:

The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held August 26–29 at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois. As President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced he would not seek reelection, the purpose of the convention was to select a new presidential nominee to run as the Democratic Party's candidate for the office. The keynote speaker was Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Senator Edmund S. Muskie

Waukegan, Illinois City in Illinois

Waukegan is the largest city in and the county seat of Lake County, Illinois, United States, a part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The city is located 35 miles north of the Loop and 10 miles south of the Wisconsin state border, approximately halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. As of the 2013 United States Census estimate, the city has a population of 88,826, which makes it the ninth most populous city in Illinois. Waukegan is a predominately working-class community with a size-able middle-class population.

A police riot is a riot carried out by the police; a riot that the police are responsible for instigating, escalating or sustaining as a violent confrontation; an event characterized by widespread police brutality; a mass police action that is violently undertaken against civilians for the purpose of political repression. The term "police riot" was popularized after its use in the Walker Report, which investigated the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago to describe the "unrestrained and indiscriminate" violence that the police "inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat." In this sense a police riot refers to rioting carried out by the police rather than a riot carried out by people who may be motivated to a greater or lesser degree by grievances with the police.

The Division Street riots were episodes of rioting and civil unrest, which started on June 12 and continued through June 14, 1966. These riots are remembered as a turning point in Puerto Rican civic involvement in Chicago. This was the first riot in the United States attributed to Puerto Ricans.

The Louisville riots of 1968 refers to riots in Louisville, Kentucky in May 1968. As in many other cities around the country, there were unrest and riots partially in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. On May 27, 1968, a group of 400 people, mostly blacks, gathered at 28th and Greenwood Streets, in the Parkland neighborhood. The intersection, and Parkland in general, had recently become an important location for Louisville's black community, as the local NAACP branch had moved its office there.

Chicago race riot of 1919 August 1919 racial tensions in Chicago, Illinois, USA

The Chicago race riot of 1919 was a major racial conflict of violence committed by ethnic white Americans against black Americans that began in Chicago, Illinois, on July 27, 1919, and ended on August 3. During the riot, thirty-eight people died and over five hundred were injured. It is considered the worst of the approximately 25 riots during the Red Summer, so named because of the violence and fatalities across the nation. The combination of prolonged arson, looting, and murder made it the worst race riot in the history of Illinois.

The 1905 Chicago Teamsters' strike was a sympathy strike and lockout by the United Brotherhood of Teamsters in the summer of 1905 in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The strike was initiated by a small clothing workers' union. But it soon spread as nearly every union in the city, including the Teamsters, supported the job action with sympathy strikes. Initially, the strike was aimed at the Montgomery Ward department store, but it affected almost every employer in the metropolitan region after the Teamsters walked out. The strike eventually pitted the Teamsters against the Employers' Association of Chicago, a broad coalition of business owners formed a few years earlier to oppose unionization in Chicago.

The Harlem riot of 1935 took place on March 19, 1935 during the Great Depression, in New York City, New York, in the United States. It has been described as the first "modern" race riot in Harlem, because it was committed primarily against property rather than persons. Harlem is a northern neighborhood on Manhattan Island in New York City whose population at the time was predominately African American.

From 1967 to 1973, an extended period of racial unrest occurred in the town of Cairo, Illinois. The city had long had racial tensions which boiled over after a black soldier was found hanged in his jail cell. Over the next several years, fire bombings, racially charged boycotts and shootouts were common place in Cairo, with 170 nights of gunfire reported in 1969 alone.

King assassination riots Riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

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 following events occurred in September 1931:

The 1966 Chicago West Side riots was a public disorder that occurred between July 12 and 15 in Chicago, Illinois. After police arrested a man that was wanted for armed robbery, black residents took to the streets in anger and looted and burned various stores throughout the West Side until the arrival of 1,200 National Guardsmen on July 15. Violence quickly subsided and most of the troops were sent home on July 20.

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.

On 20 February 2017, rioting broke out in Rinkeby, a predominantly immigrant-populated suburb of the Swedish capital Stockholm.

The Humboldt Park riot was the second major conflict between Puerto Ricans in Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. The riot began on June 4, 1977 and lasted a day and a half. Following the shooting deaths of two Puerto Rican men, locals battled Chicago police officers in Humboldt Park and in the streets surrounding. The riot led the community to hold the Division Street Puerto Rican Day Parade, which started in 1978.


  1. Dan McNulty, "Real Cause of Riots Probed in Waukegan," The Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun 1 September 1966.
  2. Dan McNulty, "Real Cause of Riots Probed in Waukegan," The Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun 1 September 1966.
  3. Dan McNulty, "Real Cause of Riots Probed in Waukegan," The Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun 1 September 1966.
  4. Mount, Charles, "Seize 64 in Waukegan Riot," Chicago Tribune, 29 August 1966.
  5. "Mayor Warns: 'No Outsiders in Waukegan,'" Chicago Tribune, 1 September 1966.
  6. "Police Seal Off Waukegan Riot Area, Arrest 57," Chicago Tribune, 30 August 1966.
  7. Dan McNulty, "Real Cause of Riots Probed in Waukegan," The Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun 1 September 1966.
  8. "Police Seal Off Waukegan Riot Area, Arrest 57," Chicago Tribune, 30 August 1966.
  9. Linner Myers, "Controversial Ex-mayor of Waukegan in Thick of Race Again," Chicago Tribune 28 March 1985.
  10. "Mayor Slates Race Parley for Waukegan," Chicago Tribune, 4 September 1966
  11. "NAACP Aids Quit Parley in Waukegan," Chicago Tribune, 8 September 1966.
  12. "NAACP Aids Quit Parley in Waukegan," Chicago Tribune, 8 September 1966.
  13. "NAACP Aids Quit Parley in Waukegan," Chicago Tribune, 8 September 1966.
  14. "200 Marchers Join in Waukegan Protest," Chicago Tribune, 11 September 1966.
  15. Michael McGuire, "Marching Ban to be Sought in Waukegan," Chicago Tribune 6 September 1966.
  16. "Boycott of School is Growing". Chicago Daily Defender. 7 September 1966.
  17. "Waukegan Puts Ban on Felons Marching," Chicago Tribune 13 September 1966.
  18. "A Mayor Halts Attack on Vet," Chicago Tribune 22 September 1966
  19. "Waukegan Mayor Criticizes Riots." http://www.efootage.com/stock-footage/89173/Waukegan_Mayor_Criticizes_Riots_-_HD/