By George Washington
"what a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious!"
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745--1799. Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick.
when the truth of George Washington's statement is realized, rather than lift ourselves to live and govern by noble principles, we legislate against the common citizen and send the police to enforce unjust laws and to abuse the citizens...
because we've pretended to hold high moral standards that we've never really believed or practiced, we've been constantly at war with ourselves...
Los Angeles Riots 1992
by South Central History
The LA Riots are mostly associated with the beating by police of Rodney King, but have a deeper and more complex background than that. We will start by looking at the background of Rodney King and the other causes to the LA Riots.
The early 1990s were a difficult time, especially for South Central. South Central was quickly changing. During the 1980s, many immigrants began to move in and the Crack Epidemic had a terrible effect on the area. We will learn about these events next week. Also, 1991 and 1992 were the worst on record for crime. 1992, the year of the riots, the murder rate was the highest in LA in history. At 1077 murders, it was close to three times the rate today. Many of these deaths came from gang violence in South Central. However, in Watts in the projects, gang violence came to a complete end. Right before the riots, there was a massive gang truce between the Bloods and the Crips throughout the three Watts’ projects. This came as a result of unity against the police.
Beating of Rodney King – March 3, 1991
Rodney King was severely beaten by the police on March 3, 1991. The police attempted to pull him over in Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley after he was caught speeding at 110 mph. He led the police on a short pursuit because he knew being pulled over would violate his parole for a prior robbery. The police claimed that he was resisting arrest once he was pulled over. They claimed that they believed he was on drugs, although he was not. The police proceeded to beat Rodney King severely for about 15 minutes, resulting in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage. The police did not know that they were being filmed for most of the beating. The people that filmed it brought it to the media, and the film was repeatedly shown on TV. Police brutality and racial profiling had been a problem for some time in LA, but this was the first time it was caught on tape. The four main officers involved were brought to trail on charges of using excessive force. Their trail was moved to Semi Valley. The four white officers represented for many people of color everything that was wrong with the police.
Murder of Latasha Harlins – March 16, 1991
Latasha Harlins was a 15-year old Black young woman. She entered a liquor store on Figueroa on March 16, 1991 to buy some orange juice. She picked up the juice and put it in her backpack. She took out the money to pay for it and approached the counter. The woman running the store was Soon Ja Du, the sister of the Korean Store owner. She accused the girl of stealing, and attempted to take the backpack. Latasha hit Du in response to this. As Latasha turned around, Du picked up a gun behind the counter and shot her in the back of the head. At the same time that the King video was still being shown, a video of the murder was shown on TV. Black residents in South Central were very angry, but the story did not get very much coverage outside of LA. Ice Cube wrote a song called “Black Korea,” about this murder. Du was charged with murder.
Verdict for Du – October 1991
All of South Central was enraged when the verdict came back for Du. Instead of being incarcerated, Du was given probation and forced to pay a $500 fine. She did not serve any jail time for the murder of Latasha Harlins. This put a deep strain on the relationship between Koreans and Blacks.
Verdict for Officers in King Beating – April 29, 1992
The mostly white jury in the case against the white officers came back with a verdict of “not guilty” on April 29, 1992. Nobody could believe it. The officers were on tape and they were still not convicted. The feelings of anger and disappointment had built up long enough, and within minutes of the verdict, rioting started in South Central on Florence and Normandie.
The riots happened quickly. Liquor stores, chain stores, fast-food places, and white people were the main targets of looting, fire, and violence. On the first day of the riots, the most infamous event took place. Reginald Denny, a white truck driver, was crossing Florence and Normandie. He was pulled out of his car by Damian Williams, a resident of the area. He was severely beaten while a helicopter recorded the incident. Williams took a piece of concrete and slammed it against Denny’s head and then celebrated. Denny barely survived. The police were withdrawn from South Central, and the 110 Freeway was closed from Century to King. The media concentrated on this attack throughout the riots. They did not report that Fidel Lopez, an immigrant from Guatemala, suffered similar brutality.
The riots were more organized and South LA began to burn. Korean store owners came to defend their stores and had gunbattles with rioters. There were not any police or National Guard present at this point as LA burned.
Rodney King was put on TV and asked LA, “can we all get along?” People could not at this point. The police and National Guard continued to let the city burn as a huge power outage hit South Central.
Day 4 and 5
The National Guard enters South Central and begins to restore order. There are random areas of violence for days on end.
In the end, 53 people were killed, most all were rioters or innocent victims. Over $1 billion in damages were done. People rioted because of the built up anger and frustration of recent events. Riots also occurred in San Francisco, Oakland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Chicago. The riots were not just a collection of random acts. People were speaking out against oppression; against being held down for so long. The only way they were finally heard was through the extreme acts that came to be called the LA Riots.
The Red Summer refers to the race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities in the United States during the summer and early autumn of 1919. In most instances, whites attacked African Americans. In some cases many blacks fought back, notably in Chicago, where, along with Washington, D.C. and Elaine, Arkansas, the greatest number of fatalities occurred.
The riots followed postwar social tensions related to the demobilization of veterans of World War I, both black and white, and competition for jobs among ethnic whites and blacks. The riots were extensively documented in the press, which along with the federal government conflated black movements with bolshevism.
Activist and author James Weldon Johnson, employed since 1916 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a field secretary, coined the term "Red Summer." In 1919, he organized peaceful protests against the racial violence of that summer.
Following the violence-filled summer, in the autumn of 1919, Dr. George E. Haynes, an educator employed as director of Negro Economics for the U.S. Department of Labor reported on the events. His report was to be the brief for an investigation of the issues by the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He identified 38 separate riots in widely scattered cities, in which whites attacked blacks. In addition, Haynes reported that between January 1 and September 14, 1919, white mobs lynched at least forty-three African Americans, with sixteen hanged and others shot; while another eight men were burned at the stake. The states appeared powerless or unwilling to interfere or prosecute such mob murders. Unlike earlier race riots in U.S. history, the 1919 events were among the first in which blacks in number resisted white attacks. A. Philip Randolph, a civil rights activist and leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, defended the right of blacks to self-defense.
List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States From Wikipedia
This article is about incidents of civil unrest, rioting, violent labor disputes, or minor insurrections or revolts in the United States.
New York City (1863) cnbc
In 1863, citizens were drafted to serve on the Union side in the Civil War. However, a loophole existed, and anybody with $300 could pay a commutation fee and avoid conscription. In today’s dollars, that fee would be equal to over $5000, a sum of money far out of the reach of poor and working-class people.
Resentment at the situation eventually resulted in rioting, but those taking part soon targeted African-Americans, and large numbers were lynched in the streets and had their homes destroyed.
President Lincoln sent militia regiments to pacify the city, and by the fourth day the uprising was crushed decisively. But to this day, no one can agree on the number of people killed in the rioting or in the military action that suppressed it. Figures vary between 120 and 2000 people killed, and damage was estimated as between $1 million and $5 million, a huge sum of money for the time.
Seattle (1999) cnbc
The World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999 was scheduled to take place in Seattle on November 30. The low-ball estimate is that a record 40,000 anti-globalization activists showed up to protest the meeting, and shut it down entirely if possible.
Activists blocked traffic at major intersections, thereby preventing delegates from getting to the conference, and police responded by firing tear gas, pepper spray and, eventually, rubber bullets, to disperse the crowds and get delegates through.
Protesters responded by destroying storefronts, pushing flaming dumpsters into intersections and slashing the tires of police cars. Utimately, 600 people were arrested, chief of police Norm Stamper stepped down and the vandalism caused $20 million in damages.
by United States History
Nat Turner was a slave who led a failed 1831 slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. That attempt became a reference to the justification for the Civil War.
Nat Turner was born on a small plantation in Virginia, owned by slaveholder Benjamin Turner.* Nat's mother was born in Africa and had been shipped to the United States as a slave. She taught her son to hate slavery. His master's son taught Turner to read. He grew up involved deeply in religion and served as a preacher to the slaves around him. Some of the slaves he preached to began to call him "the Prophet," owing to some of his visions; he thought God had communicated to him in dreams.
In 1831, Nat Turner was sold to plantation owner and slaveholder Joseph Travis. In February of that year, an eclipse of the sun convinced Turner that it was a sign from God to start an insurrection, and lead his people out of slavery.
Turner had started planning the uprising that was to take place on July 4, but fell ill, and it had to be postponed. An atmospheric disturbance on August 13, in which the sun appeared bluish-green, served as another sign from God for Turner to commence his uprising.
A bloody rebellion
One week later, on August 21, the rebellion erupted. Turner and seven other slaves on the plantation killed Joseph Travis and his family while they slept. They set off on a campaign of brutal murders along the countryside, picking up slave recruits as they progressed from plantation to plantation. Turner and his fellow escapees moved through Southampton County toward Jerusalem, the county seat, where they were intent on seizing the armory.
Some of the slaves were on horseback, so they could run down anyone trying to escape the murderous rampage. The rebels killed all the white people they found, including women, children and the elderly. When the killing finally came to an end, 55 white people lay dead — bludgeoned to death. After 48 hours of rampaging and killing, the band was confronted by armed citizens and the state militia just outside Jerusalem, where most of its members were captured or killed. Nat Turner managed to escape and hid out for six weeks before he was captured. Turner and 16 of his followers were hanged on November 11, 1831.
What followed was a reign of terror against all blacks in Virginia. State and federal troops beat, tortured, and murdered some 200 blacks, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion.
Detroit (1967) Early in the morning of July 23, 1967, vice squad officers raided an unlicensed speakeasy in Detroit’s notoriously rough Near West Side. Rumors of excessive police force made the rounds, and it didn’t take long before a seething mob had congregated on the street. At 5am, a bottle was thrown through a police car’s rear window and the situation escalated, prompting the police to respond with large numbers of additional personnel.
By the time 3pm rolled around, there were almost 400 police officers trying to restore order to the neighborhood, and their efforts were met with a barrage of bottles and rocks. Firefighters responding to rapidly spreading blazes were also subjected to a hail of deadly projectiles. When the violence dissipated five days later, property damage was estimated to be between $40 million to $80 million.
Chicago (1968) cnbc
When civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, it touched off riots in more than 100 major American cities. One of the affected cities, Chicago, saw a full 28 blocks inundated with looting and arson, prompting Mayor Richard Daley to mobilize more than 10,000 police officers and impose a curfew on anybody under the age of 21.
Arson was so extensive that the fires exceeded the capabilities of the city’s fire department, so many buildings burned to the ground. Many that didn’t were so badly damaged that they had to be torn down, rendering hundreds of people homeless and costing more than $10 million in damages.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the city’s notorious south side was spared much of the violence, thanks to the efforts of the Blackstone Rangers and the East Side Disciples, two warring street gangs who joined forces to protect their neighborhood from vandalism.
by United States History
Unrest existed in many areas of the West, particularly west of the Alleghenies. Primary contributing issues included a lack of federal courts in the West, which necessitated long trips to Philadelphia, lack of protection against Native American attacks and a high federal excise tax on domestically produced distilled spirits.
At Alexander Hamilton`s urging, Congress in 1791 enacted a tax on spirits at twenty-five percent of the liquor`s value. Large producers were not pleased with the tax, but generally complied; the small producers were irate and began to organize opposition.
In the western counties of Pennsylvania, the Scots-Irish farmers were particularly hard-hit - most were grain growers and many were distillers. Mobs tarred and feathered a tax collector and burned the home of another. Shots (of ammunition) were exchanged.
Washington called upon the rebels to disperse, but his plea was ignored. The president then ordered the governors of the surrounding states to summon their militias. Washington invoked the wording of a statute authorizing the federal government to call up the militias, along with the written finding by James Wilson, then an associate justice of the Supreme Court, that the necessary conditions existed, to justify his action.
A force of nearly 13,000 men was raised and marched into western Pennsylvania. Opposition quickly faded away, but Hamilton (never reluctant to press federal power) actively directed the capture of more than 100 participants. Eventually two were convicted of treason, but later received presidential pardons.
The Whiskey Rebellion was the first test of federal authority in the young republic. It demonstrated the willingness and ability of the federal government to enforce its laws. It also established a precedent when the president called up state militias for federal purposes.
by United States History
A wave of farm foreclosures in western Massachusetts swept the young republic to its first episode in class struggle. Demonstrators and rioters protested high taxation, the governor`s high salary, high court costs and the assembly`s refusal to issue paper money (an inflationary measure highly favored by the debtor class).
Opposition had coalesced around Daniel Shays, a Revolutionary War veteran. At first, the activity was limited to meetings and petitions to Massachusetts government in Boston. The matter escalated when the Massachusetts Supreme Court indicated eleven leaders of the movement as disorderly, riotous, and seditious. Shays responded by raising a militia of 700 men, many unpaid veterans of the Continental Army. They marched first for Worcester where they closed down the commonwealth`s supreme court, then turned west to Springfield where they broke into the jail to free imprisoned debtors. The barns of some government officials were burned. Wealthy Bostonians, who feared the rebellion in the west, contributed money for soldiers under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln.
The rebels were routed in a skirmish in January 1787. Shays escaped to Vermont and was later pardoned. Others were not so fortunate - 150 were captured and several sentenced to death. George Washington and others urged compassionate treatmentof the rebels and pardons were eventually granted.
It is interesting to note the role reversal of such people as Samuel Adams. In early revolutionary times, Adams was among the most vocal and radical critics of the existing government. By the 1780s, however, Adams had become an establishment figure and urged death sentences for the leading Shays rebels.
Abigail Adams also had no compunctions with regard to the rebels. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, while she was in London late 1787 and he was in Paris, she described the uprising: "Ignorant, restless deperadoes, without conscience or principles, have led a deluded multitude to follow their standard, under pretense of grievances which have no existence but in their imaginations." She lauded the firm steps taken to put down the rebellion.
The next statewide election in Massachusetts altered the assembly`s complexion and led to passage of a number of measures designed to improve the farmers` conditions. However, conservative forces were deeply disturbed by the anarchy in the west and became increasingly committed to strengthening the central government.
Newark (1967) cnbc
The 1967 riots in New Jersey’s largest city were triggered by a rumor. On July 12, two white police officers had stopped an African-American cab driver for improperly passing them and somehow, a story got out that the officers had killed him while he was in custody. The account proved to be false, but the rioting took on a life of its own regardless, and persisted for six long days, resulting in 26 fatalities and $10 million worth of property damage.
The unrest in Newark also inspired similar violence in the nearby city of Plainfield, which had its own riots at the same time as the events in Newark unfolded. Although the Newark riots are more infamous than those that occurred in Plainfield, the city of Newark’s image has recovered somewhat, while Plainfield was so stigmatized by the violence that many of the businesses destroyed in the rioting remain vacant to this day.
we still don't have anything that even vaguely resembles justice...
by Black Past
Following World War II, over 500,000 African Americans migrated to West Coast cities in hopes of escaping racism and discrimination. However they found both in the west. For many black Los Angeles, California residents who lived in Watts, their isolation in that community was evidence that racial equality remained a distant goal as they experienced housing, education, employment, and political discrimination. These racial injustices caused Watts’ African American population to explode on August 11, 1965 in what would become the Watts Rebellion.
The rebellion began on August 11th when the Los Angeles Highway Patrol stopped black Watts resident Marquette Frye and his brother, alleging that they were speeding. Back-up was called from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) as a crowd of African Americans gathered to watch the scene. Since the incident was close to Frye’s home, his mother emerged to find her son resisting arrest. Fearful that his arrest may ignite a riot, one LAPD officer drew his firearm. Catching a glimpse of the gun, Mrs. Frye jumped onto the officer’s back, causing the crowd to begin cheering. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers arrested all three of the Fryes. Enraged by the family’s arrests, Watts’ residents protested as the police cars drove away. Less than an hour later, black Angelenos took to the streets.
The five day revolt which involved some 30,000 people served as stark testimony to the inequality and poverty that dominated the lives of thousands of Watts’s residents. Many of those engaged in the uprising looted items from local groceries and clothing stores, acquiring what they wanted and needed but often could not afford. Others battled the LAPD which they held immediately responsible for their poverty and alienation.
By August 15 the riot ended when 14,000 National Guard troops arrived and patrolled the streets. The following day most African Americans retired to their homes. In the end, the Watts Rebellion took 34 lives. There were 1,032 injuries, nearly 4,000 arrests and $40 million dollars in property damage.
In spite of the protest, the Watts Rebellion did not significantly improve the lives of the community’s black population. While the revolt inspired the federal government to implement programs to address unemployment, education, healthcare, and housing under Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” much of the money allocated for these programs was eventually absorbed by the Vietnam War.
Today most of the population of Watts is Latino with many residents from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Although the population has changed, many of the issues of poverty, alienation and discrimination still plague the community today.
A Never Ending Cycle
By Casey Gane-McCalla
I wrote this article in January of 2009, but felt it was relevant again due to the riots in London and other cities in the U.K. As we can see in the article, the riots in the U.K. should be of no surprise, as history shows us that poverty, discrimination, unemployment and police brutality often result in riots and mass uprisings.
The BART shooting and the subsequent violent protest was far from the first time police brutality provoked a riot. What is about police brutality that provokes the inner city poor to react by destroying property and causing chaos?
When police, the government agents who are supposed to protect and serve the community, assault, kill, harass and discriminate members of a disenfranchised community all ideas of law, order and justice are thrown out the window.
Usually police brutality is not the primary cause for a riot but it is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Usually poverty, discrimination, disenfranchisement and neglect combined with a symbolic incident of oppression lead to the anger, chaos and lawlessness that provoke riots.
While the USA’s police brutality infused riots of the 60’s and even the 90’s have been well documented, similar incidents have been occurring all over the world, from Greece to France to Canada. In most of these cases, class, religion or race and discrimination created an atmosphere of anger and resentment against the government that explodes when members of their community are unfairly brutalized or killed.
In 1965 in Los Angeles, three members of a black family were arrested for protesting the arrest of their brother. Animosity in the community, already fueled by racial discrimination, unemployment, poor schools and housing discrimination erupted and people began to loot, vandalize and clash with police and white motorists. The riot lasted for six days and 34 people were killed, 1,032 injured, and 3,952 arrested. Police commissioner, William Parker, helped escalate the situation by saying that the rioters acted “like monkeys in a zoo”
A gubernatorial commission found the causes of the riot to as high unemployment, poor schools, and other inferior living conditions.
In 1967, police raided a after hours party in Detroit and wound up trying to arrest 82 people who were celebrating the homecoming of two soldiers from Vietnam. This resulted in a neighborhood protest that lead to looting, vandalism and arson. Once again the national guard was called in and after five days of rioting. At the end of the riot, 43 people were dead, 1189 injured and over 7000 were arrested.
The Detroit Free Press cited the causes of the Detroit riot as racism, economic inequality, and poor housing.
Riots with roots in racism and police brutality are not unique to the USA. In 1976, during the West Indian carnival in Notting Hill, London, West Indian youths revolted against arbitrary mass arrests and began clashing with the police, throwing bottles and other objects at police and their vehicles. The causes for the riot are cited as an occupational police presence and unemployment among the West Indian youths.
One of the most prominent riots of the 20th Century was the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittal of four officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King. After the officers were acquitted, African Americans in LA began to protest at the LA County courthouse and LAPD headquarters. A large group convened at the corner of Florence and Normandie confronted a group of officers who retreated because they were outnumbered. By the evening people began on Florence and Normandie began looting and attacking white motorists, including Reginald Denny.
Looting, arson and violence continued and eventually the National Guard was called in and later so was the Army and the Marines. The Riots wound up killing 53 people and causing more the one billion dollars worth of damage.
The Christopher Commission sited the causes of the LA Riots as high unemployment, racial profiling and police brutality.
The recent riots in France also were caused by police brutality, racism, unemployment and economic inequality. In October of 2005, two teenagers were chased by police into a power station where they were electrocuted. Protests and unrest subsequently ensued. Civil unrest spread to poor housing projects in other parts of France including violence, arson and clashes with police.
Almost 9,000 cars were burned and 3,000 people were arrested and 126 policemen and firefighters were injured. The BBC listed the causes of the riot as unemployment and discrimination against immigrants.
So we see that the causes of riots are often discrimination, poverty, and police brutality. Rather than blaming the poor and disenfranchised who riot, countries should attempt to eliminate the poverty, discrimination and police brutality that cause them. If not the cycle of the poor and discriminated succumbing to violence and chaos will continue and expand.