The Watts race riots that followed resulted in 34 deaths, over 1,000 injuries, nearly 4,000 arrests, and the destruction of property valued at $45 million. The violence and intensity of the Watts Riots shocked the nation and the government. Other race riots followed including the Newark Riots (1967) and the Detroit Riots (1967).
Facts about Watts Riots
African Americans migrated to the West Coast in large numbers, in response to defense industry recruitment at the start of WW2 and the black population in Los Angeles increased from about 65,000 in 1940 to 350,000 in 1965
Although the African American population in Los Angeles were not subject to the harsh discriminatory Black Codes and segregation policies of the Jim Crow Laws that were practiced in the southern states, they were restricted from living in certain areas and denied the educational and economic opportunities offered to whites..
In the 1950's Los Angeles became subject to increasing racial tension and violence and the street gangs, who had emerged to protect black neighborhoods, would eventually support the concepts of Black Power and see the rise of the Black Panthers movement of the late 1960's.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headed by William H. Parker as the Los Angeles Chief of Police, governed Los Angeles using fear and intimidation tactics to maintain order and dominate the deprived, African America, Watts neighborhood.
Young black Americans were specifically targeted and subjected to police brutality. The street gangs increased in numbers to provide protection in their neighborhoods and resist any instances of police brutality.
In 1964 75% of African Americans were forced to work in low paid, menial jobs and 50% of African American families lived in poverty. The scene was set for the outbreak of the Watts Riots, which are often referred to as the Watts Rebellion.
The catalyst for the Watts Riots occured on the evening of Wednesday, August 11, 1965, when 21-year-old Marquette Frye was forcibly arrested for drunk driving on intersection of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street.
His brother, Ronald Fry, who was a passenger in the car, ran to his nearby house to alert their mother, Rena Price to what was happening. They returned to the car and events escalated into violence as Rena Price was shoved, Frye was struck and back-up police were called.
Marquette Frye, Ronald Fry and their mother Rena Price were all arrested, watched by a growing crowd. News of the incident spread around the Watts neighborhood and the angry crowd threw stones, rocks and concrete at the police who were attempting to disperse the crowd.
The Watts neighborhood soon resembled a combat zone as the incident escalated into a riot during the night of August 11, 1965.
The next day, Thursday August 12, a meeting was called between police and local black community leaders. Tempers failed, the meeting fell apart and the unrest continued unabated.
Los Angeles police chief William H. Parker made the decision to call for the assistance of the California Army National Guard.
The rioting escalated even further and, by Friday August 13, the 46-square-mile (119-square-kilometer) area of Los Angeles was filled with about 2,300 National Guardsmen and over 1000 police.
On Saturday August 14 the number of National Guardsmen increased to 3500. The number of rioters involved in the Watts Riots were estimated at about 35,000. The Watts Riots were to last for a total of 6 days and nights from August 11, 1965 - August 17, 1965.
When the Watts Riots were finally brought under control, there were 34 persons killed and 1032 reported injuries. About 25% the injuries were of police, firefighters, National Guard troops, and government officials.
During the Watts Riots there were sniper attacks, looting and arson that included burning cars and buildings. A total of 3,438 people were arrested.
A total of 272 of buildings and businesses were burned or damaged, including 14 public buildings. There were 192 instances of looting, in mainly white premises. About $45 million in property was destroyedMany other race riots followed the Watts Riots including the Newark Riots (1967) and the Detroit Riots (1967).
From 1965 to 1971 across the USA there were a total of 752 riots over a total of 1802 day. During the riots 228 were killed, 12, 741 were injured and over 69,000 people were arrested. The number of incidents of arson totaled nearly 16,000.
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