Los Angeles: The City of Riots
Home of the largest populated area in the United States with just over 4 million people; the city of Los Angeles is one of the most well known cities in the world. It is home to many of the world greatest actors as well as the upper class of America. The city is full of life with many iconic landmarks such as Hollywood boulevard, the Hollywood sign, and the Kodak Theatre, yet it is hard to believe that this great city has been home to two of the worst riots in U.S. history. The Watts riots of 1965 and the L.A. riots of 1992 were both motivated by racial tensions and in both cases started with the unfair treatment of an African American by city policemen. Although the black community started the riots because of a rift between themselves and the whites, there were more reasons for rioting but the events that received the most national attention were perceived to be the one and only reason for the riots. With the increased number of other minorities besides African Americans, the city became more and more diverse. In 1980 Los Angeles’ Hispanic population was about 28% and increased to a staggering 40% as they became the majority in the city, while the Black population decreased from 17% to 13%. Naturally the struggling black community sees the increase in the Hispanic population as a “threat” to their jobs and as well as their neighborhoods (Bergesen, Herman 42). Yet with the Hispanic populations increasing the Black communities of Los Angeles were not as bad as they are believed to be. In 1964 the Watts area was actually a community consisting of mostly one and two-story houses, a third of which owned by the occupants. “At the time, a Black person could sit where he wanted on a bus or at the movies. They were allowed to vote and could use public facilities without discrimination. The opportunity to succeed was probably unequaled in any other major American City.”(Fogelson 3) Even with all these rights on one summer night in August, a riot that would define a city for many years took place with a simple routine pullover. On August 11, 1965, a white California Highway Patrolman named Lee W. Minikus was riding his motorcycle on 122nd street. A passing black motorist told Minikus that he had just seen a car that was being driven recklessly and by 7:00 pm he had caught up and pulled the car over. The driver that was pulled over was Marquette Frye, a 22-year old black man, and his 22-year old brother Ronald. The two brothers were actually pulled over at 116th and Avalon, which was still mostly black community, but was not Watts. At around 7:05 pm Marquette was arrested after he had failed the sobriety test and Minikus then radioed for a car to take him to jail and a tow truck to tow the car away. When Ronald asked the officer if he could drive the car back home since they were only two blocks away from their home, Lee refused and that’s when he ran home to get their mother to claim the car. At 7:15 pm Ronald and his mother returned to the scene just as the patrol car and tow truck arrived, all while the previous crowd of 25-50 had grown to an astounding 250-300 people. As the crowd became more hostile, one of the patrolmen radioed for some help. As Marquette’s mother scolded her son for drinking and driving he finally snapped and starting resisting arrest. Ronald then got into a scuffle with the patrolmen and both brothers were subdued. Mrs. Frye then jumped on the back of one of the officers and ripped his shirts off. By 7:23 pm all three of the Fryes were under arrest and even more patrolman and for the first time Los Angeles police officers finally arrived in response to calls for help. Officers at the scene said there were about 1,000 people in the crowd. They arrived at a nearby sheriff’s substation at 7:31 pm. While all of this information has been recorded in files and is believed to be as close to the truth of what happened as possible, there were many false things...
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