Tuesday, August 11, 2015

On Aug. 11, 1965, Rioting and Looting in Watts Black section Los Angeles

New Negro Riots Erupt on Coast; 3 Reported Shot
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Los Angeles, Aug. 12 -- Fierce rioting again gripped the Negro section of south Los Angeles tonight. Officials called it the worst racial incident in the city's history.
Crowds of up to 5,000 Negroes gathered in a 20-block area that had been sealed off by some 100 policemen and more than 300 deputy sheriffs.
There were reports that the National Guard might be called in to deal with the violence.
Casualties were mounting steadily in the late evening. A television cameraman was reported shot. At least two Negroes had been shot and scores injured.
Apparently most of the injured Negroes who had been hit by bricks and debris tossed by other Negroes.
[Rioting Negro youthes fired on police officers in the area Thursday night, according to United Press International.]
Brutality Charged
Officials were at a loss to explain the cause of the rioting, which started last night after a routine drunken driving arrest. The unusually hot, smoggy weather was doubtless a contributing factor.
Many Negroes at the scene complained about alleged police brutality but few cited specific instances to support their charges.
There was no central battle tonight. Instead, pockets of fighting continued to break out throughout the night.
In one instance a Molotov cocktail was tossed at a car driven by a white man, who was then dragged out and beaten.
"This is no place for white men," a Negro youth was heard to warn him.
Unmarked Cars Used
In another instance a police car was halted by Negroes who attempted to pull the occupants from the car. The officers were rescued when other police vehicles arrived.
Police officials at first sought to avoid direct confrontations with the rioters. Unmarked cars were used rather than normal police vehicles.
The police cars made only brief forays into the center of the riot area.
Most of the damage has been to Negro stores and automobiles.
"It's a race riot and yet it isn't," one weary young officer commented after one foray. "I saw them stone a Negro's car and then beat him up."
One of the Negroes who was shot, reportedly by the police, was refused help by the crowds of Negroes who saw the incident. The man was finally dragged away by a woman and another Negro man.
The renewed rioting came as a blow to civil rights leaders and clergymen who had toured the neighborhood today pleading with people to stay off the streets.
While the streets were crowded with Negroes, few took part in the actual rock throwing or fist fights. Most of the combatants were youths, some of whom earlier in the day had promised another violent night.
Mayor Samuel Yorty termed the rioting the most shocking incident of its kind he had observed in Los Angeles.
At least two radio or television mobile units were severely damaged, their windows smashed.
Newsmen were warned by the police not to break through the barricades surrounding the center of the riot, a normally quiet suburban-looking residential and shopping area that has no apparent tenements or other marks of a depressed neighborhood.
Earlier today William H. Parker, the Los Angeles police chief, angrily blamed last night's violence on "young hoodlums who have no respect for the law."
He also declared:
"When you keep telling people they are unfairly treated and teach them disrespect for the law you must expect this kind of thing sooner or later."
Typical Intersection
The corner of Imperial and Avalon in the Watts section, the center of the rioting, is a typical Los Angeles intersection: with gas stations, Taco stands and small shops.
It was shortly before 8 o'clock last night, a hot. smoggy evening, when a white Californian Highway Patrol officer stopped a Negro motorist on suspicion of drunken driving.
The suspect, Marquette Frye, 21 years old, was with his brother Ronald.
Some 25 persons were watching the incident when their mother, Mrs. Rena Frye, arrived on the scene and began berating her son, who in turn berated the police.
The crowd grew, new police units arrived and the rock-throwing began. By 10 P.M. crowds were stoning passing city buses. Over 80 police officers rushed to the scene and sealed off a 16-block area in an effort to contain the violence.
Bands of rioters invaded neighboring sections, looting a few stores.
Near Watts Towers
The rioting took place only a little over a mile from the Watts towers, three 100-foot high-stacks of bottlse and metal scrap created by the late Simon Rodia, an eccentrist Italian tile-setter.
The Watts neighborhood, despite the low income of most of its residents, nonetheless retains a pleasantly suburban aura.
The streets are generally clean and tree-lined. Some of the single-family homes are in decay but most are bell kept with green, well-tended small lawns. Many two-story apartment buildings have been added and children play around their entrances.
Residents of the area this afternoon offered conflicting interpretations of the rioting. "The cops, they keep coming in here and busting heads," said a neatly dressed young man selling a Black Muslim newspaper. "They had it coming."
Mrs. M. J. Ellis, who describes herself as a missionary, blamed restless teenagers. Their parents can't seem to do anything and the police can't do anything either, she said.