50th Anniversary of the Watts Riots

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This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots, 7 days of violence that began with a traffic stop on the night of August 11, 1965.

Marquette Frye, an African American male, was stopped for drunk driving by officer Lee Minikus. A disagreement turned into a physical fight and Frye was arrested along with his brother and mother.

As word spread that police attacked the family and even kicked a pregnant woman, riots broke out.

Over the next 7 days, fighting, arson and looting ensued. A 46-square-mile section of Los Angeles was reported to look like a war zone. Nearly 4,000 members of the California National Guard were deployed to assist. When it was over, 34 people had died, over 1,000 more were injured and more than 3,400 were arrested. Many businesses were destroyed. Property damage totaled $40 million.

What happened? That’s a question that is still debated. 

Tommy Jacquette, who participated, says it’s still misunderstood by many. “People keep calling it a riot, but we call it a revolt because it had a legitimate purpose. It was a response to police brutality and social exploitation of a community and of a people.”

Read his commentary, as well as that of Frye’s mother, the arresting officer and others in this article that appeared in the LA Times to commemorate the 40th anniversary:

Watts Riots, 40 Years Later” L.A Times

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