So during a black lives matter protest in the heart of Dallas on Thursday, a sniper opened fire on police officers killing five and injuring seven others. In addition to the police officers, two civilians, a man and a woman were shot and injured. It appeared the shooter planned to injure and kill as many police officers as he could. The area is only a few blocks away from Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
I am reminded of the race riots of the 60’s. I watched these on television and the riots were worse than anything I had ever seen. The five day Watts riot in August, 1965 saw 34 people die and a thousand injured. On the evening of Wednesday, August 11, 1965, 21-year-old Marquette Frye, an African American man was driving his mother’s 1955 Buick, was pulled over for reckless driving by a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer. After administering a field sobriety test, Frye was placed under arrest for drunken driving and the officer radioed for his vehicle to be impounded. Marquette’s brother Ronald, a passenger in the vehicle, walked to their house nearby and brought back their mother, Rena Price, back with him. When Rena Price reached the intersection of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street that evening, she scolded Frye about drinking and driving.
The situation quickly escalated. Someone shoved Price, Frye was struck, Price jumped an officer, and another officer pulled out a shotgun. Backup police officers attempted to arrest Frye by using physical force to subdue him. After rumors spread that the police had roughed up Frye and kicked a pregnant woman, angry mobs formed. As the situation intensified, growing crowds of local residents watching the exchange began yelling and throwing objects at the police officers. Frye’s mother and brother fought with the officers and were eventually arrested along with Marquette Frye. After the arrests of Price and the Frye brothers, the crowd continued to grow along Avalon Blvd.
Police came to the scene to break up the crowd several times that night, but were attacked by rocks and pieces of broken concrete. A 46-square-mile band of Los Angeles would be transformed into a combat zone during the next six days. A total of 258 private buildings were damaged and/or burned, a total of 192 were looted and a total of 288 were both damaged and/or burned & looted.
The 1966 Detroit riots caused 43 deaths. The event that led to the riot was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a “blind pig. Police clashes with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in the history of the United States. 2,509 stores were looted or burned, 388 families became homeless and 412 buildings burned or were damaged enough that they had to be demolished. Dollar losses from arson and looting ranged from $40 million to $80 million
Following Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, rioting broke out in over 120 cities including Chicago and Washington. Six days of race riots erupted in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1968. Shortly after the news of Dr. King’s death, the disturbances began. Looting occurred generally in areas with little or no police protection. The local police department could not handle the disturbance and one officer said, “This situation is out of control. We need help, it’s too much for us to handle.” (Washington Daily News, 5 April 1968) The Civil disturbance unit was later activated, by the time order was restored, about 200 stores had their windows broken and 150 had been looted, most of them swept completely empty. Liquor stores were hardest hit. During the riot of 1968 arsonists set buildings ablaze and The District of Columbia fire department reported a total of 1,180 fires.
The property loss caused by the riot was extensive. One thousand, eight hundred and seventy three buildings, including 283 housing units and 1590 commercial establishments, were badly damaged or destroyed. Estimates of losses were fixed at over $25 million. The riots utterly devastated Washington’s inner city economy.
I was always confused as to why the rioters were destroying their own neighborhoods. The riots caused the closing of businesses, destruction of housing and caused thousands of jobs to be lost. I fail to see how this was helping.
There were 990 people killed by police in 2015. Of those, 494 were White, 258 were Black, 172 were Hispanic, 38 were other races and 28 were of unknown race. There were 53 police officers killed in the line of duty in this same time period. So far in 2016, 509 people have been fatally shot. Of these, 283 were White, 123 were Black, 79 were Hispanic, 23 were other races and 46 were of unknown race. There have been 26 police officers killed in the line of duty so far this year.
As we approach another long hot summer, I can only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. That everybody takes a step back, takes a deep breath and tries to get along. Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. Red lives matter. Yellow lives matter. White lives matter. Blue lives matter. Rainbow lives matter, All lives matter. Violence never solved anything.