On the fateful day of August 11, 1955, in Watts, Los Angeles, California Highway Patrolman Lee W. Minikus apprehended Marquette Frye and his brother for driving drunk. Frye’s mother arrived and aided his sons in arguing with police. A crowd of black Americans began to gather around and they saw the police officer beat Marquette with a baton. Later on, the three family members were hauled to a police car. The angry crowd pelted the leaving police car with rocks, bricks and bottles. The tension escalated that eventually became a large scale riot. The angry mob, which swelled to thousands, went into frenzy of breaking windows, looting, destroying properties and setting establishments on fire. The riot lasted for six days. After the rampage, a total of 34 people were found dead, more than 1000 were wounded and about $100 million in property damage. The police also made more than 4000 arrests. The riot eventually was quenched when the California National Guard was sent to Watts to assist the police and military in restoring peace and order. These joint forces put a cordon around a vast area and declared a curfew. When the order was restored, about 300 National guardsmen remained in the area to help in the clean up.
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The event made a great impact to Los Angeles. The McCone Commission was ordered to make an investigation on the riot. It found out that the real causes of the uprising were poverty, unemployment, inequality and racial discrimination. It was followed by the passage of Propoistion14 on the California ballot that reversed the Rumford Fair Housing Act. The police force also started recruiting backs and outlawing racial discrimination. The riot continued to live in our memory as a tragic reminder of the struggle of people, referring not only to black Americans but to all races that were subject to discrimination and oppression, as they fight for equality and fair treatment in the society.
Landsberg, Mitchell and Reitman, Valerie. Watts Riot, 40 Years Later. Los Angeles Times.
Online July 4, 2009 http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-watts11aug11,0,7619426.story