The Watts riots happened 45 years ago today. Sparked by the arrest and beating of young African-American Marquette Frye and the detention of objecting Frye family members, the 1965 unrest happened in a context of extreme racial tension in California.
Along with the growing poverty that accompanied the post-War closing of factories in South Central L.A., the riots also happened in a context West Coast segregationist politics. By funding the passage of Proposition 14, the California Real Estate Association had just successfully cancelled out the Mumford Act, which was the part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prevented housing discrimination on the basis of race.
The week of rioting left 34 dead, over 1,000 injured and more than 200 businesses destroyed, with property damage was estimated at $40 million. Urban politics would never be the same. For some perspective, read Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s reflections on how the riots connect with the building and revitalization of the area’s Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital.
After the jump: From Stacy Peralta’s 2008 documentary Crips and Bloods: Made in America, Kumasi, a former member of the street squad The Slausons, breaks down the strategy of dealing with the National Guard presence during the riots…