Archive for the ‘race riots’ Category

The 1967 Detroit Riot, also known as the Twelfth Street Riot or the Detroit Rebellion, was the worst American race riot of the 1960s. For five days during the Summer of Love Detroit burned. At the end 43 lay dead. In American history only the 1992 Los Angeles riot and the 1921 Tulsa riot were worse. It came less than a month after the Newark riot, which killed 25.

It took 17,000 armed men to put it down: the governor called in the National Guard and the president called in the army. Tanks rolled through the streets of Detroit.

  • Dates: July 23rd to 28th 1967
  • Deaths: 43 (33 black, 10 white)
  • Injured: 1189
  • Buildings destroyed: over 2,000
  • Property damage: $40 to $80 million (20 to 40 million crowns)

Part of what made the riot so bad was the heavy-handed approach of the Guardsmen. They shot a four-year-old girl dead, for example, when they saw her father’s lit cigarette in a darkened window.

How it started: At 12th and Clairmount on the West Side at three in the morning the police broke into an after-hours bar with a sledgehammer:  they found themselves in the middle of a party for two servicemen coming home from the Vietnam War. Now they had to arrest four times more people than expected.

It took an hour and a half to arrest everyone. In the meantime word spread and 200 onlookers gathered. One of them kept shouting at the police, “Motherfuckers! Leave my people alone!” Then people began to throw bottles and the police tried to get out fast. As the last police car pulled away the riot broke out.


The main things that blacks in Detroit were unhappy about before the riot:

  1. Police brutality: This was the main cause given by the rioters themselves. The police force was nearly all white and nearly half were “extremely anti-Negro”. Because whites wanted the police to be “tough on crime” they refused to set up the civilian review board demanded by blacks. So the police were unaccountable: they beat people to death, shot a woman in the back, thought that ordinary women were prostitutes, called men “boy” and stopped people for no reason, arresting those who could not produce ID.
  2. Housing: The city tore down the heart of black Detroit to make way for Interstate 75 so that people from the suburbs (mainly white and middle-class) could get into the city more easily. It cut black Detroit in two. It not only destroyed businesses but a good share of what limited housing space was open to blacks, thereby worsening living conditions and making more of black Detroit into a slum.
  3. Employment: more than a sixth of black men were out of work – what whites would call hard times. The car makers were moving their plants out of the city and replacing men with machines.

After the riot the president set up the Kerner Commission, which found that America was:

moving toward two separate societies, one Black, one white –
separate and unequal.

It advised the government to pour money into helping blacks get better housing, education and employment opportunities.

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