Vintage: Watts Riots (1965)

Vintage: Watts Riots (1965)


In the predominantly black Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles, racial tension reaches a breaking point after two white policemen scuffle with a black motorist suspected of drunken driving. A crowd of spectators gathered near the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street to watch the arrest and soon grew angry by what they believed to be yet another incident of racially motivated abuse by the police. A riot soon began, spurred on by residents of Watts who were embittered after years of economic and political isolation. The rioters eventually ranged over a 50-square-mile area of South Central Los Angeles, looting stores, torching buildings, and beating whites as snipers fired at police and firefighters. Finally, with the assistance of thousands of National Guardsmen, order was restored on August 16.

The five days of violence left 34 dead, 1,032 injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, and $40 million worth of property destroyed. The Watts riot was the worst urban riot in 20 years and foreshadowed the many rebellions to occur in ensuing years in Detroit, Newark, and other American cities.

Aug. 13, 1965: National Guard troops secure a stretch of 103rd Street, dubbed Charcoal Alley, in Watts to help Los Angeles authorities restore order. The riots, sparked by the arrest of a black motorist for drunk driving, lasted for six days. After the violence, 34 people, 25 of them black, were dead and more than 1,000 were injured. Photo published in the Aug. 14, 1965 Los Angeles Times.

Aug. 14, 1965: Dep. Sheriff Edward Harter stands ready to protect firemen fighting flames in building set afire during Watts Riots at Willowbrook Ave. between El Segundo Blvd. and 130th St. This photo was published in the Aug. 15, 1965 Los Angeles Times

Aug. 14, 1965: A truck is backed up to store front at 908 E. Jefferson Blvd. as looters help themselves.

Aug. 14, 1965: A truck is backed up to store front at 908 E. Jefferson Blvd. as looters help themselves.

Aug. 14, 1965: Smoke from a row of buildings burning on Central Ave., south of 43rd St. darkens sky during Watts Riots.

Aug. 14, 1965: Smoke from a row of buildings burning on Central Ave., south of 43rd St. darkens sky during Watts Riots.

Aug. 15, 1965: Fire truck and national guardsmen stand on scene of desolation on S. Central Ave. following a series of first set during the Watts Riots.

Aug. 15, 1965: Fire truck and national guardsmen stand on scene of desolation on S. Central Ave. following a series of first set during the Watts Riots.

Aug. 15, 1965: Local residents and newsmen converge on California Governor Pat Brown, arrow, as he arrives at Jacob Riis High School in Watts Riot area to have lunch with high-ranking National Guard Officers.

Aug. 15, 1965: Local residents and newsmen converge on California Governor Pat Brown, arrow, as he arrives at Jacob Riis High School in Watts Riot area to have lunch with high-ranking National Guard Officers.

Aug. 15, 1965: A national guardsman stands watch to help ward off snipers as firemen battle a blaze at furniture store in Watts. This photo was published in the Aug. 16, 1965 Los Angeles Times.

Aug. 15, 1965: National guardsmen, with bayonet fixed, take up position at Atlantic Blvd. and Anaheim St., Long Beach to enforce curfew order. The Watts Riots violence spilled over into Long Beach.

Aug. 15, 1965: National guardsmen, with bayonet fixed, take up position at Atlantic Blvd. and Anaheim St., Long Beach to enforce curfew order. The Watts Riots violence spilled over into Long Beach.

Aug. 15, 1965: Long Beach police officer George Medac, 23, in St. Mary's Hospital with bullet wound in arm suffered in Watts Riots. In background is fellow officer, Sgt. R. A. Castillo.

Aug. 15, 1965: Long Beach police officer George Medac, 23, in St. Mary’s Hospital with bullet wound in arm suffered in Watts Riots. In background is fellow officer, Sgt. R. A. Castillo.

Aug. 16, 1965: Car is searched at roadblock at 103rd St. and Central Ave. by Guardsmen. Small gauge hunting shotgun shells were returned to the motorist. This photo was published int he Aug. 17, 1965 Los Angeles Times.

Aug. 16, 1965: Car sprayed by machine gun bullets as its driver attempted to run a roadblock is abondoned at the side of Compton Ave.

Aug. 16, 1965: Car sprayed by machine gun bullets as its driver attempted to run a roadblock is abondoned at the side of Compton Ave.

Aug. 12, 1965: Crowd and police at Imperial Highway and Avalon Blvd., in the early morning just before violence broke out.

Aug. 12, 1965: Crowd and police at Imperial Highway and Avalon Blvd., in the early morning just before violence broke out.

Aug. 13, 1965: A girl injured in Watts Riots is carried into emergency entrance at Oak Park Hospital.

Aug. 13, 1965: A girl injured in Watts Riots is carried into emergency entrance at Oak Park Hospital.

Aug. 14, 1965: A California National Guardsman patrols 103rd St. near Compton Ave. in Watts business district.

Aug. 14, 1965: A California National Guardsman patrols 103rd St. near Compton Ave. in Watts business district.

Aug. 1965: During the Watts Riots, sign sits in window of store owned by African-American. In some cases the signs weer disregarded and the business damaged by rioters.

Aug. 1965: During the Watts Riots, sign sits in window of store owned by African-American. In some cases the signs weer disregarded and the business damaged by rioters.


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