45 Years Later, A Not-So-Happy Birthday For Watts Riots
The blog L.A. Noir on Wednesday notes with a bittersweet tone that 45 years ago on this day a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer pulled over a suspected drunk driver at 116th Street and South Avalon Boulevard.
Twenty-one-year-old Marquette Frye, the driver, became belligerent when his mother arrived on the scene and scolded him for drinking following the 7 p.m. traffic stop. As CHP officers tried to subdue him, and a crowd amassed, Frye resisted arrest, and an officer struck him in the forehead with a nightstick. The crowd grew to 1,000, and Los Angeles police arrived on the scene.
After arresting a few people for inciting violence, officers left the area shortly before 8 p.m., even as a stone was thrown at a last departing patrol car. The crowd got bigger, and, as USC's archives put it "144 Hours" of unrest ensued in Watts.
A lot of somber contemplation, study, and finger-pointing happened after the riots. And then the 1992 L.A. riots happened. Writes L.A. Noir of 1965's events:
Five days, 3000 National Guardsmen, 34 dead, 1032 wounded and almost 4000 arrests later things went to relative calm.
Forty-five years after that and the place is still a pit.
People want decent jobs, respect, to live without being afraid. They want education, freedom from violence, a system that they can feel works for them and with them, rather than against them.
And if you go into Watts and ask around, listen to the LAPD helicopters overhead, look at the multitudes of liquor stores dotting street corners, you'll see the same frustration, despair and lack of jobs from 45 years ago.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.
- The Porter Ranch Gas Leak Has Been Stopped
- Rain Could Douse This February Heat Wave. Maybe.
- City Cracks Down on Happy Ending Massage Parlors