Violence is the American way; the country was founded on it. You may have read about the marches and the sit-ins, the peaceful movement that was met by policeman with clubs, attack dogs and fire hoses. But did you know that over 100 cities had riots and at least 10 major cities burned in the 60’s.
We saw our churches fire bombed and our leaders killed. Patrice Lumumba was murdered and Nelson Mandella was sentenced to life in prison in 61. Malcolm X was murdered in Feb of 65; Martin Luther King Jr was murdered in 68, all for their beliefs. People had no jobs and the violence was at our doors. Across the nation cops were beating Black folks in our neighborhoods for little or no reason and with little or no legal repercussion and folks was fed up. So we followed the american way.
Chocolate cities burned.
Philly and Rochester, NY in 64, Watts in 65, Cleveland in 66, Newark, Detroit and Minneapolis in 67, Washington, DC, Baltimore and Chi-Town in 68, Omaha in 69…blood was in the streets.
In Newark’s Central Ward, the police harassed folks on the regular. In July 1965, Lester Long, aged 22, was shot and killed by police after a “routine” traffic stop. A few weeks later, Bernard Rich, 26 years old died in police custody under mysterious circumstances while locked in his jail cell. On Christmas eve that year, Walter Mathis, aged 17, was fatally wounded by an “accidental” weapons discharge while being searched for illegal contraband. When John Smith was arrested on trumped up charges Black folks took to the streets.
And I remember seeing tanks in the streets of Newark.
When I told this to my son he looked at me with wide-eyed wonderment. His america is a far different place then was mine when I was his age. Tanks? Really Dad? Yes, and machine-gun fire could be heard day and night. Just as my mom had done when she put us in the car and drove to Newark, then she pulled over to the side of the road, on an overpass that was both a safe distance away and gave us a clear view of the city. She wanted us to know what was going on, to see it for our self’s. She did not want us to forget the soldiers, bayonets fixed as they swarmed the neighborhood. That’s when I saw the tank rolled down the street. There was a white guy parked a few cars away from us who was filming. The police came and told us we had to leave the overpass. As we pulled away I saw they had grabbed the guy, his camera and were dragging him to a police car.
Newark, NJ: 26 people were killed, over 1’200 were injured and 1,300 were arrested. There was 10 million dollars worth of damage In 5 day period.
Detroit 43 dead, over 2000 injured and more then 3,800 arrested.
• According to a report of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations released in November 1967, 75 major riots occurred in that year, compared with 21 in 1966; 83 were killed in 1967, compared with 11 in 1966 and 36 in 1965.