RIOTING IN AMERICA IN THE 20TH CENTURY
For all of you who read mu columns, I did take a break to eat before posting this and I’m glad I did because before, well, right after, I cracked my first beer of the day, I read the comment made by Tim on the previous post “Why do people riot?” Tim says:
It is simple.
If I walk into an area that is poor. I tell the poor that the roads in the next neighborhood are paved with Gold. I tell the poor that the Gold has been taken from them. They want to believe because they are poor. They want to believe that the Gold has been wrongfully taken from them. They want to believe that the Gold is their Gold.
The only way they can the Gold back is to rip up the streets in the other neighborhood. The only way they can rip the streets up is to threaten violence against anyone who would stop them from ripping the streets up.
Examples must be made. “The man” must understand that they will have to give up the Gold.
If the Gold is not given up the poor will “burn this mother fucker to the ground”
The only thing you have to do is substitute which group has the grievance and which group has the Gold.
Along come the hustlers who see opportunity $$$. Say hi to je$$e and $harptounge.
Now I’m not going to comment on this I’m going to digest it first. This is a project that came about because of a conversation I had with both of my spouses last night while we were having dinner and then cleaning up afterward. Halfway through dinner Terri gave Cavalor a call and invited The Boss and his wife Carol over for drinks. They both complied. I then called Diane and her spouse Veronica and they also came over. Pain, being omnipresent in some form was a simple thought request away so The Majordomo was the first to arrive and even complimented Valeri on her fetching dinner attire. It was a very short shimmery golden translucent thing but I digress. We are talking about rioting.
The mid 19th century was marred by the American Civil War which some people consider the largest riot of that century in the New World. Reconstruction saw its share of rioting as did the final twenty years of the 19th Century. Notable riots in that period were the Haymarket Labor Riots in Chicago, the Seattle Riot of 1886 and the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898. The first was about a peaceful labor march disrupted by bomb throwers, the latter two were about race. In Seattle the targets were the Chinese immigrants and in Wilmington the targets were black Americans.
The Twentieth Century saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the South as not only a means by which for the conservative power structure to use extrajudicial means to keep black Americans “in their place” but also to spread fear in the hearts of freedom minded white who were forced to go along to get along. The first of these were the Atlanta race Riots of 1906 where the two candidates for Mayor from the Democratic party sought to keep blacks from voting. The power of the printing press was used to create a moral outrage. The Journal owned by candidate Hoke Smith and the Constitution owned by Clark Howell ran matching stories of four white women who had been assaulted. This sent nearly 10,000 white men and boys into the streets on 22 September 1906 beating, stabbing and clubbing blacks on sight. More than two dozen blacks were killed in that two day riot; two whites were killed. So the purpose of this pre-WWI riot was to maintain political power and unearned privilege in a city where the racial playing field was leveling.
After World War I and prior to WWII the notable riots in America were about either race or labor’s right to organize. The brutal Tulsa Riots of 1921, the Rosewood Massacre of 1923, and the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937 were the major events of that inter-war period. Once again there was the growing struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed.
In the post WWII era there was a lull in rioting in America. Well, afterall in the era that spawned me, there was a sense that America’s victory over fascism meant that things were going to change for everyone. It was a time where being an American was seen by those in the minority as a gateway to being, well and American with the full benefits of what that citizenship meant. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.
Nearly lost to history in America was the Peekskill Riot of 1949. Paul Robeson the noted actor and activist of the times was set to perform in Peekskill, New York. This wouldn’t be his first performance there but it would be since his appearance at the World Peace Conference in Paris in the spring of 1949. The cause of the riot was the change of Robeson’s statements at that conference about peace between Soviet Russia and the United States. Newspapers in the Peekskill region urged good American citizens to show their disagreement with anyone who would attend the concert. Among those pelted with rocks during that concert were Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, his wife Toshi and Lee Hays.
The 1960s saw the rioting move from being instigated by the conservative power structure clamping down on what they saw as upstart minorities and alternative government sympathizers to those minorities and counter culture groups using the fear that spread through middle class white conservative culture to extract a litany of civil rights reversals from segregationist. The Cambridge Riot of 1963 was followed by riots in response to police brutality in Harlem, in Rochester, NY, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Dixmoor and Philadelphia in 1964. Riots in 1965 included the mother of all riots in Watts which were followed by Division Street Chicago in 1966 and Newark in 1967.
I know that’s a lot of material to digest and we can probably agree on the reasons that riots have taken place. Why don’t these things happen as much now as they did say two hundred years ago? Well for one thing the armed nature of the society generally precludes law enforcement from simply siding with extreme prejudice on the citizens they feel are threatening their power. I know the people felt the response by the police in Ferguson was awful and I agree. But keep in mind that had it been 1914 instead of 2014 we’d be talking about hundreds of dead innocent black protesters and few voices in the media that would come to their defense. In the next installment about rioting in the United States I’ll tell you about a riot that has a cause that I haven’t covered yet and it’s very likely that you’ve never heard of the event.
Fredrick Schwartz, D.S.V.J., CS, O.Q.H [Journ.]
The Dis Brimstone-Daily Pitchfork
73 Melnar 3 AS