Filed under: Editorials, Police, Southwest, White Supremacy
Compiled by It’s Going Down
50 years ago, the Watts Riots ripped apart Los Angeles, only a few days after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965. Quickly developing into armed insurrection against the police and the National Guard and widespread looting, the neighborhood rose up in response to brutality from police during a routine traffic stop. The Watts Riots, which also foreshadowed the LA Rebellion in 1992, showed many similarities with the contemporary insurrections in Ferguson and Baltimore. The riots also would go on to influence a wide range of revolutionary groups, such as the Black Panther Party. Here are some collected recent texts which talk about this history and make parallels to today.
50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, a turning point in the struggle for Black Liberation
by Abayomi Azikiwe from The Bay View
Just five days after the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Watts Rebellion erupted, lasting several days.
Coming out of the Selma campaign, the then United States Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to introduce legislation designed to ensure the right to the franchise for African Americans living in the South and other regions of the country.
Nonetheless, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the subsequent voting rights legislation the following year was not nearly enough to assuage the African American people in their quest for full equality and self-determination. Unemployment, poverty, racist violence and substandard education fueled the anger of working class and poor youth throughout the urban and rural areas of the U.S.
Remembering the Watts Rebellion
by Conor Tomás Reed from Mask Magazine
August 11, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Watts Rebellion, which emerged from South Los Angeles to ignite a new Black militancy that used guerrilla tactics more akin to Saigon than Selma. During and after a week of intense clashes with the police, the August 1965 rebellion’s participants enacted freedom schools – already familiar in the southern nonviolent context, but refashioned in Watts as urban methods of insurgent study, creative action, and critical assessment. In today’s renewed movements for liberation, we can dive into and learn deeply from this “fire last time.”
Reflections on “Straight Outta Compton”
by Hieronymous from LibCom
I just saw Straight Outta Compton near my home, in a tiny theater that dates back to the silent era (1913) and which has miraculously survived the wrecking ball. It brought up so many vivid memories and thoughts since N.W.A.’s music was kinda the soundtrack of my life as I grew into adulthood and was politicized by events depicted in the film.
As areas like South Central Los Angeles and surrounding towns suffered the devastation of economic hollowing out and unemployment, in the era of Ronald Reagan the state-level response to this social crisis was unleashing police repression and prison building. The Los Angeles Police Department created elite units, like Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) in 1979 and they were a rapid-response force to gang violence (in the tradition of LAPD’s SWAT team, created in response to Watts).
As a 17-year-old I experienced their “kick asses and take names later” approach the summer after I graduated from a central LA high school in 1980. On one sweltering hot night my friends and I were drinking beer on the sports field of our closed-for-summer high school and got the stupid idea of walking around the campus. Unbeknownst to us, a 24-hour security guard was stationed in a newly constructed building. He phoned the cops and said he was being overrun by a street gang. CRASH arrived, having been dispatched from the infamous nearby Ramparts Division, swinging batons and if we didn’t get whacked right after getting chased down and tackled, we got handcuffed and thrown onto the hoods of the squadcars, with the cops gratuitously slamming our heads into the sheetmetal. The scene in Straight Outta Compton where Ice Cube has the exact same thing done to him by LAPD goons right in front of his parents is straight outta my memory (and he’s from South Central LA, not next door in Compton). The CRASH cops kept asking us what our “set” (gang) was, but when we didn’t understand they brought us into a more lighted area and saw the absurdity of a gang of a half dozen Latino, Asian and white kids who looked more like skateboarders than gangbangers. The cops simply uncuffed and let us go, as though nothing had happened.Los Angeles, Radical History, riots, Watts