Forty five years ago this month Watts exploded in open rebellion. The racial injustice and discrimination that faced the thousands of African Americans living there led to an uprising that left 34 people dead, 1,032 injured, nearly 4,000 under arrest, and forty million dollars in property damage was sparked by the actions of some cops stopped black Watts resident Marquette Frye and his brother, alleging that they were speeding. The cops then acted like fools and that was that. The five day uprising had begun.
To bolster the cops, some fourteen thousand national guard were sent into the neighborhood.
Watts was an uprising against white supremacy, racism, and the state that supported them.
As someone named Calvin Broadbent wrote, "The Watts uprising sheparded in a new more militant era of the civil rights movement as African-Americans took to the streets ina mass protest against white economic exploitation and police brutality .But mainstream media coverage at the time portrayed the uprising only aslawless and destructive. There was little attempt to understand the reasons behind the rebellion and there were virtually no interviews with the riotersthemselves. In fact, at the time of the riots, the L.A Times did not haveone black reporter on its' staff."
“I have lived in this city for 17 years and consider myself a responsible person,” said Mrs. Ovelmar Bradley, 40, of 1806 W. 131st St., a mother of seven children. “But I have never heard the policeman talk like they did last night. I have never seen anything like this happen here.”Mrs. Bradley arrived with her husband, Henry, to visit a relative in the Avalon area, getting there shortly after the initial flareup over the arrest by two patrolmen.Things had quieted down momentarily, she said, when 25 to 30 police cars went through the neighborhood with sirens wailing.“If the police hadn’t come in like that,” she said, “people wouldn’t all have come running out of their houses to see what was going on.“My husband and I saw 10 cops beating one man. My husband told the officers, ‘You’ve got him handcuffed.’ One of the officers answered, ‘Get out of here, niggers. Get out of here, all you niggers!”
Yet, underneath, there was a subtext of hope that the mass orgy of death and destruction that engulfed our neighborhood during the harrowing five days and nights of the Watts riots in August 1965 might improve things for blacks. Over the years, when I returned to the block I lived on during the riots, I often thought of his bitter yet hopeful words.Forty-five years after the riots, those words remain just that: hopeful. The streets that my friend and I were shooed down by the police and the National Guard 45 years ago look as if time has stood still. They are dotted with the same fast food restaurants, beauty shops, liquor stores, and mom-and-pop grocery stores. The main street near the block I lived on then is just as unkempt, pothole-ridden and trash littered. All the homes and stores in the area are all hermetically sealed with iron bars, security gates and burglar alarms.