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In psychological terms, crowds are aggregations of individuals whose self-awareness and independence of action can become secondary to a common sense of purpose. In general, crowds lack the shared superheated emotions of a mob, but under stressful or dangerous circumstances a crowd can quickly morph into mob. Likewise, political demonstrations or other initially peaceful gatherings of people can—under the right circumstances, with the right spark applied—erupt into riots. Sometimes the cause is righteous indignation at perceived injustice.
Sometimes riots result from fearful impulsive reactions or from physical intimidation or harm. And sometimes the catalyst for rioting is a baser instinct: hatred, bigotry, or prejudice. All of those factors figure in a landscape of American history in the 20th century that is regrettably strewn with rioting. Here are some of the best-known instances. As the 20th century unfolded, the efforts of many whites to deny black people equal opportunities in housing, employment, and politics took on ever uglier aspects, not just in the South but also in Northern cities to which African Americans from the rural South had begun migrating.
One of the worst occurred in Chicago beginning on July 27, following the stoning and drowning of an African American youth who had drifted into an area of a beach on Lake Michigan tacitly reserved for whites. Fighting broke out between gangs and mobs of both races and escalated for 13 days, resulting in the deaths of 23 black and 15 white Chicagoans.
More than people were injured, and some 1, black families were left homeless. In riots exploded in Los Angeles after a group of sailors claimed, on June 3, that they had been attacked by pachucos , rebellious young Mexican and Mexican American men who wore zoot suits broad-shouldered drape jackets and balloon-leg trousers made of wool in violation of wartime rationing. Ethnic tension had been high in Los Angeles, especially after the local media began characterizing the zoot-suiters as juvenile delinquents and criminals. Starting on June 4, servicemen began invading the Mexican American community, and over the next several days conflicts erupted between servicemen and zoot-suiters, who were often beaten by the servicemen and stripped of their zoot suits.
The worst of the rioting occurred on the night of June 7, when thousands of servicemen and citizens attacked zoot-suiters as well as members of minority groups who were not wearing zoot suits. In , in response to a rash of riots that had engulfed many U.
In August six days of confrontations between police and residents of Watts and other predominantly African American neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles sparked by the belief that excessive force had been used in the arrest of an African American motorist resulted in massive destruction of property and 34 deaths. In July four people were killed, some 30 were wounded, and about fires were set during a week of rioting in the Hough section of Cleveland.
Among the worst were those in Newark, New Jersey, where 26 people were killed, and Detroit, where 43 people died. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some 21, federal troops and 34, national guardsmen were called out in an attempt to bring calm. This time Chicago and Washington, D. By April 7 some Chicagoans had been injured and 11 killed.
In August , as the host city of the Democratic National Convention, Chicago once again became the site of high-profile rioting. Thousands of opponents of U. It was the third such raid on Greenwich Village gay bars in a short period. The police barricaded themselves in the bar, awaiting backup, as some people rioted.
Police reinforcements dispersed the crowd, but riots waned and waxed outside the Stonewall for the next five days, providing a crucial spark for the growing gay rights movement. The most dramatic of those occurred September 9—13, , at the maximum-security Attica Correctional Facility in western New York, where 2, prisoners were being held in a facility deed to hold only 1, Inmates seized control of the prison and took hostage members of the prison staff to demand improved living conditions.
After four days of negotiations, state police and correctional officers stormed the prison. In the process 29 inmates and 10 hostages were killed. Especially memorable are a pair of ludicrous chaotic events at Major League Baseball games in the s. On June 4, , a game between the Texas Rangers and the host Cleveland Indians at Municipal Stadium featured a promotion that allowed fans to purchase beer for 10 cents per cup. Bad idea. Early in the game in Cleveland, drunken fans began making their way onto the field.
By the fifth inning, marauding interlopers ed in the dozens. Objects were thrown at the Texas players. By the ninth inning, the situation had deteriorated into dangerous destructive chaos. The game was stopped and forfeited by the Indians. As planned, disc jockey Steve Dahl exploded a crate full of disco records between games. Then all hell broke loose as thousands of fans rushed the field, launching records, destroying sod, and setting fires. The second game was canceled and forfeited to the Tigers. Violence, looting, and arson engulfed Los Angeles for several days beginning on April 29, , after the acquittal of four white Los Angeles policemen on all but one charge connected with the severe beating of African American motorist Rodney King in March George H.
Bush dispatched 3,—4, army troops and marines, along with 1, riot-trained federal law officers, to help restore order. Among the first major mobilizations to be organized via the Internet, the Seattle WTO Protests—carried out by a broad coalition of nongovernmental organizations NGOs , labor unions, media activists, student groups, anarchists, and others—are often seen as the start of the antiglobalization movement. More mass dissension and acts of civil disobedience, some vandalism, and curfew violations resulted in reprisals by police forces and the eventual arrest of more than people on December 1.
By the end of the conference, Seattle was left with millions of dollars in property damage and lawsuits by protesters arguing civil rights violations. History Part Two Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. Facebook Twitter. By Jeff Wallenfeldt.
Police searching men in the Watts district of Los Angeles in March , seven months after the confrontations between police and residents that became known as the Watts Riots and that were followed by ongoing tension and violence in the community. Soldiers stand guard in Washington, D.
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