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Remenber Chatlotte North Catolina?

Riots are destructive, dangerous, and scary — but can lead to serious social reforms

Cars burn during the Baltimore riots.
Story By German Lopez

When tensions in Charlotte, North Carolina, over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott quickly boiled over into violence, looting, and riots, many people on social media had the same reaction: Why are people destroying their own communities in such senseless violence?

But this misses the point. This sentiment, experts previously told me, underplays the real anger behind riots and urban uprisings. “People participate in this type of event for a real reason,” Darnell Hunt, a UCLA professor who’s studied the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, said. “It’s not just people taking advantage. It’s not just anger and frustration at the immediate or proximate cause. It’s always some underlying issues.”

Riots are the culmination of these underlying issues. They might be catalyzed by one particular cause — such as a police shooting — but they’re also the result of long-held angers — broader police abuse, residential segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions, generally, in America.

What’s more, riots can lead to serious attention and change.

We see some of this in media coverage today: When Baltimore burst into riots after Freddie Gray died in police custody, its policing problems received a lot more attention by the press — and even led to a US Justice Department investigation that found a local police department plagued by racist practices.

But riots don’t just lead to more attention — other urban upheavals in the 1960s and 1990s led to real reforms in local police departments and governments, and the Justice Department is now pushing the Baltimore Police Department into reform following its investigation.

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And remember that riots also happened in Watts, South Central Los Angeles

Riots and Looting come result as desperate reaction to oppression. Acts of racism stigmatized by social limitations And culturized by those who are selfish and Ignorant. AWOLL/AmericaOnCoffee (AOC)

The Watts Riot, which raged for six days and resulted in more than forty million dollars worth of property damage, was both the largest and costliest urban rebellion of the Civil Rights era. The riot spurred from an incident on August 11, 1965 when Marquette Frye, a young African American motorist, was pulled over and arrested by Lee W. Minikus, a white California Highway Patrolman, for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

As a crowd on onlookers gathered at the scene of Frye’s arrest, strained tensions between police officers and the crowd erupted in a violent exchange. The outbreak of violence that followed Frye’s arrest immediately touched off a large-scale riot centered in the commercial section of Watts, a deeply impoverished African American neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. For several days, rioters overturned and burned automobiles and looted and damaged grocery stores, liquor stores, department stores, and pawnshops. Over the course of the six-day riot, over 14,000 California National Guard troops were mobilized in South Los Angeles and a curfew zone encompassing over forty-five miles was established in an attempt to restore public order. All told, the rioting claimed the lives of thirty-four people, resulted in more than one thousand reported injuries, and almost four thousand arrests before order was restored on August 17.

Throughout the crisis, public officials advanced the argument that the riot was the work outside agitators; however, an official investigation, prompted by Governor Pat Brown, found that the riot was a result of the Watts community’s longstanding grievances and growing discontentment with high unemployment rates, substandard housing, and inadequate schools. Despite the reported findings of the gubernatorial commission, following the riot, city leaders and state officials failed to implement measures to improve the social and economic conditions of African Americans living in the Watts neighborhood.

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