“And This Happened in Los Angeles:” Malcolm X Describes Police Brutality Against Members of the Nation of Islam
ELMAN: Malcolm X, I wonder if you can tell me very briefly what took place in Los Angeles? You mentioned earlier on the evening that there was police brutality and there was atrocity committed. Would you explain what the incident was?
The 1965 Watts Riots
1964 seemed to mark a turning point in America; with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a new age in race relations appeared to be dawning. But the states acted quickly to circumvent the new federal law. California reacted with Proposition 14, which moved to block the fair housing components of the Civil Rights Act. This, and other acts, created a feeling of injustice and despair in the inner cities. On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles provided the spark that lit the fire of those seething feelings. The riots lasted for six days, leaving 34 dead, over a thousand people injured, nearly 4,000 arested, and hundreds of buildings destroyed. After the riots, then Governor Pat Brown named John McCone to head a commission to study the riots. The report issued by the Commission concluded that the riots weren't the act of thugs, but rather symptomatic of much deeper problems: the high jobless rate in the inner city, poor housing, bad schools. Although the problems were clearly pointed out in the report, no great effort was made to address them, or to rebuild what had been destroyed in the riots.