Tuesday, August 11, 2015



Los Angeles, California (JFK+50) The Watts Riots broke out here in Los Angeles a half century ago this evening, August 11, 1965.  At seven o'clock local time, Marquette Frye*, an African-American, was stopped by Lee Minikus, a patrolman of the California Highway Patrol.

While Frye was given a sobriety test, his brother walked two blocks to his home and returned with the mother who scolded Marquette for driving while intoxicated.  A rumor spread that the mother had been assaulted by police and  
soon a riot broke out among about 200 people who had gathered on the scene.

Rocks and other objects were thrown by the mob at the officers.  Rioting continued for the next four hours.  The riots continued for six days with 34 dead, more than a thousand wounded and over 3400 arrested.

According to the New York Times, the community of Watts** has been transformed today and is in stark contrast to the troubled African-American community in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jennifer Medina writes..."There were fewer than a dozen homicides (in Watts) last year."  That was not the case in 1965 when there were hundreds.

The community is still poor, but African-Americans have moved to the LA suburbs and Watts is 70% Latino today.  The City Housing Authority has invested $10 million into special projects in the community and police officers sign on to a five-year patrol area.

*Marquette Frye (1944-1986) was born in Oklahoma & grew up in Wyoming. His family moved to LA in 1957.  Marquette, haunted by the riots & unable to get work, was arrested for a variety of crimes.  He died of pneumonia.

**Watts is a 2.12 square mile community located in South Los Angeles, CA.  It was named after the 1st railroad station built in 1904 on land donated by the Watts family.

The community became predominantly African-American during the 1940s with the influx of blacks from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas & Texas seeking economic opportunity in California.


"Frye, Marquette (1944-1986),"

"Watts, 50 years On, Stands in Contrast to Today's Conflicts," by Jennifer Medina, The New York Times, August 10, 2015,

Watts Towers
Los Angeles, California