Most violent race riots in U.S. history

Cincinnati Riots, April 2001 <span class=meta>(AP)</span>
Monday, August 11, 2014

Hundreds of protesters gathered at a suburban St. Louis police station on Monday demanding murder charges against an officer who shot to death an unarmed black teenager over the weekend. The largely peaceful protest took place after a night of rioting when demonstrations over the death of Michael Brown, 18, turned violent. About two dozen businesses were damaged in the rioting overnight, 32 people were arrested, and two officers were injured, police said. Whether motivated by politics, racism or just discontent, explosions of violence have been a part of American history. Here is a look back in chronological order at the nine most violent race riots over the past decade.


9. Cincinnati riots (April 2001)

A 19-year-old black man named Timothy Thomas was killed running from police on April 7, 2001, and it was revealed that the officers acted improperly in the situation, including failure to give Thomas time to respond. The final straw: The night Thomas was killed, almost 200 residents showed up to protest at a city council meeting, and protestors assembled outside city hall. After being dispersed, they began rioting, which triggered more outbreaks of violence and vandalism across the city. The riots lasted for days, becoming the largest disorders of their kind since the Rodney King riots nine years before. The officer who shot Thomas was eventually tried and acquitted.

8. The Battle in Seattle (November 30, 1999)

The World Trade Organization Conference of 1999 was held in Seattle. The meeting was a target for participants in the anti-globalization movement. An anarchist group led activists to take control of major intersections and converge on the city to effectively shut it down. The move prevented delegates from reaching the convention center, but some began looting and smashing windows, which invited blowback from police. More than 600 people were arrested, some beaten in the process, and the WTO ended the meeting and reconvened it in 2001.

7. The Rodney King riots (April 29-May 4, 1992)

Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase through Los Angeles before being caught and beaten. The beating was captured on tape. Four police officers were charged but later acquitted of excessive force. The verdict sent local black and Hispanic communities into a frenzy at the perceived injustice, and riots started to break out the evening of the verdict's reading and lasted for days. There were retaliatory attacks, including Reginald Denny, a white truck driver whose vicious beating was captured by local news cameras. All told, the riots killed 53 people, injured 2,000, and cost close to $1 billion in damages.

6. The Attica Prison riot (September 9-13, 1971)

In August 1971, a prisoner at California's San Quentin Prison was killed attempting to escape. In response to that and other turns, almost 1,000 Attica prisoners rioted in September in an attempt to demand better living conditions. They took 33 guards hostage and began negotiating demands. Eventually, state police hit the building with tear gas and opened fire. In the end, nine hostages and 48 inmates were killed, either by state police or inmates.

5. Stonewall riots (June 28, 1969)

Police raids on gay bars to harass patrons and arrest drag queens were regular, but the one in the early hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall didn't go as planned. Customers refused to cooperate or disperse, and eventually the confrontation turned violent as the sides attacked each other. The fracas led to greater protests and a higher profile for the gay rights movement.

4. Riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 1968)

The killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the heat of the civil rights movement of the 1960s was a dark moment in history that angered millions. King's assassination instantly gripped the nation and sparked riots in more than 60 cities. Washington, D.C., rioted for four days, with mass looting and injuries, and the swelling crowds at one point spread to within two blocks of the White House. Baltimore exploded into a riot, as well, and 5,000 soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the city to maintain order. Citizens in Chicago rioted and the Illinois National Guard came in to assist police. Nationwide damages were well into the millions.

3. The Chicago riots at the Democratic National Convention (August 28, 1968)

Following a year of assassinations and political disappointments, protestors from various groups had grown tired of the Vietnam War and the growing divide in society. Many traveled to the Democratic National Convention to show their displeasure. Tens of thousands of protestors descended on Chicago and on August 28 protestors and police began fighting. Cops used tear gas and Mace to subdue the crowds. When it was all over, seven people were charged with conspiracy to incite the riot, and they became known as the Chicago Seven.

2. Newark riots (July 12-17, 1967)

These New Jersey riots wound up killing 26 people and injuring hundreds more. Black residents of the city had grown tired and angry at repeated incidences of police brutality, as well as a growing feeling of being disenfranchised.
A pair of white cops arrested a black cab driver for improperly passing them and took him to their precinct building, across the street from public housing. Residents of the project saw an "incapacitated" black man being dragged inside, and though the driver was taken to a hospital, rumor spread that he'd died in police custody. With that, the civil unrest tipped over and erupted into a week of riots.

1. Watts Riots (August 11-15, 1965)

Race relations were strained all over in the 1960s, and Los Angeles was no exception. When a white California Highway Patrol officer pulled over and arrested a black man for drunk driving, a crowd of witnesses soon turned ugly. Riots broke out in the Watts section of town. Fires, violence, and looting were rampant for days, and the riots would be the biggest in L.A. history until those in 1992. At the end of the spree, 34 people were dead, more than 2,000 injured.
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