what happened in detroit in 1967
Detroit Riot of 1967, series of violent confrontations between residents of predominantly African American neighbourhoods of Detroit and the city’s police department that began on July 23, 1967, and lasted five days. The riot resulted in the deaths of 43 people, including 33 African Americans and 10 whites. Many other people were injured, more than 7,000 people were arrested, and more than 1,000 buildings were burned in the uprising. The riot is considered one of the catalysts of the militant Black Power movement.
The immediate cause of the riot was a police raid at an illegal after-hours drinking club, the site of a welcome-home party for two returning Vietnam War veterans. The police arrested all patrons in attendance, including 82 African Americans. Local residents who witnessed the raid protested, and several of them vandalized property, looted businesses, and started fires. Police responded by blockading the surrounding neighbourhood, but outraged local residents drove through the blockade. The protests and violence spread to other areas of the city as police lost control of the situation. During the next several days, more than 9,000 members of the U.S. National Guard were deployed by Michigan Gov. George Romney, along with 800 Michigan state police. On the second day of the riot, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson sent U.S. Army troops to the city to help quell the violence.
In the aftermath of the Newark and Detroit riots, President Johnson appointed a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, often known as the Kerner Commission after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois. In February, 1968, seven months after the Detroit Riots had ended, the commission released its 426-page report.
The 1967 Detroit Riots were among the most violent and destructive riots in U.S. history. By the time the bloodshed, burning and looting ended after five days, 43 people were dead, 342 injured, nearly 1,400 buildings had been burned and some 7,000 National Guard and U.S. Army troops had been called into service.
At 3:15am on July 23rd, the vice squad of the Detroit Police Department executed a raid on a blind pig at 12th Street and Clairmount. Despite the late hour, the avenue was full of people attempting to stay cool amidst a stifling heat wave. As the police escorted party goers to the precinct for booking, a crowd gathered and the situation grew increasing antagonistic. When the final arrestees were loaded into police vans, a brick shattered the rear window of a police cruiser, prompting a rash of break-ins, burglaries, and eventually arson.
Deindustrialization within the city limits took many jobs to outlying communities, even as a number of auto companies went out of business. The east side of Detroit alone lost over 70,000 jobs in the decade following World War II. Construction of the city’s freeways, newer housing, and the prospect of further integration—due to the demolition of the city’s two main black neighborhoods, Black Bottom and Paradise Valley—caused many whites to depart for the suburbs. From 1950 to 1960, Detroit lost almost 20 percent of its population.
The mistake of seeing frustration but reading despair had serious consequences. The wave of calls for law-and-order politics that followed the summer of 1967 was predicated on the notion that the people who took the streets had done so because of amorality or nihilistic lawlessness.
Locke, who would go on to have a long career in academia and whose book The Detroit Riot of 1967 was recently reissued, remembers that moment well.
National Guardsman Gary Ciko of Hamtramck checks on buildings for snipers during the riot on July 23,1967 in Detroit. (Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press)
3:45 p.m.: Looting at Alger and Jefferson.