Cases of police brutality against predominately African American males have been an ongoing issue within the United States for many years and is still to this day a reoccurring issue. America has an in-depth history of Black individuals being rebellious against the continuing assault within their communities.
Police misconduct against the African American communities represents an issue of institutional racism. Metaphorically a fight against one becomes a fight against all. The historical events of notable riots that took place, happened as an attempt to create a spotlight on the injustices that plagued African Americans within our society. Ten nationally recognizable incidences are considered notably impactful on society and provide valuable historical context for the increase of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Those ten instances include:
First, in Harlem, New York in 1943, Henry Martyn Robert Bandy who was an African American soldier, approached a white officer who was in the middle of stunning an African American person for disorderly behavior. During the encounter, the officer had shot and wounded Bandy. Many people gathered and soon a riot began. The city manager, Fiorello La Guardia, requested the help of the U.S. Army and placed a 10:30 PM curfew on the city. There were 2 days of civil unrest, that lead to six deaths and five hundred arrests.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1964, Odessa Bradford, who was an African American woman, had her automobile brake down on a town street. As officers attempted to remove Ms. Bradford from her car, a spectator tried to intervene, which ultimately resulted in an arrest of both Ms. Bradford and the spectator. As a result, approximately 800 people were in remission and over two hundred stores were destroyed.
In 1964 in Harlem, New York, once again a riot erupted in city district after Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan, who was off duty, shot and killed James Powell, a 15-year-old African American. One person died, over a hundred people were bruised, and there have been over 450 arrests.
In California, the “Watts Riots” took place in 1965 due to police taking Marquette Northrop Frye, a 21-year-old African American, his friend, and his mother all into custody. Northrop got pulled over for reckless driving, but what confused many was as to why his mother was arrested after her arrival to the scene. The arrests caused outrage amongst tens of thousands who partook in protesting, which resulted in thousands of National Guard officers being deployed to the scene. The protest lasted six days and by the end, thirty-four people were declared dead, over a thousand were bruised, and three thousand five hundred people were arrested.
In September of 1966, Matthew Johnson, a 16-year-old teenage boy, was shot and killed by an official for running from the scene of a vehicle that was registered as stolen. Leading to another riot where people gathered at the scene and threw rocks at the officers as well as setting fires in protest. The National Guard was brought in and this time there were no deaths.
Ten years later in 1967 in Newark, New Jersey officers pulled over John Smith, an African American taxi driver, and badly beat him in the process of their arrest. Residents took to the streets in protest and by the end, twenty-six people were killed, over seven hundred bruised and, one thousand five hundred were taken into custody.
In 1992 in California the exoneration of four LAPD officers took place even though there was a video of the beating of Rodney King. After four days of protest fifty-three people died, two thousand three hundred were injured, thousands were arrested, and over one billion dollars in property damage resulted.
On April 9, 2001, in Cincinnati, Ohio an unarmed 19-year-old African American male, Timothy Thomas, was shot and killed by an officer while being pulled over for a traffic violation. The incident led to civil unrest and three-point six million dollars in property damage.
Over a decade later on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed male, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white officer. The protest started, the National Guard came, and a curfew was set. Months later, once the prosecutor failed to get an indictment of Officer Wilson, protests continued. This incident caused the Justice Department to create a report documenting a history of racism by the Ferguson local department.
In December 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland, Freddie Grey, a 25-year-old African American, was arrested after running from an officer. Video of his arrest was caught on camera and he can be seen crying out in pain. He was placed in a police vehicle, let out half an hour later, was unable to breathe and had severe spinal injuries, and Grey ended up dying a week later. Six officers, both black and white, were charged with Gray’s death. All of the officers were eventually found not guilty for Freddie Gray’s death. However, the Justice Department found that the Baltimore Police Department had a history of committing many racial injustices.
These riots spanned over seventy-three years. The founders of the BLM organization began the fight for national management over the police by pushing legislation and being very visible politically.