Rioting started in 1967 because of the treatment towards blacks which included just grabbing them off the streets if there was any amount of suspicion that they were doing something wrong and without any provocation. Routine raids on blind pigs was the last straw because blacks were the only ones taken from the establishments and shuttled to the stations. One individual commented that, “That’s why the negros are all rioting up town you know what that means? All these folks every time you see one of them, he going to stop a brother. You know, he never stop no whites, that’s why we out here rioting and we going to keep on rioting until they stop all this” (Eyes on the Prize).
There were many reasons behind the rioting it wasn’t as if the raids on the blind pigs were the only factor. The main reasons as stated by the Kerner Commission were: segregation and poverty created a destructive environment in racial ghettoes, pervasive discrimination, black migration and white exodus, black ghettoes, feeling of powerlessness amongst African Americans, violence towards African Americans was legitimated by society, education did not meet nation-wide standards, problems with local police departments where blacks not represented, and African Americans not represented politically. These multitude of issues were not new to the blacks as they had suffered with all of these issues for years, but it seemed as though the whites were making progress with their issues and there was nothing being done to help the blacks (French).
“Inside of most black people, there was a time bomb. There was a pot that was about to overflow, and there was rage that was about to come out… And it just exploded.” The neglect from the government figures in helping blacks receive the same rights and treatment as the whites had for years created this time bomb that sat in wait in all of them. Although there were some small acts of rebellion that went on in previous years there was nothing to this extreme in Michigan relating to the segregation issue (Eyes on the Prize).
The rioting began as the police officers were leaving the scene, an empty bottle smashed into the rear window of a police car and a trash basket was thrown through the window of a store. Further damage escalated quickly, looters began robbing stores and vandals began fires. The chaos exploded and within a few hours there were over 3,000 people on the streets causing damage. Road blocks were put up, but they did practically nothing to stop the oncoming onslaught of people (French). Many of the black leaders were trying to stop the riots and came in to aid the police. Although, many others were afraid to be in the city with the amount of angry people and the destruction that was being brought onto the city. All of the previous work that had been done to build the city and the slums up was being destroyed in the matter of days (Eyes on the Prize).
Many different groups were called in to help contain the chaotic frenzy including the National Guard. Sgt. Howard Holland commented on how he had called his mother to check in with his parents on how things were going in the city. She stated that, “Here I have one son in Vietnam in a combat zone, and now I’m worried about you in our own hometown.” He said that this statement hung with him for a long time, and it rings volumes on how she was more worried about her son who was trying to calm the area whereas her other son would have been causing damage. Besides Sgt. Holland, there were many other individuals who were called into Detroit after just coming home from serving and they commented that the “warzones” were very similar (Eyes on the Prize).
“Eyes on the Prize – 08 – Two Societies (1965-1968).” Vimeo, 4 Apr. 2018, vimeo.com/45163554.
French, Amy. “Radio Program on Riots.” 4 Apr. 2018, https://elearning.delta.edu/d2l/le/content/2886635/viewContent/1542695/View.