by Leah Behrens
of 67 and all was not well. William Parrott of Dearborn
switched off the TV. He had seen enough. The scenes of arson,
anarchy, and shootings had convinced him it was time to load
up his family and head to their cottage in northern Michigan.
They would be safer there.
On Sunday, July 23,1967, Detroit police raided a blind
pig an illegal after-hours bar on 12th
Street near Clairmount on the city's near west side. A large
crowd of African Americans had gathered as arrests were made
and they began taunting the police. Someone threw a beer bottle
through the back window of a cruiser. The crowd began to get
increasingly agitated. More patrol cars arrived but the police
did nothing to quell the disturbance so people seized the
opportunity to start looting. It wasnt long before a
wave of more than 200 people began surging through city streets.
The riot of 67 had begun.
were less than 200 officers spread over the entire city that
morning. The mob was unstoppable as it carved out its path
of destruction. Rioters smashed, burned and looted everything
in their path. They set fire to businesses and homes. Police
and firefighters were met by sniper bullets as they tried
to contain the riot. Detroit became a war zone.
should have seen it coming, thought William as he turned
the car onto the highway. It wasn't like it hadnt
last major Detroit race riot had occurred in 1943. On the
night of June 20th, fights broke out between sailors and Afro-Americans
near Belle Isle. Before long, the mob had grown to over 5,000
and the Detroit riot squad was called in. By the time the
riots of 43 were over, 34 people lay dead, hundreds
injured, 1,800 arrested and property damage was in the millions.
the rest of her family headed north, 20-year-old Linda Parrott
was home with her husband in east Dearborn. The glow from
the television lit up the living room. To Linda, as she watched
what was unfolding in Detroit, the events seemed like they
were happening in another world.
was a 'closed' town; Mayor Orville Hubbard made sure no blacks
lived there. The rioting in Detroit didn't even affect Lindas
job at Ford Motor Company. It was business as usual, even
for her worried father who would be coming home to work as
soon as he was back from dropping off her mother, brother,
and two sisters at the cottage.
Kathy Parrott sat in the back seat of the packed car heading
north, and stared out the window. He never explains
anything, thought the 15-year-old as she looked at her
father. What exactly was going on?
same question echoed across the nation as the Motor City riot
spread to other Michigan cities. Pockets of violence broke
out in Pontiac, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint, and Saginaw.
Browder of Detroit had just put her 15-month-old daughter
to bed. Glued to the TV news, Elna thought of her husband
Richard, a police officer with Detroit's 15th precinct for
about four years. Since the riots began, he had been ordered
to patrol the worst-hit areas in the city. He was working
12-hour shifts, from noon to midnight. Their second child
was due any day.
phone rang again. It was another anxious relative. I
heard a policeman got killed! You think that was your husband?
Elna had no idea. She could only pray that he was safe.
are just stealing to be stealing, officer Richard Browder
mused, as he watched looters running out of an emptied gas
station with nothing more than a credit card stamping machine.
Wherever he travelled in riot-torn areas of Detroit, there
were the looters. Generally, he would arrive on the scene
and they would flee cat and mouse. The Detroit Police
force was outmanned and overworked.
riots seemed to be about racial rebellion. Anyone could see
that most of the police and guardsmen were white, while nearly
all the rioters were black. However, a bizarre fellowship
formed between looters that defied racial boundaries. United
in a spirit of anarchy, looters of all races helped each other
clean out merchandise from stores.
officers like Richard Bowler, who was African American, realized
that, black or white, they were in this together. It had become
a field day for thrill seekers, uniting people so hopelessly
trapped in poverty that they had nothing to lose.
help police restore order, the state governor brought up the
just young guys from upper Michigan, observed Richard.
He and four national guardsmen saw looters robbing a convenience
store. As he went in to investigate, he looked over his shoulder.
All they do is just stand their with their rifles in
front of them, he thought; they don't move or
arrested a few perpetrators, then called for backup
busy. Suddenly, he was attacked from behind. As he shook the
hoodlum off his back, Richard looked up to see a mob gathered
across the street, advancing towards him, throwing bottles
and rocks. He had to get out of there.
released the looters, and he and the guardsmen scrambled into
the cruiser. He groped for the keys; someone must have taken
desperation, Richard searched the cruiser as the crowd moved
in. The glove compartment! There are extra keys in the
glove compartment! He grabbed them, started the car,
and raced away.