2020: The Fifty-Year Perfect Storm In The Making
Jim Weiss, Mickey Davis and Bob O’Brien
The May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
set off a firestorm of widespread, nationwide anti-police protests,
demonstrations, violence, rioting, and looting.
The enormity and magnitude of the 2020 unrest seemed unprecedented
and caught America by surprise. However, it wasn't unprecedented,
nor should it have been surprising. This is because fifty-two
years ago in 1968, America had also experienced similar widespread
protests, violence, rioting. Also, in the years leading up to
both 2020 and 1968 there were clear signs of growing social unrest,
violence, and episodic rioting in America.
Years of Unrest and Violence
1965 — In California, the 1965 Los Angeles Watts Riot started
with a traffic stop arrest that soon turned into reports of police
brutality. The rumor quickly spread, stoking long-simmering tensions
that exploded in rioting, looting, and sniping. It took a massive
response by police and National Guard six days, 4,000 arrests,
34 deaths, and over 1,000 injuries (accounts vary) to finally
be able to restore order.
1967 - The deadly 1967 Detroit (Michigan) Riot
started when police raided an illegal, after-hours club also known
a blind pig. As with Watts, long-simmering racial and anti-police
tensions boiled over and fanned the flames of days of destructive
rioting, looting, sniping.
Ultimately, it would take the full efforts of police, National
Guard, and the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne to finally
1968 - The infamous August 1968 Chicago Democratic
Convention was different from Watts, Detroit, and other urban
riots of the
1960's. Thousands of anti-Vietnam War and other protest groups
descended en masse on Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago was prepared—or so they thought. Thousands of riot
ready police, reinforced by National Guard, were strategically
assigned to prevent disruption of the Democratic Convention. However,
soon large violent clashes broke out between protesters and police.
Convention-goers and citizens alike were helplessly caught squarely
in the middle of these violent clashes, often involving pitched
street battles, teargas, and mass arrests.
All of this was caught on TV by local and national media who were
in Chicago to cover the Democratic Convention. This coined the
long-popular protest slogan chant: "The Whole World Is Watching," so
named because much of the violence was filmed by the media and
The July 23, 1968 Glenville Shootout in Cleveland, Ohio found
police under the surveillance of a Black nationalist group. An
estimated twenty-five heavily armed militants attacked police
with heavy, intense gunfire. The multi-city-block gun battle raged
for several hours, resulting in seven people being killed: three
police officers, one civilian helping police, and three Black
militants. A fourth officer died from his wounds years later.
The Glenville Shootout sparked five nights of deadly rioting,
looting, and arson.
The U.S. Commission investigating the violence would note that
Glenville marked a dangerous new trend—the first time police
were specifically targeted and attacked by a heavily armed militant
1969 - The SDS movement (Students for a Democratic
Society) was splintering and evolving into the more militant Weathermen
faction whose nearly last, above-ground action was the 1969 Chicago "Days
of Rage." Hundreds of Weathermen were involved in several
days of rampage through Chicago, smashing windows, setting fires,
and engaging in pitched street battles with police. This was followed
two months later by the long-forgotten Weathermen window smashing
rampage inside a suburban Cleveland shopping mall.
1992 - The Rodney King Riot in Los Angeles,
California, in 1992 was the deadliest riot in the country since
the New York
City Draft Riots in 1864. On April 29th, a jury found four police
officers not guilty of beating him after a high-speed chase the
year before. The five days of unrest that followed resulted in
50 riot-related deaths, more than 2,000 people injured, and nearly
6,000 rioters arrested.
2009 - In Oakland, California there was the
controversial January 1, 2009 police shooting of a suspect by
a BART (transit)
officer. The police officer testified he had accidentally used
his gun instead of his Taser, and was convicted of involuntary
manslaughter. That shooting was followed by weeks of protests
and demonstrations, similar to the Ferguson protests in 2014 (see
below) in that they were mainly peaceful during the day and then
turned violent at night with window smashing, rock/bottle throwing,
fires set, and violent street clashes with riot police.
The city had seemingly calmed down when in March 2009, four Oakland
police officers were shot and killed by a lone gunman with a rifle.
Two were motorcycle police officers and two were SWAT Sergeants.
The suspect was killed by SWAT.
Then in April 2009 three Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania police officers
were murdered by a gunman with a rifle. After a fierce hours-long
gun battle with police, the suspect was arrested.
However, targeted police killings weren't over in 2009. In November
2009 four Lakewood, Washington police officers were gunned down
by a lone gunman in a coffee shop at the start of their shift.
Two days later after a massive manhunt, that gunman was killed
by Seattle police.
2014 - Anti-police sentiment was seen nationally
in 2014 with the controversial police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri
Michael Brown, a Black teenager. Ferguson quickly became the epicenter
of nightly violent clashes between angry protesters and police,
all shown on live TV across America. This violence soon spread
to nearby St. Louis. Protesters flocked to Missouri from all over
2016 - Then in July 2016 with anti-police sentiment
still seething, eight police officers were murdered by lone snipers
within mere days of each other. Five Dallas, Texas police officers
were killed by a sniper while the police were protecting a Black
Lives Matter march. This anti-police sniper ambush was followed
soon after by three Baton Rouge, Louisiana officers being murdered
by another sniper. Both snipers were ultimately killed following
shootouts with police; the Dallas sniper was killed by a police
bomb squad robot outfitted with a bomb.
About the Authors
Mickey (Michele) Davis is an award-winning, California-based
writer and author. Her young adult novel, Evangeline Brown and
the Cadillac Motel, won the Swiss Prix Chronos for the German
translation. Mickey is the wife of a Vietnam War veteran officer.
She served as a California fire department volunteer.
Lieutenant Jim Weiss (Retired) is a former Army light infantryman,
school-trained Army combat engineer, a former school-trained (regular
Army) Army military policeman, former State of Florida Investigator,
and a retired police lieutenant from the Brook Park (OH) Police
Department. He has written and co-written hundreds of articles
for law enforcement and safety forces magazines, most notably
Law and Order, Tactical Response, Tactical Edge, Police Fleet
Manager, Knives Illustrated, Counter Terrorism, Tactical World,
and Concealed Carry Handguns.
Sergeant Bob O'Brien (Retired) Cleveland, Ohio Police Department
SWAT Sergeant. CPD SWAT Unit co-founder.
Law enforcement consultant, instructor, writer. Bob is a US Army
Vietnam War veteran. He has been published in LAW and ORDER, Tactical
Response, Tactical World (co-written with Jim and Mickey); in
the past had a SWAT column in Police magazine.
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