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2020: The Fifty-Year Perfect Storm In The Making
By 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 as 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 restore order.

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 others.
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 group.

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 of 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 the U.S.

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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