In 1950 Los Angeles elected William H. Parker as the Chief of police. He brought with him a militaristic mentality, changing the L.A.P.D into a professional, strict and strong police force that was called one of the best police forces in the world by the 1960s. Not everyone felt this way, particularly the non white citizens of L.A. Due to its harsh military like stance on minor and non existent instances, the thin blue line was soon facing criticism of police brutality from the Black and Latino community.
On Wednesday, August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye, a 21 year old black man, was pulled over for reckless driving. The white officer arrested Frye after he gave him a field sobriety test. While that was happening, Ronald Frye, Marquette’s brother and passenger, had gone to retrieve their mother from the family home which was nearby. She gave Marquette shit for drunk driving, as she should have, but amidst the yelling someone pushed her and Marquette was hit. His mother didn’t like that so she jumped the cop who had done it, this resulted in a fight that only ended after guns were brought out and backup was called. Crowds were watching the scene and as Marquette was manhandled into the back of a cop car the crowd got angry. They began yelling at the police, throwing things at them. Marquette’s mother and brother were also arrested. The anger surged through the neighborhood, crowds growing and showing the police they did not like the way the situation was handled. More cops showed up, more people showed up, pretty soon a huge chunk of L.A would be in the midst of a massive and disastrous riot now known as the Watts Riots. The police chief called in the national guard, comparing the riots to the insurgency of the Viet Cong. He wanted a paramilitary response to the riot which was destroying the Watts area. 2,300 national guardsmen were called in. By Saturday there were 16,000 law enforcement personnel on the scene, which only enraged the rioters more. They threw bricks and concrete at the cops, destroyed their vehicles. Rioters fought with police and blocked fire dept. vehicles from getting to emergencies. The white owned stores were looted and burned down. Over a 6 day period between 31,000 and 35,000 people rioted on the streets of Los Angeles. It was only ended after Chief Parker instituted a curfew and a mass arrest policy. Anyone out in certain areas after 8 p.m. were locked up. After all was said, done and burnt there were over 3,000 arrests, over 1,000 injuries and 34 lives lost. It left L.A with $40 million in property damages and a major rift in the racial communities of L.A. White people were scared, fearful that the next arrest could lead to another riot. African American and Latino people saw the riots as a positive, an uprising against an oppressive system. In 1966 Bayrard Rustin, a civil rights activist, wrote of the riots:
“The whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life.”
The Frye brothers and their mother, Rena Price, were eventually released, and, after all the mayhem of the riots, Rena never recieved her car back from the L.A.P.D impound, the car Marquette was driving that night that broke the camel’s back. The fees on storage were more than the car was worth.
Pictured above: The Frye brothers and Rena Price their mother, Chief Parker, a news clipping about the police reaction, some pictures from the riot, a few gifs I made from archival footage of the riot and lastly some more newspaper headlines about the chaos.
This is kind of an amazing photo, taken while she was promoting Blue Jasmine a good year after filming wrapped.
For my money her expression here calls back to the angst-ridden energy that was the character’s hallmark… a sort of re-visitation/re-inhabiting. I’m stressed out just looking at this—it’s like she was summoned to the principal’s office.
Give this woman an Academy Award! Oh… that’s right… ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️