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Monday, August 18, 2014


Why do people riot?  A complex question, but the primary reason  has to do with injustice.  Most of the riots in the USA have been racial, black versus white.  Thus, economics, unemployment and the range of sociological parameters come into play.

Through all the turmoil over time in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York City, St. Louis somehow managed to avoid anything truly serious.  Until now.  Why?  The black population of St. Louis is around 50%, as opposed to Chicago at 33% and Detroit, a national high of 83%.

First of all, Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis, and most of the 21,000 residents, if you bothered to ask, will say they are from St. Louis.  However, Ferguson is 67% black with a 94% white police force.  The perceived injustice has been building.  Any spark could have caused an explosion.  

Los Angeles only has a black population of 10% today.  However, it was perhaps up to 20% in the 60's, and a majority in the south central region.  1965 was a year after the Civil Rights Act, and Watts had a population of 32,000, 90% black.  A traffic arrest in August of a black youth led to the Watts Riot, leading to 32 deaths.  Perhaps hot weather is also a factor, for that was the month of August.

Then in 1992, that flashpoint was Rodney King, who was a convicted robber, chased down and brutally beaten by Los Angeles police.  When they got acquitted, pent up frustration led to the Los Angeles Riot, with 53 deaths and a billion dollars in financial losses.  Incidentally, King later sued, was awarded $3.8 billion, but went on to be re-arrested several times, and last year probably died of cocaine overdose.

The trigger in 1998 Chicago (about a third black) was actually the Democratic National Party Convention, and, while the motivations were many, including the Vietnam War, the primary reason had everything to do with the assassination of Martin Luther King a few months earlier.  Thus, again, civil rights.

About Ferguson and St. Louis, the spark was the killing of 18 year old black Michael Brown, who has been portrayed as an angel soon off to college.  The truth is that he was a 6'4"-300-pound thug and criminal.  Watch this video.  That is Michael Brown.  Does it matter?  Of course not.  

In a critical of mass of people, any perceived injustice can escalate, leading to riots and wars.  Anywhere, mixing together a high minority concentration, usually in a hot summer month with an authoritative force of another color or religion or whatever, and you will brew potential for a social explosion.  Africa recently saw upheavals.  China and Europe are now particularly vulnerable to turmoil.


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