Box 13, Folder 21, Document 81

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Box 13, Folder 21, Document 81

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14 %* Monday, September 11, 1967

By Richard L. Strout .
Staff correspondent of
The Christian Science Monitor
7

Detroit

Back and forth across the United States
in this violent summer of 1967 we have
-traveled now close to 9,000 miles. Some
scenes have been idyllic; some poignant.
The most shocking thing we have seen is
the charred and angry scar in Detroit left
by a riot which all but paralyzed the na-
tion’s fifth largest city for four days and
took over 40 lives.

On sleazy 12th Street, driving north one
month later, it looks for a minute like Ber-
lin after the bombing. Here a row of stores
is gutted. Across the way plywood sheathes
bandage smashed windows. A chimney
rises in a burnt-out home like a cellar hole
in an abandoned New England farm. Sup-
porting I-beams still cant against side-
walls. There are pathetic scrawled appeals,
“Soul Brother’? meaning a Negro owner.

A cast-iron radiator is held up crazily
against the sky by its connecting waterpipe
in what was formerly a second-story room,
The room is gone.

At its height the riot was like war; tanks
trundled, machine guns spat at snipers,
police sirens howled, fire trucks roared,

!

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Detroit sifts through riot embers for racial lessons

arsonists laughed and looted. Officials looked
down almost in tears on fires that»seemed
to cover the whole town. Here a city fought
its own people.

Cost—half-a-billion dollars.

Has the lesson of Detroit been learned by
the rest of the country? In this reporter’s
opinion, no. The lesson is that if it can
happen in Detroit in can happen anywhere.
The forces of destruction an nihilism in
American core cities are still there.

Almost a model city...

Detroit was almost a model city in racial
matters. There was a liberal mayor and
governor, the most advanced summer pro-
gram in the United States, and complete
communication between officials and the
supposed Negro leaders. It had two articu-
late Negro congressmen and one of the
biggest middle-class Negro communities in
the nation.

“We told ourselves it can’t happen in
Detroit,’ said Martin Hayden, chief edi-
torial writer of the Detroit News. He speaks
who wants all the facts but also feels the
with the commitment of a newspaperman
thing passionately as a human being.

The feeling of security helped betray
Detroit. '

Trying tactics that were successful a year

1 1



‘mood

F, | of America











before, police did not use firearms for a
couple of hours while leaders tried to “‘cool
it’’ with bullhorns. The crowd grew.

“There is no evidence that anything but
an immediate and large show of force will
stop a riot,” says city expert James Q. Wil-
son of Harvard.

Compressed to oversimplification, here
are three things the riot indicated to some
who lived through it.

The National Guard isn’t trained to handle
a riot. Compared with the performance of
seasoned regular Army paratroopers, who
were finally called in, the guard’s perform-
ance seemed to some “appalling.”

Second, the web of municipal life is more
vulnerable to civil disorder than has been
supposed, The spontaneous, new-style guer-
rilla tactics of skip-hop, fire bombing can
black out a city,

Finally it is doubtful even yet if the nation
has much notion of what it is up against: a
new, violent urban underclass set apart from
the rest of the community.

It is doubtful if Congress understands it.
In a summer where 70 cities have been hit,
the House recently laughed off the Presi-
dent’s proposed ghetto rat-control bill, 207-
LOG 3) Sas

The reported mood in Washington is that.

new poverty funds should be withheld in
order not to “reward” violence. To an ob-
server here it sounds a trifle like reverse
racism.

Must all 520,000 Negroes in Detroit, out
of a city of 1,600,000, be taught a lesson?
One of the most striking things in following
the ruins on 12th Street is to note how
destruction stopped abruptly at the little
lawns of the middle-class Negro homes on
adjacent venues. These property-owning
Negroes have the greatest stake in law and
order, as well as the Negro shopkeepers
whose businesses were sacked and gutted.

The black-power militants lump all whites
together: “Whitey doesn’t care!”

It would seem tragic if white resentment
should now lump all Negroes together and
finally split the two races into warring
camps.

Tf social reform can be halted as a pun-
ishment for violence then nihilists and Com-
munists can gleefully block it whenever they
see fit.

There were whites in the Detroit mob. An

editor, a state trooper, a Negro writer all
told of the nightmarish carnival mood of the
affair. The crowds laughed and looted.

Recent United States census studies indi-
cate that the 1960 count missed many Ne=
groes, perhaps 10 percent. The highest loss
rate was in young, adult males. The start-
ling fact appears that one male in six
simply dropped out of organized society:
But this invisible underclass was on hand
for arson and looting.

“This can happen in any United States
city where a sizable part of the population
is unemployed and unemployable,” says
editor Martin Hayden.

Causes are easier to find than ameliora-
tives. The latter are probably more radical,
anyway, than a nation preoccupied with
Vietnam will accept. Well, I boldly offer
the following proposals anyway.

Law and order must be preserved; every=
body agrees to that.

More and more people believe that fire=
arms must be regulated. The United States
is the only great nation where this isn’t
done.

Twenty-seventh in a continuing summer
series of reports from a correspondent as-
signed to tour the United States,

ee al A A

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