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Boston (Massachusetts) Riot of 1967

The Boston, Massachusetts, riot of 1967 was a ghetto riot in which local businesses were destroyed and scores of people were injured after a peaceful demonstration broken up by the Boston police caused an angry mob to gather in support of the protesters.

The historically small black population of Boston began to grow in the 1950s as more African Americans and West Indians migrated to the city in search of jobs and improved political and economic opportunities. At the same time, Boston was undergoing many structural changes in the name of urban renewal as entire neighborhoods were demolished to make way for the citys expansion. As gentriiicatlon set in and African Americans were pushed out of the largely black neighborhoods of the South End and lower Roxbury, ghettos began to emerge in the areas surrounding the Grove Hall section of Roxbury and North Dorchester. Although increased opportunity led to some occupational gains, income levels for blacks, compared to whites, remained low. Unlike other cities that had sustained periods of black migration, Bostons black community had difficulty in achieving political parity with the longer established white ethnic population because of their relatively small numbers. Thomas Atkins, an African American, was elected as a districtwide city councilor, but without a large constituency, blacks were unable to win many seats in local and state government. African Americans also held few municipal jobs, which were often reserved for the relatives of white elected officials. While there was no shortage of causes for the rioting, the particular incident that sparked the riot on Saturday, June 3, 1967 occurred when a dozen demonstrators under the name of Mothers for Adequate Welfare (MAW) locked themselves inside a welfare office located in the Grove Hall section of Roxbury. The protesters, all women, read a list of demands and refused to leave until those demands were met. Police and firefighters arrived on the scene to remove the demonstrators from the welfare office, which had been locked by the women from the inside. The women padlocked and chained the door, locking themselves, about twenty social workers, and ten policemen inside. As police attempted to enter the building, a crowd gathered and began to shout at the officers. When the policemen finally gained entrance, they were met with a hail of stones, bottles, and other projectiles thrown by the protesters.

By the evening, only with the help of several black ministers and other city leaders called in to pacify the growing crowd, were police finally able to clear the building. However, as night fell, the rather large crowd moved to the streets and a full-scale riot ensued. Shards of broken glass littered the streets from rocks and bottles thrown at the police and the windows of police cruisers. By 11:00 p. m., the violence had escalated and the scene was one of mob violence. Homes and stores on Blue Hill Avenue burned while firemen, attempting to put out the blazes, were pelted with stones. According to reports, the rioting took place over as many as fifteen blocks and lasted for twelve hours. A command center was established at a nearby football stadium for the distribution of weapons and riot gear to men called in from other precincts. Store windows, particularly those of drugstores, liquor stores, and other businesses were smashed and merchandise was either destroyed or picked up by the rioters. Shortly after midnight, a group of black leaders met with the police commissioner to assess the damage estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Upwards of thirty people or more were arrested and scores of people, including a little girl who suffered a skuU fracture when a stone struck her on the head as she was riding through the area in a passing car, were treated for injuries at Boston City Hospital. At least thirty policemen were also injured. See also Long Hot Summer Riots, 19651967.

Further Readings: A Welfare Protest Spurs Boston Riot; Scores Are Injured; Boston Protest Erupts Into Riot. The New York Times, June 3, 1967; Tager, Jack. Boston Riots: Three Centuries of Social Violence. Boston; Northeastern University Press, 2001.

Zebulon V Miletsky

dle 12.1

Literatura: Encyclopedia of American Race Riots