The 12th Street Riot of 1967

July 23rd 1967 marked the ultimate clash of racial tensions in Detroit that had been building up for decades.  When armed policemen entered an unlicensed bar with the intent to make arrests, a catalyst was found and riots broke out.  This bar was located in one of the city’s most historical villages and was heavily populated by a black community.[1]

Detroit Burning: Photos From the 12th Street Riot, 1967
Not published in LIFE. Detroit, July 1967. Aftermath of riots.

For four days, the streets of Detroit saw incredible acts of violence and destructions as black and white people fought across a racial divide. Buildings were burned, people were shot and killed, stores were robbed and Detroit lay strewn with wreckage and hatred.  The unjust treatment of the black community in the United States had come to a bitter climax and many citizens were not content with the progress being made by the peaceful protests of men like Martin Luther King.

Detroit Burning: Photos From the 12th Street Riot, 1967
Not published in LIFE. Detroit, July 1967.

The most astounding part of these riots however, was the heavy hand used by government military forces to squash the destruction in its tracks.  Over 2000 military paratroopers were sent to patrol and control the riot in armoured vehicles.[2] Not only did that not work, but also many more lives were lost as a direct result.  According to, by the end of the riots “More than 7,000 people were arrested during the four days of rioting. A total of 43 were killed. Some 1,700 stores were looted and nearly 1,400 buildings burned, causing $50 million in property damage. Some 5,000 people were left homeless.”[3]

police brutality riots

As we ring in the New Year, this post is a good reminder of how far we have come in conquering racial divides and creating equality.  However, it is also a warning about what can happen when we mistreat people based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, gender or any other criteria.  Basically, when we mistreat people.   We’ve come a long way but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Peace, love and history. Have a great 2016 readers.

For a more in-depth look, I recommend these articles:






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