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The Los Angeles Riot of August 1965

Anthony Oberschall
Social Problems
Vol. 15, No. 3 (Winter, 1968), pp. 322-341
DOI: 10.2307/799788
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/799788
Page Count: 20
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The Los Angeles Riot of August 1965
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Abstract

This paper provides a sociological analysis and explanation for the causes and course of the Los Angeles riot. Among causes, special emphasis is placed on the state of police-Negro relations in the years preceding the riot. The widespread belief in police brutality structured the perceptions and reactions of the crowd present at the precipitating incident. Both the conspiracy and criminal-hoodlum theory of riot participation are discarded in view of the evidence. The riot is seen as a massive, violent, lower-class, Negro outburst which stopped short of being an insurrection. The magnitude and duration of the riot are explained with reference to ecology, communications, and the law-enforcement tactics used. The view that riot behavior and motivation were an irrational, unfocused, and destructive orgy against authority carried out by an amorphous mass is questioned. Rational and normative components of riot behavior and group activity during the rioting are described.

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