Episode 42: Dollop: LAPD SWAT

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All you do is shake and make bad decisions.


42: Watts riotsRemember the real estate cheating in Ferguson? White flight?

It also happened in South Central Los Angeles, sparking the Watts Riots, 30 decades beforehand:

With the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, race relations seemed to be headed in the right direction. However, states acted to circumvent the new federal law, including California that created Proposition 14, which moved to block the fair housing section of the Act. (PBS)

August 11, 1965: White police officers pulled over Marquette Frye and his brother, Ronald, suspecting Marquette of drunk driving. As the officers questioned the two, a crowd began to form, and apparently someone in the neighborhood let their mother know, for Rena quickly arrived on the scene. More residents arrived, more officers arrived, batons were used. . .and the riot began. It lasted until August 16. 34 people died, 1032 people were injured.

More Ferguson:

After the Watts Riots, then Governor Pat Brown named John McCone to head a commission to study the riots. The report issued by the Commission concluded that the riots weren’t the act of thugs, but rather symptomatic of much deeper problems: the high jobless rate in the inner city, poor housing, and bad schools. Although the problems were clearly pointed out in the report, no great effort was made to address them, or to rebuild what had been destroyed in the riots. (PBS)

It must be spooky for people alive during both riots, such a horrid, horrid deja vu. I am so sorry. We never seem to learn.

Frank Zappa’s song “Trouble Every Day” was written about the Watts Riots:

Hey, you know something people?
I’m not black
But there’s a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I’m not white. . .

There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won’t amount to nothin’ more
Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor

Blow your harmonica, son!

42: Charles Whitman, sniperCharles Whitman, sniper, bell tower of the University of Texas, Austin, August 1, 1966: 15 victims including his mother and wife

retrospective in Texas Monthly

Now we are a bit inured to stranger violence. I remember when I was in school, “going postal” was callously used as a joke. We were already so quickly jaded to workplace and public violence–or we wanted to be. But in 1966, when Whitman climbed that tower, no one ever thought there was a danger of being shot while going about your daily life, not on a pretty college campus, or down your own street.

Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond * Mark Ames

And now, as usual, I shall digress. I am fascinated by details, as you know, and I got stuck on the inventory of Whitman’s belongings in the tower. I assume he was packing for the long haul, and that he knew he would die up there. So, see anything strange near the end of the list?

. . .Mennen spray deodorant
Toilet paper
Twelve cans of food
Two cans of Sego condensed milk
Bread, honey and SPAM (incl. sandwiches)
Planters Peanuts and raisins
Sweet rolls

Deodorant? So he would smell fresh when the coroner took him out of the bell tower? I hate when I’m killing people and I get that flopsweat, so irritating, really distracts me.

Also, how about some random diet choices? SPAM, raisins, sweet rolls, honey, condensed milk. Isn’t condensed milk for baking? And toilet paper. I do not believe there is a toilet up in the observation deck of the bell tower.

And then there is this gem, buried in the middle of the list: 1954 Nabisco premium toy compass. Okay, we know he was fastidious and obsessive compulsive, but was he wanting to make certain he popped off a shot from each major and minor compass point? I have questions, many questions.

So, riots and snipers. Add to the mix: The Black Panther Party formed in 1966. Suffice it to say, the police were getting nervous and feeling unprepared.

But the citizens were nervous, too. The BPP’s original purpose was to monitor the police’s behavior, and to challenge police brutality. But it was easy for the press to reframe that into a group of angry, armed black men ready to kill and destroy.

Read the facts wrong, get scared, mix them up with scary true facts (snipers), want new toys and laws to take on these new imagined and real dangers.

Here comes SWAT.

Not actual crime scene photo.
Not actual crime scene photo.

FBI Freedom of Information Act files on the Black Panther Party

SWAT v. The Black Panther Party, 1969

SWAT v. the Symbionese Liberation Army, 1974:

SWAT v. Larry and Emil, 1997:

44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shootout

Chevrolet Celebrity, the getaway sedan of choice

Larry and Emil, the High Incident Bandits at criminalminds.wikia

Bands from this episodes:

  • Prankheads
  • Lawn-boni
  • Stabtowel
  • Murder Clowns

Cultural references from this episode:

next in series: LAPD: Rampart Scandal

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