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To Fight or Not To Fight: Effects of Nonviolence and Violence on Civil Rights - page 6 / 10





6 / 10

As some civil rights advocates grew impatient with passivities and the slow

effects of nonviolent protest, several black civil rights groups turned to more violent

means for achieving their goals, though such efforts served to undercut nonviolent

efforts. Such radical blacks often pointed to the increasingly frequent and increasingly

violent riots involving helpless blacks as reason for agitation. One the the most violent

race riots of the era occurred in 1965, shortly after the victory of the Voting Rights Act,

in Los Angeles, California in the ghetto of Watts. In a poor area that had seen little

change as the result of the actions on the East, massive rioting spread throughout the area

in response to the police beating and arrest of Marquette Frye, who had been accused of

driving under the influence, and was subsequently attacked by police officers. Riots

broke out everywhere, resulting in thirty-five deaths, hundreds of destroyed businesses,

and over four thousand people arrested (Matusow 298). As the largest riot the nation had

yet seen, the Watts incident served to show America that not all blacks were willing to be

complacent in the face of undeserving violence. This marked a turning point towards

increased militancy, which triggered a decline in public support, but at the same time

made nonviolent protesters look more appealing. Nonetheless, the increase in militancy

in some black groups prompted an increase in white violence as well. As outlined in the

party platform of one of the most notorious West Coast militant groups of it's time, the

Black Panthers openly advocated the use of arms and violence as a means to end police

brutality (Black Panther Party 91). While it may have been celebrated by some as finally

taking a strong stand against racism, all it did was agitate white police to use violence

against blacks, this time with the excuse that they were only defending themselves

against the armed blacks. Such tactics merely served to lower to opinion of blacks in

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