Unfair treatment between the rich and the poor played a huge part in not only The New York Draft Riot but also the Watts riot. Racism also a great deal had a deal in the tragedies that spread all throughout New York City and Los Angeles. New York Draft Riot is one of America’s most devastating riots. It began as a mild rally against the national draft, but turn took a worse as it focused more on the racial and social struggle. In the text, The Gangs Of New York, Asbury gives a very in depth description of the New York Draft Riot.
According to Asbury,”The fighting raged through the street of New York City from Monday to Saturday, it had begun as a protest against the Conscription Act”. March 1863, the U. S. Congress passed the conscription act, which called for all male citizens, even aliens who soon wanted to become a U. S. Citizen to get drafted in the war if they’re name was chosen. April of 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 300,000 men. The draft began Saturday, July 11 and if your name were called you were going to fight in the civil war unless you had 300 dollars, then you could buy your way out of the draft.
That may not seem like much, however in 1863 three hundred dollars was hard to come by unless you were rich. New York City had turned into chaos before the draft started, many people believed the draft was in favor for the rich man, and it made them furious. In the book The Devils Own Work, Schecter quotes, “Shouting “Down with the rich men” the crowd stormed the draft offices setting it on fire and severely injuring several enrolling officers with clubs”(131). During the riot; Neighborhoods were burned down, lives were taken, government buildings were torched, even the police were outnumbered and had to draw back.
Asbury writes, “Hopelessly outnumbered, the soldiers turned and fled pell-mell down the street, leaving a score of dead and wounded” (122). There were too many rioters even for the police to contain Despite the fact that the draft has what initiated the madness in New York City, It soon became a race issue with the African Americans once President Lincoln issued the proclamation, stating the men would be fighting to end slavery. The mobs were full of angry people refusing to fight to help end slavery. A lot of the general public believed fighting to end slavery would only work against them.
They felt if more of the African Americans were free that they would bring competition for jobs because of course they would be willing to work for lower wages. In the article, it states, “African Americans fell prey to the mobs more than any other group. The mob attacked innocent African Americans chasing them “as a hound would chase a fox”. For days, the African Americans had to go into hiding because there were too many of the rioters searching for them to kill. The mobs even targeted the Asylum, a place where orphaned African American children were welcome to shelter.
Asbury notes ” The bedding trinkets and toys of the children were carried away, and then the mob fired the building in half a dozen places” (129). The Superintendent; William E Davis was able to escape a lot of the orphans but, unfortunately, one African American girl was overlooked and killed by the angry mob. The rioters were furious for many reasons, Although Africans Americans at one point seemed to be the main target or the New York riots the mobs attacked anyone they felt were in thier way or were non symathtic during these times, including anyone helping the African Americans.
In a short article Leslie Harris writes ” Rioters burned the home of Abby Hopper Gibbons, prison reformer and daughter of abolitionist Isaac Hopper. They also attacked white “amalgamationists,” such as Ann Derrickson and Ann Martin, two women who were married to black men; and Mary Burke, a white prostitute who catered to black men”“. Eventually people styed in their homes, yet that didnt stop the rioters from destroying their propery and burning down New York City.
The riots went on for four days, attacking blacks, policemen and anyone appearing for federal authority. According to Asbury, by the end of the riot ” Conservative estimates placed the total of two thousand killed and about eight thousand wounded, a vast majority of whom were rioters” (154). Asbury also notes, ” Eighteen Negroes were hanged by the rebels, and about seventy others were reported missing” (154). Not long after the riots ended, the military draft was put into effect sending draftees to the war.
No doubt that New York City faced a tremendous tragedy during the draft riots, still African Americans had it the worst, which leads me to the Watts riot where racism was still in effect even after the war ended African Americans were treated unjustice. It wasn’t until they took a stand for themselves until they were heard. The Los Angeles Riots initially began with the Rodney King beating. However, that’s not all that triggered the riots. Decades of police brutality, as well as racism with African Americans, played its part in the riots.
African Americans were excluded from well-paying jobs, they were forced to live in poverty with hardly any education and poor housing. The King trial was the last straw before the city went up in flames. On March 3, 1991, Rodney King took a brutal beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. In the book The Riot Within Rodney King describes his brutal beating saying, “Suddenly I was being hit with multiple batons blows to every part of my body my knees, ankles, wrists, and head” (45). The video of the beating had been recorded and shown as evidence.
Unfortunately, it didn’t make a difference, as the officers were acquitted. All throughout Los Angeles, there were angry mobs wanting justice. The riots happened quite rapidly; the riots targeted many of the stores, including grocery stores, liquor stores and even white people. The city turned into choas, the citizens of of Los Angeles felt as if justice was not being served and they were correct, March 16, just thirteen days after the Rodney King beating, Latasha Harlins, who was only 15 years of age, was shot and killed while trying to purchase orange juice.
A Korean lady who was working at the store assumed Latasha was stealing and once Latasha was on her way out of the store she was shot in the head. Besides a song that rapper IceTea put out called ” Black Korea,” the story was not broadcast as much as it should have been or would have been. Latasha killer was put on probation and only forced to pay a 500 dollar penalty for taking the life of an African American girl. All throughout South Central rioters were chanting “no justice no peace”, The city was in flames.
The riot could not be controlled; officers were instructed to stand back for their safety. Reginald Denny and American truck driver was pulled out of his car and sadly beaten by an African-American mob. School districts, as well as child care, was shut down; all college exams were canceled. Companies were even letting their employees leave early so that they would make it home before nightfall. May 1, 1992, King went live asking citizens of Los Angeles ” People, I just want to say, can we all get along?
Can we get along?… We’ve just got to, just got to. We’re all stuck in here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to work it out” (82). The Rodney King Riot was one of the most horrific riots Los Angeles had seen. However, the people were now being heard. After the riots, King was given a second chance at justice as the officers who beat him was tried again. Although the officers didn’t get he time they deserved, they were convicted and did serve time behind bars.
King states, ” The judge, sentenced sentenced Powell and Koon to thirty months each in prison and didn’t expect them to pay anything but $50 each for special court assessment”(105). The riots, as well as King video, brought changes to the LAPD, now the citizens complaints were taken more seriously. They were now being heard, and their complaints were not rejected. Unlike the New York Draft riot where people were still sent off to fight and the rich man could still pay his way out of the war.
However what I can appreciate is both riots took a stand for themselves, it may not have been the right way, but it was for a good cause or at least it started that way. The lower class of New York City had to be shipped off to fight a war half of them didnt believe in while the rich man got to pay 300 dollars and still keep his freedom. In the Rodney King riots, African Americans had to stand up for their rights as humans and citizens of America. Sadly so many lives had to be taken and so many neighborhoods burned down but Malcom X once said ” If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything”.