Why Was This The “Worst Riot In American History?”

Crowd dispersing in smoke
Via Pikist
Leslie Taylor-Grover
October 21, 2020

Arthur Lee McDuffie was dead – but he was not about to rest in peace. Something else that would steal peace from him and the living was on the horizon, and it would haunt the city of Miami for decades to come.

McDuffie had been accosted by police after allegedly running a red light. The police later claimed he’d crashed his motorcycle into a pole, but it was clear something wasn’t right.

The truth? The police lied – they’d actually beaten McDuffie to DEATH with their flashlights! The clumsy cover-up rocked the city, and it got even worse.

An all-white jury acquitted the officers in spite of their obvious crimes. Miami had had ENOUGH! For three days, riots rocked the city – it was described as the “worst riot in American history.” 

When the riots ended, there were 800 arrests, 18 deaths, 3,000 lost jobs, and $100 million in property damage. When Jesse Jackson and others called for peace, rioters refused to back down.

This was the first riot since the death of MLK, and it seemed peaceful protest was no longer the right option. Our struggle for liberation has been shaped by many schools of thought, from peace to organizing to retaliation. 

Still, for everything, there is a season. Does this also include a season for insurrection?

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