Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Destruction in DC: Then, Now (and to Come?)

 

Many storefronts near my office in downtown DC have been smashed. A restaurant killed off by the COVID shutdown suffered the further indignity of smashups and stupid graffiti. Some good pictures here:

As costly and stupid as this is (so far), it is nothing like the 1968 riots in DC.

On Friday, April 5, 1968, schools closed a little early because parents were picking up their kids after the reports of continued rioting in DC and other cities. I attended a private school in Alexandria VA and rode a school bus home to DC. As the bus approached Memorial Bridge, large smoke columns over downtown were visible across the Potomac. When we crossed the bridge, there were small numbers of office workers crossing to Virginia on foot. A couple actually looked scared. 

How bad would it get? Could the violence and destruction stay contained? Lots of people left town.

A few days later every member of the DC Bar was called in to process the arraignments of the thousands arrested. My father had left the DOJ by then and had never been a criminal lawyer but answered the phone call and immediately got ready to go. He decided this should be a learning experience for his eldest son and we headed across town to the courthouse. It was already night.

The city was under martial law. There was no traffic. Where M Street meets Pennsylvania Avenue there was a military checkpoint. Huge barriers funneled any vehicles to an officer who demanded ID and the reason for being out at night. Giant floodlights bathed the area and the glare was almost blinding. It reminded me of how I always pictured the border of the Soviet sector in East Berlin. The officer was not thrilled to see me, a teenager who was not supposed to be out. My father assured him there would not be a problem. It took a while to get permission to pass. I did not know whether I should be afraid. Mostly, it was just weird.

I remember that the courthouse was a zoo. Ad hoc check-in stations and every courtroom looked busy. I was allowed to go with my father as he went to look for newly assigned clients. There was some kind of a holding cell with so many men that it looked like it would be impossible to sit down. I could hear the deafening sounds of dozens of frustrated, angry men all shouting. And uniformed men shouting back. Chaos. A cop or bailiff loudly ordered me out and I went to the courtroom with the number my father shouted to me as I left.

The great majority of the arrestees were late-comers to the looting, caught when the cops, regular military, and national guard had retaken most of the city. These prisoners tended to be older and rather pathetic. The instigators, hardcore rioters, and arsonists appeared to have evaded that wave of arrests. I watched my dad argue for release on personal recognizance for a client who had a single bad mark on his record—manslaughter thirty years earlier in Mississippi. (Later my father later made the rather bitter joke that his “client” had received a rather light sentence back then probably because the victim was also a black man, and killing one was probably a misdemeanor in Mississippi in those days.) The judge was clearly not used to handling this sort of thing and was flustered by the volume. The prosecutor agreed to the release but only after some discussion and after being loudly reminded by a superior that they had to reserve jail space for serious crimes and dangerous arrestees. 

The stadium which was then the home of the Senators and Redskins was now an additional prisoner holding area. Nothing was normal. 

Almost none of the stores and businesses ever returned. The “H St corridor” still had empty, burned-out houses and storefronts thirty years later. When there finally was rebuilding it was either gentrification or to accommodate the growth of downtown’s commercial space. The original residents and small shops were gone forever. The wounds to the city were lasting. 

Since then, the DC police force has gone from 80% white to 52% black and 36% white. As in most cities, there has been new political power for blacks. Police everywhere must exhibit more professional attitudes, take new training, and deploy new monitoring technologies but the core problems have changed little and the inherent difficulties of the job of policing have probably worsened. All the failure, all the reasons for resentment and grievance are still around. Maybe more so. The current destruction downtown DC is nothing like 1968 but seems to make even less sense.

In 1968 there was frustration that hoped-for outcomes of the civil rights campaigns were not materializing but before the riots, there was still hope that things could change. In 2008 the country believed that Barrack Obama would make something happen because of his unique position as the first black president. Instead, he just stoked racial fears and identity politics around election time and then sent people back to the projects until the next election. They were expected to settle for the enjoyment of his personal wonderfulness and of his empty rhetorical gestures even as their lives remained unchanged. Obama may have done more to destroy hope than any supposedly racist GOP President. If he couldn’t make change, who can?

The idiots who just burned the low-income housing construction site in Minneapolis may have been onto something. A cruel as it sounds, maybe it is time to prevent any concentrations of people whose deficits (behavioral, educational, skills) make them more likely to pursue undesirable behaviors, especially if their surrounding community is not really a community so much as an enabling and criminal-sheltering enterprise. In a healthy social order, we are not defined or doomed by our deficits because family, community, church, and employment provide ongoing positive incentives and examples. Most of us quite literally borrow the virtues of others around us in order to live better lives. To take that away from birth is unfair and debilitating. People who make good lives despite that kind of situation are heroic.

Historically speaking, dysfunctional urban communities are not fixed by outsiders. They must either grow and change or be dissolved. Without the protection and encouragement of such environments, systematic, chronic crime has to dissipate. 

As long as we plan and subsidize social arrangements that continue to produce exactly the same bad results decade after decade we should not be surprised by repeated the same bad events. Oodles more white guilt and a President Biden will change nothing except maybe to make it worse and make the only real solutions more unthinkable than they already are.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Old Bathos: In a healthy social order we are not defined or doomed by our deficits because family, community, church and employment provide ongoing postindustrial incentives and examples. Most of us quite literally borrow the virtues of others Around us in order to live better lives. To take that away from birth is unfair and debilitating. People who make good lives despite that kind of situation are heroic.

    Beautifully stated, OB. Every line of it. Thanks.

    • #1
    • May 31, 2020, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: In a healthy social order we are not defined or doomed by our deficits because family, community, church and employment provide ongoing postindustrial incentives and examples. Most of us quite literally borrow the virtues of others Around us in order to live better lives. To take that away from birth is unfair and debilitating. People who make good lives despite that kind of situation are heroic.

    Beautifully stated, OB. Every line of it. Thanks.

    I just noticed “postindustrial” instead of “positive”. Once again spellcheck is my enema.

    • #2
    • May 31, 2020, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. GrannyDude Member

    Old B—I was in DC then, too. I was going-on six. I suppose we must have stayed home from school though I don’t remember that part. I do remember my mother telling me we had to stay inside because of the curfew and the teargas. Since all the adults were crying, I thought “teargas” must be made of tears, so I hung out of my bedroom window, trying to catch a whiff, wondering what tears smelled like. 

    • #3
    • May 31, 2020, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. Bishop Wash Member

    I visited Zack’s feed and saw a piece of vandalism that I’ve seen elsewhere. Does anyone know who or what 12 is and why rioters have the same message for it?

    Edit: Put it into DuckDuckGo, “[CoC] 12 basically means FTP, but more specifically it’s means [CoC] the police drug unit.”

    • #4
    • May 31, 2020, at 8:39 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Old B—I was in DC then, too. I was going-on six. I suppose we must have stayed home from school though I don’t remember that part. I do remember my mother telling me we had to stay inside because of the curfew and the teargas. Since all the adults were crying, I thought “teargas” must be made of tears, so I hung out of my bedroom window, trying to catch a whiff, wondering what tears smelled like.

    There was a lot more teargas used in the later anti-war demonstrations as I recall.

    The initial response was to protect government buildings in and around the White House and Federal Triangle and not try to save the commercial areas to the north and east. The bridges over Rock Creek were defended by police which de-incentivized spread to upscale ( i.e., white) areas. I’m told a small mob did make it as far as Ward Circle next to American University as the high water mark of any contemplated invasion of white neighborhoods but that was a long hike with few looting opportunities past some heavily defended sites such as embassies so they were probably just lost.

    • #5
    • May 31, 2020, at 8:59 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Hoyacon Member

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    • #6
    • May 31, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    It was not unreasonable to see attack on MLK as an attack on hope itself which does not change the fact that Stokely was a negative influence who invariably chose the least effective, most confrontational path for change. He came out of SNCC as did Marion Barry.

    The Minnesota death is more a creature of new media than a major novel event. The entire atmosphere seems more artificial, strained and manufactured than was the case in 1968. True Obama legacy?

     

    • #7
    • May 31, 2020, at 9:25 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Hoyacon Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Old B—I was in DC then, too. I was going-on six. I suppose we must have stayed home from school though I don’t remember that part. I do remember my mother telling me we had to stay inside because of the curfew and the teargas. Since all the adults were crying, I thought “teargas” must be made of tears, so I hung out of my bedroom window, trying to catch a whiff, wondering what tears smelled like.

    There was a lot more teargas used in the later anti-war demonstrations as I recall.

    The initial response was to protect government buildings in and around the White House and Federal Triangle and not try to save the commercial areas to the north and east. The bridges over Rock Creek were defended by police which de-incentivized spread to upscale ( i.e., white) areas. I’m told a small mob did make it as far as Ward Circle next to American University as the high water mark of any contemplated invasion of white neighborhoods but that was a long hike with few looting opportunities past some heavily defended sites such as embassies so they were probably just lost.

    My recollection from our bunker at 37th and O NW is that there was a dearth of informaton as to exactly what was going on at the time. But I distinctly remember rumors that Stokely had called for a march on Georgetown (presumably the shopping district around Wisconsin and M, not the school), and, being young idiots, we’d decided to “check it out” if it happened. Fortunately, it did not.

     

    • #8
    • May 31, 2020, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. PHCheese Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    I have a daughter that has spent 22 years (half her life) helping black people specifically children. There are probably millions of white Americans that bend over backwards to help blacks. Charities and foundations devote billions in assets to help. One roque cop in Minneapolis negates that? Destroys large swaths of 30 cities? Something more is going on.

    • #9
    • May 31, 2020, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    I have a daughter that has spent 22 years (half her life) helping black people specifically children. There are probably millions of white Americans that bend over backwards to help blacks. Charities and foundations devote billions in assets to help. One roque cop in Minneapolis negates that? Destroys large swaths of 30 cities? Something more is going on.

    It does not take much to spark this sort of thing. The problem is not the conspiracy to start the violence but the readiness of so many to join in.

    • #10
    • May 31, 2020, at 11:45 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Flicker Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    It does not take much to spark this sort of thing. The problem is not the conspiracy to start the violence but the readiness of so many to join in.

    The conspiracy is at the highest levels, even in the supernatural. Having been raised a de fecto de facto atheist (pardon the Freudian slip), and despite being raised in an at least nominally Christian society, and though I don’t believe in Assurance of the Saints, I do believe in near-Total Depravity of the human condition.

    I’ve been looking at black- and red-figure pottery lately, and coincidentally reading about the rise and fall of empires, and reading 19th-century fiction, and I’ve been struck with how much warfare is endemic, and has been culturally accepted as a given, in human history.

    Someone once said effectively that each birth brings forth a little barbarian that needs to be acculturated against its will. I think that fifty years of legally-enforced godlessness as well as the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that inaugurated the Culture of Death, is bearing its godless fruit.

    I’m convinced that the only cure is supernatural in nature as well.

    • #11
    • May 31, 2020, at 3:24 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    I have a daughter that has spent 22 years (half her life) helping black people specifically children. There are probably millions of white Americans that bend over backwards to help blacks. Charities and foundations devote billions in assets to help. One roque cop in Minneapolis negates that? Destroys large swaths of 30 cities? Something more is going on.

    Antifa is a bunch of communist agitators who are no doubt read a lot of Mao’s red book and some have no doubt received training support from Russian and Chinese agents abroad and in the USA. All those Chinese Friendship centers are not just for spreading money on University campuses.

    This is stage one new generation warfare being implemented in the USA. I might do the post I should have written a year ago about this.

    • #12
    • May 31, 2020, at 4:14 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Old Bathos: In 2008 the country believed that Barrack Obama would make something happen because of his unique position as the first black president. Instead, he just stoked racial fears and identity politics around election time and then sent people back to the projects until the next election. They were expected to settle for the enjoyment of his personal wonderfulness and of his empty rhetorical gestures even as their lives remained unchanged. Obama may have done more to destroy hope than any supposedly racist GOP President. If he couldn’t make change, who can?

    That is an interesting depiction of the Obama presidency. An interesting, succinct, and accurate depiction of the Obama presidency. It was all about him, and it all about appearances. His goal was to destroy the status quo, not fix it. So many white people I know thought that voting for him was a sign to the country that the race issue was done. It was SO not “done.” It was exacerbated over and over by his actions and his words. He was SO not the right person to bring about a post-racial America. His whole shtick was based on race. He’d spent his whole political career using that as the only reason to vote for him. When Harry Reid was caught saying something about Barack being a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ it actually epitomized the only qualifications that Obama had.

    I’ll stop now.

    • #13
    • May 31, 2020, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dear @OldBathos and @GrannyDude: I grew up in northern VA so also have memories of those riots. I knew a rabbi (years later) who had a congregant who lost his sporting goods business. He did not carry guns/ammo so no police protection. Great post.

    • #14
    • May 31, 2020, at 5:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Al Kennedy Member
    Al Kennedy Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    I believe a major factor was instituting a welfare system that drove the fathers out of the home and facilitated the breakup of the black family unit. The schools of the inner cities are also a factor. There is little discipline and little learning. Identity politics does not address either problem.

    • #15
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. Hoyacon Member

    Historic St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House is now on fire.

    Depressing.

    • #16
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:33 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Historic St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House is now on fire.

    Depressing.

    Oh no! That is really awful! What does that prove???

    Are you sure? From what I was seeing on Twitter (online…I don’t have Twitter) it looks like it is a building in the park, not the church. I hope it’s NOT the church. Wow. This is really NOT good.

    • #17
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. Hoyacon Member

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Historic St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House is now on fire.

    Depressing.

    Oh no! That is really awful! What does that prove???

    It proves that these are destructive clowns, not “protesters.”

    The crowded roads are likely making it difficult for firefighters to get there. So far, it seems to be the office area, but this is an old building.

    • #18
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. MarciN Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Historic St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House is now on fire.

    Depressing.

    That is a truly terrible loss. 

    • #19
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Hoyacon Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Historic St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House is now on fire.

    Depressing.

    That is a truly terrible loss.

    Hopefully, it can be saved, or at least part of it.

    St. John’s

    I’m curious as to who thought a curfew of as late as 11 p.m. was a good idea.

    • #20
    • May 31, 2020, at 7:48 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    I have a daughter that has spent 22 years (half her life) helping black people specifically children. There are probably millions of white Americans that bend over backwards to help blacks. Charities and foundations devote billions in assets to help. One roque cop in Minneapolis negates that? Destroys large swaths of 30 cities? Something more is going on.

    This is the end of that trend that saw all the black and inter racial couples in TV ads the past three years or so. My Bernie voter daughter who lives in Santa Monica called today to ask if I could give them another gun. She is now married with a 9 month old daughter and maybe Bernie and his violent allies are less attractive right now. The black looters have set back race relations farther even than Obama set them. This is the trigger that Antifa has waited for.

    • #21
    • May 31, 2020, at 9:28 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    “When white America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us . . .We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the courtrooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

    . . . . Stokeley Carmichael, April 5, 1968, Washington D.C.

    Fifty-two years later, it appears the theme remains the same. The tragic death of a black man is a condemnation of an entire race and an act of “war” that requires retaliation. Where have we gone wrong?

    It was not unreasonable to see attack on MLK as an attack on hope itself which does not change the fact that Stokely was a negative influence who invariably chose the least effective, most confrontational path for change. He came out of SNCC as did Marion Barry.

    The Minnesota death is more a creature of new media than a major novel event. The entire atmosphere seems more artificial, strained and manufactured than was the case in 1968. True Obama legacy?

     

    Thank you for this report and your thoughts on these blow ups. So much suffering all around. 

    It is especially weird to hear that the cop who killed Floyd knew him and then to further hear that both men were into producing or being in porn. Whether that is just internet rumor or not, I don’t know.

    I have avoided for the most part watching any of this on TV. Early tonight I clicked into a Sacramento NBC station to see about the weather. One Talking Head told the public that unlike the laissez faire policies of Saturday day and night, which now are believed to have allowed so much destruction in Sacramento yesterday, there will be a change in tactics. The police would be tougher on any looting, burning and violence. 

    I am certainly happy I live in a rural area. But it is heart breaking to see this happening, even if it’s not affecting us directly here in Lake County.

    • #22
    • June 1, 2020, at 1:47 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Hoyacon Member

    Good news. Apparently the sanctuary at St John’s was saved.

    You’d almost think somebody up there was looking out for it.

    • #23
    • June 1, 2020, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  24. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Good news. Apparently the sanctuary at St John’s was saved.

    You’d almost think somebody was up there was looking out for it.

    I hoped for some divine retribution, a little lightning and some general smiting. No, a lot of smiting.

    • #24
    • June 1, 2020, at 8:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. MarciN Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Good news. Apparently the sanctuary at St John’s was saved.

    You’d almost think somebody was up there was looking out for it.

    I hoped for some divine retribution, a little lightning and some general smiting. No, a lot of smiting.

    My son has kept us laughing the last few months. When the locusts swarmed in Africa, he said, “Is anyone noticing that the end might be near?” 

    This weekend he’s been saying, “How’s everyone’s apocalypse bingo card filling up? Locusts? Check. Starvation? Check. Plague? Check. Riots? Check.” 

    When he told us about St. John’s church, he said, “Is anyone else getting nervous that’s been a long a time, say, a couple of thousand years, since we had a direct interaction with God here?” :-) 

     

    • #25
    • June 1, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Good news. Apparently the sanctuary at St John’s was saved.

    You’d almost think somebody was up there was looking out for it.

    I hoped for some divine retribution, a little lightning and some general smiting. No, a lot of smiting.

    My son has kept us laughing the last few months. When the locusts swarmed in Africa, he said, “Is anyone noticing that the end might be near?”

    This weekend he’s been saying, “How’s everyone’s apocalypse bingo card filling up? Locusts? Check. Starvation? Check. Plague? Check. Riots? Check.”

    When he told us about St. John’s church, he said, “Is anyone else getting nervous that’s been a long a time, say, a couple of thousand years, since we had a direct interaction with God here?” :-)

     

    • #26
    • June 1, 2020, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • 1 like