L.A: Where True Crime Thrives
Riots, Riots, and More Riots (Part 1)
The Zooter Riots of 1943:
Some of you reading this may be thinking, what is a zoot? Well the term, 'zoot suits' refers to baggy suits that were often worn by minorities in the early 1940's, specifically Latinos. The Latino youths of California, often referred to as "pachucos," wore these flashy suits and hats were often viewed as thugs and gangsters by the wealthy white members of society. Given the war that was going on at the time, servicemen often viewed these suits as a sign of disrespect due to the shortage of materials across the nation. The wartime restrictions of clothing materials also led to bootleg tailors who viewed as conmen and unpatriotic and the form 'zoot suit' was born. Associated with all of this was a large amount of racisim towards the Latino community as a whole and led to assaults in neighborhoods before the riots finally began.
In 1943 tensions were at an all time high between the servicemen of America and the Latino youth of the Los Angeles area. On May 31st of 1943, a young Sailor was out in town at bar when a fight broke out. The fight was between a group of young Mexican American males and about sixty uniformed servicemen. After the fight, tensions were even higher as more assaults involving uniformed servicemen and the Latino youth of Los Angeles continued until June 3rd. On June 3rd, fifty servicemen took to the streets of L.A. hunting down young zooters, assaulting them and leaving them bloodied in the streets. They used crude weapons such as baseball bats, crow bars, and even brass knuckles. This lead to an explosion of fully blown riots in the streets of Los Angeles. Servicemen continued to strip zooters of their suits, brutally assault them, and leave them near death in the streets. Police men would stand by and watch as the Latino's were assaulted and would then go over and arrest the Latino victims for being nude in the streets.
The riots would continue for another four days before the Mexican American population tried to take action. On June 7th, the Council for Lantin American Youth sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the telegram was met with no response and the riots continued for one more day. On June 8th, the riots finally ended as the servicemen were put on full barracks restriction. They were put on restriction to prevent riots, but rather to keep them ready for war.
Investigations into the cause of the riots were put in place after the Embassy of Mexico stated their complaints, and threatened to raise the prices of the cheap materials they had been providing the Southern part of California. After a few days the riots were said to be caused by racism. No police officers or servicemen were held accountable for their actions. The only form of correction made by the city of Los Angeles was to train all police officers to treat every citizen with the same level of professional courtesy despite that individuals race or choice of clothing, also making riots on individuals who wore Zoot Suits a crime.
The Zooter riots of 1943 play a large part in L.A.'s true crime history, and the next article I publish will be about another riot that took place in L.A. as I explore the history of crime in Los Angeles. The next publication will be about the Watts Riots that took place in 1963. Leave a comment down below and let me know what you thought of this article.