‘Dodging Bullets': 50 Years After Watts Riots, Residents Remember The Chaos

Fifty years after the mayhem subsided, residents of Watts still remember dodging bullets and watching their community in chaos during the 1965 riots that left an area of Los Angeles in shambles.

The riots started after Marquette Frye was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving by a white California Highway Patrolman. The chaos that followed the violent incident between onlookers and police at the scene of Frye's arrest cost more than $40 million in property damage, according to the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Betty Pleasant, who was a reporter for the Los Angeles Sentinel, followed the rioters and recalled being in the line of fire while reporting. She said when the14,000  National Guard troops were sent, things became worse.

"My photographer and I were shot at by the National Guard," Pleasant said.  "They started shooting at us before they could see our press pass, but they didn't hit us. But I sure wrote about it."

Across the top of the page of her story were the words 'I dodged bullets while LA burned.' Pleasant described her experience reporting on the riots, and wrote, 'We dodged a hail of bullets when we were caught in a crossfire between police officers and hidden negroes.'

Thirty-four people died during the riots. More than 1,000 people were injured and 4,000 arrests were made during the six days of rioting, according ot the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Jarrette Fellows Jr., the editor and publisher of the Compton Herald, was 12 years old in 1965 and said he had never seen anything like the riots at the time.

"Seeing those guys in those trucks in those helmets and guns, that's something we'd never seen before, except on TV in John Wayne movies, but to see that here, it was something haunting about that because they could kill you with those weapons," Fellows said. "And they had a license to do it."

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