The 1967 Race Riots of Detroit, also known as the 12th Street Riots, were among the most violent civil disturbances in United States history. A new film by Oscar Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit will examine the riots and one particularly disturbing incident involving the mysterious murder of three Black men at the Algiers Motel.
The riot began in the early hours of July 23, 1967 after police raided an after-hours “blind pig” bar that was hosting a celebration for a pair of soldiers coming home from the Vietnam War. Citizens observing the raid felt that police were abusing their power and causing tension between the groups thus kicking off the first day of the riots. Before long, looting and city-wide violence became of the order of the day.
Two days later on July 25, the Algiers Motel was the site of another raid by police after reports of armed gunmen near the location. According to conflicting and unconfirmed reports, a young man near the motel was playing with a starter gun. Responding to the call, police entered the motel, a hub for prostitution and other crimes, and may have killed one of the men assuming he was armed when they arrived.
There were several young white women staying at the hotel along with the Black men, and they were all reportedly beaten and tortured by the police. During an interrogation, two other men were killed by police and their bodies were stashed in a pair of hotel rooms. The cover up was exposed by police and eyewitnesses detailed in a 1968 book by journalist John Hersey titled “The Algiers Motel Incident.”
Three white police officers were charged with the murders and cover up, but despite years of investigation and deliberation, they were never convicted.
In the end, 43 people were killed in the riots, 33 Blacks and 10 whites, along with nearly 2,000 injured and thousands more arrested.
Bigelow’s film makes its debut on August 4. John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and newcomer Peyton Alex Smith from the BET show The Quad star in the movie.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the riots.
PHOTO: Annapurna Films