Guide The Fire Last Time: 1968 and After

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The T line that bisects Third Street offers the fastest mass-transit trip to downtown that this remote neighborhood has ever seen. Brown Jr.

The Fire Last Time 1968 and After Harman Chris 1898876355

Middle School recently opened, as have a gourmet bakery and a brewery; a Starbucks is on the way. The dilapidated Hunters View and Alice Griffith housing projects will soon be torn down and replaced with new projects under new management. Although a few stalwarts like Universal Martial Arts Academy and Surfside Liquors remain, the number of black-owned businesses continues to decline. Three generations have now grown up in the projects, often amid violence and in single-parent homes.

The consequences are sadly familiar.

Catalog Record: America the fire this time | HathiTrust Digital Library

To stand today at the corner that 50 years ago ignited one of the two worst explosions of racial violence in San Francisco history the other was the anti-Chinese riots of is to feel a sense of overwhelming futility. The September uprising forced the city, for the first time, to pay attention to the black ghetto it had created on its margins and fenced off with freeways. Blue-ribbon commissions were formed to analyze what had happened. Policy recommendations were issued. Federal, state, and city money poured in.

Progress was made, but some of the incoming resources were siphoned off via corruption and cronyism, and in the ensuing decades much of the funding dried up. For most black people in the neighborhood, depressingly little has changed. Many have tried to address the dysfunction informing so many aspects of black life in Bayview—Hunters Point, and many have failed. Others have simply left, part of an exodus that is draining San Francisco of its black residents.

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Marie Harrison arrived in San Francisco in , just two days after her 16th birthday. Her father, a construction worker, had moved to Hunters Point for a shipyard job in But by then the facility was already a shadow of what it had been during the s, when jobs were ample and the population of African Americans in San Francisco had swelled almost tenfold, to 43, There were very few blacks in the city before World War II, topping out at 4, in When the shipyard jobs vanished, white workers took jobs elsewhere and departed for the suburbs, but black workers had fewer options.

WYPR - '68 The fire last time

Racial covenants and de facto segregation prevented blacks from moving; prejudice and lack of opportunity prevented them from finding work. Harrison lived with her father in the Bayview, near the shipyard. The loss of the shipyard jobs devastated African American families, Harrison says. But by the time we started to move here, there was a lot of tension, and no work.

I never knew in Missouri that there were households that were run with just a woman at the head.


When I moved to California, it seemed to be the norm. Some relief was provided by the recently opened Economic Opportunity Center. In , African Americans constituted 20 to 25 percent of the Bayview—Hunters Point population; by , that number was about 50 percent. Ten years later, the neighborhood was 69 percent black, and a ghetto by any definition: a minority-occupied, geographically isolated slum with an 11 percent unemployment rate, compared with the citywide average of 6.

In the wake of disturbances in in Watts, and earlier in in Cleveland and Chicago, among many other cities, Bayview—Hunters Point was another American powder keg, and some black San Franciscans were more than ready for it to go off. Scott and Beck had been arrested in a disturbance after a policeman wounded a robbery suspect in the Fillmore.

You know what happened in Watts and Chicago, man? We can get guns. Just most of them. And violence.

Whitey will see that too. All over his streets. After Shelley confirmed that Patrolman Johnson had been suspended, the downtown delegation was shouted down. When someone threw a brick at Shelley and Cahill, their entourage rapidly withdrew. Unsure exactly what to do next, John Smith and several friends hit the streets. By , unrest had spread to the Fillmore, where angry crowds broke windows, looted, and swarmed the streets.

Putting a lid on the Bayview, however, was more than the cops could handle. Next, the mayor set a curfew in the Fillmore and Hunters Point. A roadblock near Third Street may have exacerbated the problem by inadvertently preventing many young people from going home. Overnight, National Guard troops began gathering in San Francisco stadiums.

By sunrise, more than 1, soldiers were bivouacked or on their way to Candlestick Park and Kezar Stadium. Police gave community leaders several opportunities to disperse the crowd, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Across town, wherever there were sizable groups of young people of color, trouble flared. High was in an identical state. After both schools were excused early, hundreds of unsupervised teenagers, many of them Muni-marooned, created mayhem for storekeepers and drivers.

In the Bayview, Smith and his friends were fortifying their courage with booze stolen from Spot-Lite Liquors, across the street from the Community Center. A group of ex—gang members who had formed an impromptu peace patrol tried unsuccessfully to calm down the crowd outside the opera house. The Community Center remained open during the daylong upheaval. Some witnesses said that children were inside, but Primus and Smith say that plenty of angry young men were as well.

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By late afternoon, police had decided to disperse the crowd, which still numbered in the hundreds. Reports of thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails, as well as gunshots, were coming in. Police moved down Third Street to disperse the crowd. Smith was on the second floor facing the oncoming cordon with a fellow gang member.

He had a.

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Seven people were shot at the scene, including members of the peace patrol who were trying to calm the situation. After ambulances evacuated the wounded, the National Guard marched north on Third Street with fixed bayonets, clearing the streets. Although violence and unrest continued to flare over the next few days, the uprising had peaked. After footage of the shoot-out aired on TV, Shelley met the next morning with antipoverty workers to try to hash out a way to give the peace patrol legitimacy. The streets began to quiet down. At 11 p.

Cochran later to defend O.

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A number of whites were also arrested in the Fillmore and the Haight, charged with curfew violations or inciting to riot. Compared to the widespread civil unrest that rocked Watts in and Cleveland earlier in , the Hunters Point uprising was mild.

Matthew Johnson was the only person who died. Reformist forces such as the Stalinist and eurocommunist Communist Parties, various social democratic parties, trade union bureaucracies, etc, were able to restrain the struggles of workers and students, keeping them within the bounds of the capitalist system, ultimately allowing ex-fascists, hard-right conservatives and neo-liberal social democrats hack away at workers' gains over the next few decades.

Revolutionary socialists, while making gains and playing an important part throughout these struggles, were not able to make use of the opportunities presented and follow through on the full potential of the situation. The potentials that existed can be seen in the actions of the students and workers, their inspiring self activity, their occupations of universities, factories and other workplaces, and the revolutionary conclusions many of them came to.

Harman examines the weaknesses of the revolutionary socialist groups--their theoretical and organisational failings, as well as the simple fact that at the start of these groups were tiny. The message of the book is clear: if you want to change the world for the better you need to be prepared for the next crisis of capitalism, the next revolutionary upsurge--the fire next time. You need to not only be in a revolutionary socialist organisation, but you need to be active. Only through activity can a group's theory be clarified, and only by putting in the effort to help the group grow can it be sizeable enough to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.

As Rosa Luxemburg said, we stand at a crossroads between socialism and barbarism.