Little Bits of History

October 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 24, 2017

1871: A mob enters Chinatown in Los Angeles. The attack was generally motivated by racial tensions in the region, targeting the immigrants from the Far East. There had been a longstanding feud between rival Chinese gangs or tongs. Yut Ho had been abducted and the two tongs were engaged in a shootout to settle the score. During the gunfight a local rancher, Robert Thompson, was killed in the crossfire. Since there was already racial discrimination in the region, it fired up a crowd who came en masse to the region in order to wage their own private non-sanctioned war.

There were over 500 people crowding into Calle de los Negros, which also had the local naming of Nigger Alley. It was a tough neighborhood just northeast of Los Angeles’s main business district. The unpaved street was named before California was a state and it had been occupied by dark-skinned Hispanics who were likely of mixed racial heritage including Native American and/or African-American strains. In earlier times, the neighborhood was more high end and home to prominent citizen of Los Angeles. But by the 1860s the area had greatly deteriorated into slums. It was at this point in history that it became one of Los Angeles’s first Chinatowns.

The angry mob entered the street and began destroying every Chinese owned home and business. The street was full of bars, gambling houses, dance halls, as well as more suitable business ventures. The Chinese were dragged from their homes and beaten and tortured. At least 18 Chinese immigrants were lynched as well. This was the largest mass lynching in American history. Animosity in California grew to such an extreme against the Chinese that in 1882, US President Chester Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law which forbade any further Chinese immigration. It was the first law ever passed in the US to exclude a specific ethnic group from being admitted. It was to last ten years but was made permanent in 1902. It was finally rescinded in 1943.

The City of Los Angeles responded to this massacre by arresting only ten members of the mob. Eight were convicted but these convictions were overturned on a technicality. The eight men who served only a short time in San Quentin were: Esteban Alvarado, Charles Austin, Refugio Cotello, LF Crenshaw, AR Johnson, Jesus Martinez, Patrick McDonald, and Louis Medel. The East Coast papers were full of the horrific events and appalled by the crimes as well as the legal system’s response. They began to refer to Los Angeles as a “blood stained Eden”.

Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike. – Ban Ki-moon

The greatest problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other. – Princess Diana

Discrimination is not liberal. Arguing against discrimination is not intolerance. – Richard Dawkins

Intolerance is evidence of impotence. – Aleister Crowley



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