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New Left Review I/197, January-February 1993


Mike Davis

Who Killed LA? A Political Autopsy

It was the most extraordinary conjuring feat in modern American political history. The spring presidential primary season had barely opened when a volcano of Black rage and Latino alienation erupted in the streets of Los Angeles. Elite Marine and Army units fresh from the Gulf War had to be landed to restore order to the bungalows of Compton and Watts. While the world press editorialized apocalyptically about the ‘decline of America’, a grim-faced procession of inner-city leaders from Oakland to BedfordStuyvesant warned that their neglected neighbourhoods too were tinderboxes awaiting a spark. They recalled the 164 major riots—the ‘Second Civil War’ some warned at the time—that spread through urban ghettoes like wildfire for three summers after the original ‘Watts’ rebellion in 1965.

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