The tension between Mexicans and the servicemen had been growing worse every week, and the feuds turned into a war-like situation. On the night of May 31, 1943, two rumors spread through both the Anglo and Mexican-American communities. A dozen Anglo sailors and a group of Hispanic boys clashed, supposedly because the Anglos became too interested in Mexican-American women. Many of the sailors had come from other parts of the country that didn’t welcome diversity. They were not used to the presence of Mexican-Americans walking around like equals. Like many, they reacted poorly when faced with something unfamiliar. The fight happened and, after receiving a harsh beating, the sailors retreated, leaving people of both sides unconscious.

That same night, another rumor started spreading through the Anglo servicemen and Mexican-American communities. It was said that a gang of Mexican-American zoot suiters had beaten one of the navy sailors to death. Allegedly, an Anglo serviceman mistook a wave from a Mexican-American as a slap. Before long, a violent fight had broken out. Once this rumor got to the harbor, fifty servicemen headed out towards the Mexican-American communities to find the people that had hurt one of their own. They said the rumor had turned into a death threat for anyone who dared to wear a zoot suit. Hence the Zoot Suit riots began.

The tension between Mexicans and the servicemen had been growing worse every week, and the feuds turned into a war-like situation. On the night of May 31, 1943, two rumors spread through both the Anglo and Mexican-American communities. A dozen Anglo sailors and a group of Hispanic boys clashed, supposedly because the Anglos became too interested in Mexican-American women. Many of the sailors had come from other parts of the country that didn’t welcome diversity. They were not used to the presence of Mexican-Americans walking around like equals. Like many, they reacted poorly when faced with something unfamiliar. The fight happened and, after receiving a harsh beating, the sailors retreated, leaving people of both sides unconscious.

On June 3rd, or what would be known as the first night of rioting, sailors went down to East LA and Boyle Heights, populated by mostly Mexican-Americans, and attacked anyone wearing a zoot suit. They ripped and tore the suits to shreds and brought them home as “trophies.” When the sailors couldn’t find zoot suiters to attack, they marched into theaters and attacked the next victims of the riots: twelve and thirteen-year-old Hispanic boys. Soon, more white civilians joined the sailors as they cruised the streets. On the 5th night of rioting, June 7th, what had started as a smaller group of about fifty white sailors going out had grown into a huge group of five thousand including white civilians. Many Mexican-Americans saw the violence and hid in the safety of their houses. Unfortunately, the violence didn’t stop here. It continued to escalate into one of the darkest times in Los Angeles history.

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