The police raid on Economy Printing had cleared by 5:00 a.m. Detroit police, knowing they had just ripped open a bee hive on 12th Street, decided to abandon the area believing it was there presence that was antagonizing the crowd and with their presence removed the crowd would eventually break up and go home.
The first sign of trouble came at 5:10 a.m. when the 10th Precinct began to get calls from 12th Street residents inquiring as to "why all the burglar alarms were going off on 12th Street."
The situation was out of control from the beginning. As police commissioner Girardin sardonically commented later, "The rioters reacted quicker than we did." Being the height of summer, many police were on vacation, leaving the department undermanned. Detroit police were ordered early on not to shoot looters. This set in motion the ugly machinery that was to come. Word of mouth passes quickly in densely populated areas and by early afternoon reports began filtering in that neighboring Linwood Avenue was now bearing the wrath of the rioters. This was followed in short order by fires and looting on Grand River, Warren, Livernois, Oakland and the Dexter area of Detroit.
Unlike the 43’ riot, the 67’ riot was aimed not so much at skin color as at color television sets.
In no other riot-sacked city has there been such wholesale cooperation between blacks and whites, cueing up like happy locusts for a running grab at life’s luxuries.
During the first 19 hours of the riot the police department logged 900 calls and scout car runs. An estimated 10,000 people were ripping Detroit apart like a great piñata, looting stores from Livernois on the west to Conner on the east. While the first day was devastating, the worst was yet to come. The riot would rage for the next four days, finally blowing itself out on Thursday. Detroit had gone from being the Model city of race relations and opportunity to the poster child for anarchy, physically resembling a bombed out Berlin of 1945.
As the looting spiraled out of control, Detroit police began to arrest looters on a wholesale scale. As night approached, and with it the convenient cover of darkness, the looting spread dramatically. Many who had never stolen in their life, suddenly felt compelled by this unique opportunity, stymied by the fear of being left out of this huge grab bag of temptation that fate had placed before them.
This home made sign, which appeared on the wall of a looted store, accurately reflected the sardonic mood of the state of the city, "Spend your vacation in Detroit. It's a Riot."
An interesting psychological profile takes place here. As two men attempt to liberate an appliance, the three men to their right ponder whether they should do the same. The man on the far right acts as a look out as the older man on the far left takes no part in an event he considers to be morally wrong.
Looters were bold and brazen when the no shoot order was discovered. This looter hailed a taxi to help him take his newly acquired chair home. The two struggled mightily to get it into the trunk of the cab. Finally admitting defeat, the cab driver drove away, leaving the frustrated rioter at his leisure.
At 2:00 p.m. Sunday, Mayor Cavanagh summoned the State Police. As the situation grew worse, at 4:00 p.m. he contacted Governor Romney and requested the National Guard be brought in. With the additional presence of these two entities, it appeared by late afternoon as if the situation on 12th Street was gaining control. This was an aberration. Rioters simply moved to other streets outside the cordoned off area. To make matters worse, the bulk of the Guardsmen were on their two week annual training in Grayling several hours away. Only a few hundred were at the Detroit armory ready to be deployed.
Guardsmen line up at Detroit Central High School with their heavily armored M-49 Patton tanks. While the main armaments were never fired, the machine guns periodically were.
Above: Arrestees run the guantlett of officers and into 1300 Beaubien to be processed.
Overwhelmed Detroit police were arresting rioters on a production line basis. From this yet another problem evolved. Police were out of places to put detainees.Unable to house the avalanche of prisoners, Detroit police had to improvise. Below: DSR buses parked on Macomb in front of the Recorder Court Building being used as temporary holding pens.
This looter carry's an odd consortium of items home including a lantern, a broom and a bass viola.
But not all looters managed to get home safely with their swag.
The first looter to be shot and killed (by the store owner) sacrificed his life for a grand total of seven cigars and a package of shoe laces.
Two looters were in the store when it was fire bombed. With no way out, they were forced to retreat to the basement where they were later found dead.
Looters fiddled while Detroit burned.
“It was mostly a rebellion of people who have no stake in society, people of both races…if you are going nowhere and there is no end in sight, then the hostility grows.”
For three summers now, city after city has undergone the same pattern – an incident, generally involving the police, a gathering crowd, the beginning of window smashing and looting, a more or less swift and forceful response by the police, some killings, wholesale arrests, fires, and eventually peace.
The pattern has changed from the early riots smash and grab to wholesale looting. Looters filling trunks and truck with booty to be hauled away and return yet again and that is ominous in itself. Some looters returned home to fill their garage with booty only to return later on to find their garage had itself been looted by neighbors.
As the country jail was filled and then over filled, authorities were forced to ferry prisoners to Jackson State prison, Milan Federal Penitentiary, DSR buses, police garages and even the bath house at Belle Isle.
Moderate black leaders and community preachers have lost their influence in the ghettos. Time has run out for a peaceful solution. No longer can they go into the slums and tell the militants youths to be patient.
Above - Detroit Police Commando unit patrols a looted and burned out Grand River Avenue.
Below - Winkelman's "July sale of sales" was a smash hit.