Myths - Facts
Myth - Martial Law was declared in Detroit during the 1943 and 1967 riots.

Martial law was never declared in Detroit during the 1943 or the 1967 riots. Many people labor under the misapprehension that since the U.S. Army was on the streets of Detroit that the city must be under martial law. During the 1943 riot, neither Mayor Jeffries of Governor Kelly wanted to relinquish their oversight of the city to the army but they both were desperate to get the might of the army to help restore order. Neither did President Roosevelt want martial law declared in one of his cities which would greatly magnify the national embarrassment during war time when communities are suppose to be pulling together instead of ripping themselves apart. 



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                                    State of Emergency 

                                                                    vs.

 Martial Law

A government can declare a state of emergency during a time of natural or human-made disaster, during a period of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war or situation of international/internal armed conflict. A state of emergency instantaneously gives state government broad powers over all sorts of places and stuff. It can close roads, bridges, airspace, waterways, ports, airports, parks. It can make all lanes of Route 80 go westbound, for example. It can designate a bowling alley an emergency shelter if circumstances warrant. It can borrow equipment owned by towns, companies, or individuals — with compensation coming later. The main point being that the civilian government is still in charge but normal laws and guidelines may be temporarily changed. 

Martial law is the imposition of the highest-ranking military officer as the military governor or as the head of the government, thus removing all power from the previous executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. It is usually imposed temporarily when the government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively (e.g., maintain order and security, or provide essential services).
Martial law may be declared in cases of major natural disasters; however, most countries use a different legal construct, such as a state of emergency. Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunal (court-martial).
Martial law has also been imposed during conflicts and in cases of occupations, where the absence of any other civil government provides for an unstable population. Examples of this form of military rule include post World War II reconstruction in Germany and Japan as well as the southern reconstruction following the U.S. Civil War.


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Why was the Detroit riot of 1967 the worst of the 1960s riots?

1) Time of Day / Day of week - For whatever reason, most of the riots of the 1960s seemed to take place in the early evening on weekdays. Since Police departments have an ample supply of manpower at this time of day / day of the week, this would be an opportune time to put down a rebellion. The Detroit police (Clean up squad) conducted the raid on the blind pig at 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday. There primary backup, the motor traffic bureau Commandos, go off duty at 2:00 a.m. The riot started at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, traditionally the quietest time of the week and as a result the fewest number of police patrolling and subsequently no back up if anything goes wrong. 

2) Location - The 12th Street / Clairmount area was the densest population in the city and, not surprisingly, the highest crime rate. Detroit Police Commissioner Ray Girardin once said that if someone blew a whistle on 12th Street at 2 o'clock in the morning, one thousand people would show up to see what it was about. Twelfth Street, while lacking the glamour of New Orleans Bourbon Street or Memphis' Beale Street, was still a major party avenue where revelers often bar hoped their way home late into the night. While a police raid on 12th Street was a common occurrence, the potential avalanche of people in the area badly outnumbered the police at that time of the week. 
The population in this area was generally transient so they did not own their home and would be free to pick up and leave if need be. 

3) Geography - Twelfth Street resembled a walled street where the two and three story buildings gave the impression of an arena which in this case the police and Guardsmen would wind up being the main event. 


4) Guardsmen - Just dumb luck, the primary body of the Michigan National Guard was on its annual 2 week training in Grayling, 200 miles away. Add to this they were already exhausted before the trip down, then had to patrol the city with no rest or preparation. Many Guardsmen had never been to Detroit much less grown up in an inter-racial setting. 

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                                                        National Guard   vs.   U.S. Army  -   Appraisal

                                       Ammunition Expended during riot

                    Michigan National Guard                              U.S. Army
                           155, 576  rounds                                 202  rounds



    Statistics reveal a considerable disparity in ammunition expended between the Guardsmen and the Paratroopers during the coarse of the riot. While the Guardsmen fired an astonishing 155, 576 rounds, certain amendments should be considered. 

        1) The Guardsmen were present essentially for the entire riot while the Paratroopers only arrived in the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

        2) Army General Throckmorton ordered all soldiers to unload their weapons and fire only on the order of an officer. This order, whether it was honored by the Guardsmen or not, was only received on the third day of the riot. 

        3) The Paratroopers were given the comparatively easy East Side of Detroit while the Guardsmen were given the hellish West Side, the epicenter of the disturbance. 

        4) The Guardsmen were not trained for this type of environment. Many of the Paratroopers had done tours in Vietnam or the Dominican Republic and had considerable combat experience not to mention it was an racially mixed unit which granted them a certain dispensation with the local populace. The overwhelmingly white Guardsmen were not used to a racially mixed environment, especially one as large as Detroit and had little combat experience.