A Voice from the Detroit Riots: Loretta Holmes

Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the riots Detroit, which lasted five days and hastened the economic decline of a city already plagued by economic disparities and racial tensions. The riot started after police raided a nightclub and arrested 82 people. We hear from Loretta Holmes, who was in the club that night.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen.

We go now to the summer of 1967. The country had been teetering from the effects of the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam and a bourgeoning counterculture; America suddenly went haywire.

The first riots happened in Newark, New Jersey. There were others in smaller cities. And then, forty years ago today, Detroit, Michigan erupted into five days of civil unrest.

The violence began at an after-hour's club known as a blind pig where people had gathered for a party for two returning Vietnam servicemen.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Loretta Holmes, then 17 years old, had gone to the club with a girlfriend.

Ms. LORETTA HOLMES: And I remember when we got up to leave, I was going downstairs, I was in front of her and a big sledgehammer came through the door.

COHEN: Loretta ran back into the club, where she encountered policemen blocking all of the exits.

Ms. HOLMES: And everybody just started panicking, running to the back of the place, turning over tables, hiding under the tables.

COHEN: But there was nowhere to go.

Ms. HOLMES: They put us all in a single file and they marched us all down the stairs into paddy wagons.

COHEN: Loretta and the 81 other African-Americans at the club were arrested. For black residents of Detroit, it was the last straw. Angered by a nearly all-white police department that had used excessive force too many times, by cops who called them boy and worse, they took to the streets.

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