1967 Century City demonstration

The 1967 Century City demonstrations, also known as the 1967 Century City police riots,[1][2] was an anti-Vietnam War protest which took place on June 23, 1967, in the Century City neighborhood of Los Angeles. Beginning with a demonstration against the war by an estimated 10,000 protestors, the march was soon stopped and LAPD officers began attacking, later claiming they believed that a mob was forming. In the end, 51 arrests were made and an unknown number of protesters were left injured.



The city of Los Angeles had seen demonstrations in the years preceding with antagonism towards police backlash following the Watts rebellion. The Sunset Strip curfew riots, where police and protesters had clashed due to a curfew on youth-and-counterculture-related venues, had shaken the city and influenced the culture.[3] Earlier that year, on February 11, a major gay rights demonstration took place outside the Black Cat, a gay bar which was frequently raided and harassed by LAPD. The protest was in response to a raid made on New Year's Eve where several patrons had been arrested, and made reference to police antagonism, harassment and violence against LGBT people in the city.[4] At the same time as these events, the movement against the Vietnam War began to increase in size; in Los Angeles by 1966, at least one protest had been held by draftees against the war outside military recruitment offices.[5] President Lyndon B. Johnson, at the same time, had begun escalation of the war, and was set to work on reelection.[6]

March and violence


The march began with a rally in Rancho Park, where anti-war speakers such as Muhammad Ali, H. Rap Brown, and Benjamin Spock talked before the actual march towards the hotel began. By the early evening, Johnson was at the Century Plaza Hotel, attending a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser dinner for his reelection, while the anti-war demonstration began and marched towards the hotel. The LAPD present were taken by surprise, expecting only between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters, while being unprepared for the estimated 10,000 who arrived.[7] The original permit and plan had been to march up Pico Blvd., past the hotel on the Avenue of the Stars, before turning onto Santa Monica Boulevard, but changed when several marchers sat down in the street north of Olympic. Protest organizers later claimed that they were agent provocateurs. The LAPD admitted later that there were indeed several undercover agents hired to be present.[8][9][10] With information from the undercover operatives, LAPD chief Tom Reddin, on the pretext of believing that an assault on the hotel was imminent, ordered the crowd dispersed. After several dispersal orders were issued, police began moving in with nightsticks and attacking protesters, many of whom were not resisting or fighting back.[11][12] One demonstrator and eyewitness later described seeing a scene of injured protesters fleeing, making their way down to Olympic on a steep embankment, which was one of the few ways to escape as nightstick-wielding police waded in.[13]



After the riot, the Los Angeles Free Press published a special issue devoted solely to coverage of what happened, including photos and testimony from witnesses, and would continue to continue to report on and against police brutality, covering topics such as the death of journalist Ruben Salazar and publishing the names of undercover drug enforcement operatives, until its closure in 1978.

In later years, Reddin would claim that intelligence reports the department received said that the demonstrators would lead to civil disobedience and in his eyes required a sterner response, denying provable brutality but acknowledging that protesters were "thumped". Ed Davis, who replaced Reddin as LAPD chief two years later, was shocked by the department's conduct while deputy chief, and complained to Reddin, who did not recall later.[14]

The demonstration's co-leaders disagreed on what caused the march to break down, with Donald Kalish claiming that Irving Sarnoff and others had radicalized the march without his knowledge, while Sarnoff maintained that nothing happened to reasonably justify the police response, and that the march would have resumed had police not intervened.

The next day, the Los Angeles Times printed a largely pro-police account of what happened. Many in the march, who were seen more as middle-class liberals, were angry both at the police and the march's organizers for putting them in a dangerous situation.[15]

By 1969, Sarnoff and Kalish were signatories of a letter by the Cleveland Area Peace Action Council calling for a national anti-war conference on July 4 of that year.[16] Protests against the war in Vietnam in the area would grow in the years after Century City, such as the Chicano Moratorium gaining over 20,000 marchers.[17]

Recalling the events decades later, Kenneth Reich of the Los Angeles Times stated that "[t]he bloody, panicked clash that ensued left an indelible mark on politics, protests and police relations. It marked a turning point for Los Angeles, a city not known for drawing demonstrators to marches in sizable numbers," while also claiming the riot "foreshadowed the explosive growth of the national antiwar movement and its inevitable confrontations with police," and "shaped the movement’s rising militancy." It was often seen as an early "battleground" in the anti-war movement which later entered more the national consciousness with events such as police attacking demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Johnson rarely campaigned outside of areas deemed safe until his announcement to not run for reelection.[18]

Steve Nichols, a participant in the march, later stated that "[t]he 1967 march was significant in bringing Black and Chicano activists into common cause with their liberal white counterparts", and in their history Set the Night on Fire, Mike Davis and Jon Weiner stated that the event exposed white Westside residents to police brutality that Black and Mexican communities had long been experiencing.[19]

See also



  1. ^ Anania, Billy (June 11, 2020). "The Los Angeles Paper That Documented Police Brutality in the 1960s and '70s". Hyperallergenic. Retrieved September 4, 2022. Readership expanded so much after Watts that it devoted a special mid-week issue to the Century City police riots of 1967 — when unprovoked officers attacked Vietnam War protestors outside the Century Plaza Hotel as President Johnson launched his reelection campaign.
  2. ^ Nichols, Steve. "Valley Voice: Recalling the Century City demonstration of 1967". The Desert Sun. The protest, and the reaction of law enforcement agencies (later described as a "police riot")
  3. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (August 5, 2007). "Closing of club ignited the 'Sunset Strip riots'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  4. ^ Chiland, Elijah (February 8, 2017). "50 years ago the first major gay rights demonstration happened in Silver Lake". Curbed Los Angeles. Curbed. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  5. ^ "A Poignant Scene-Draftee Says a Tender Goodby As Demonstrators March". Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Los Angeles, CA. May 4, 1966. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  6. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  7. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  8. ^ "LOS ANGELES POLICE ATTACK PEACEFUL ANTI-WAR MARCHERS". whenertheresafight.com. 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  9. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022. Reddin continues to maintain that there was ample reason to believe that major trouble was planned that night, including a possible storming of the hotel. Police came to this conclusion through intelligence provided by a private firm, International Investigations System, which was hired by the hotel and employed four undercover agents who worked closely with the LAPD. "One young woman succeeded in working her way into a position of secretary of Dorothy Healey, the chairperson of the Communist Party in Southern California," Reddin writes in his book chapter on the march. "Two young men got jobs as student workers which put them in close contact with members of the Students for a Democratic Society, one of the most militant groups involved in the event. The last, another young woman, managed to infiltrate the Peace Action Council by developing a close working relationship with Donald Kalish . . . vice chairman of the PAC." That agent, Sharon Stewart, 27 at the time of the march, could not be found this month. But it is obvious she was an important link in police assessments of the demonstrators' intentions. When the hotel went to court the day before the demonstration to obtain a court order restricting the march, it submitted an affidavit in which Stewart quoted Kalish and others as planning for disruptive "civil disobedience," despite their public assurances all would be peaceful.
  10. ^ Masters, Nathan (October 27, 2011). "3 Protests from L.A. History That Got the Public's Attention". KCET. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  11. ^ "LOS ANGELES POLICE ATTACK PEACEFUL ANTI-WAR MARCHERS". whenevertheresafight.com. 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  12. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  13. ^ Nichols, Steve. "Valley Voice: Recalling the Century City demonstration of 1967". The Desert Sun. Retrieved September 4, 2022. I drove to the march route in Century City and dropped some family members off to join the procession. As I sought parking, traffic on Olympic Boulevard came to an abrupt standstill. Desperate screams came from the crowd of protesters crossing the overpass ahead on Avenue of the Stars, and in the next instant large numbers of them descended the steep embankment to Olympic, seeking refuge. Some were badly injured, blood streaming down their faces. Others were limping or tending to lesser wounds. The police had impeded the marchers (who had a permit), then had waded into the crowd swinging nightsticks. The embankment down to Olympic was one of the few ways for protesters to escape. Other motorists and I tried to get the worst injured into cars for transport to a hospital, but traffic wouldn't move. Ambulances were slow to arrive.
  14. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022. Ed Davis, who would succeed Reddin as LAPD chief two years after the march, was deputy chief that night and was shocked by the department's conduct. Even today, the officer who was in charge of tactical planning for the demonstration--another chief-to-be named Daryl Gates--remembers the vehemence of Davis' protest. "I was in San Diego that night at an American Legion convention," said Davis, now in retirement in Morro Bay. "When I saw television on the thing, and I saw police officers beating people over the head with nightsticks, I went into the chief's office the following Monday, and I said, 'By what legal right did they have to do that?' "Chief Reddin was there, but it was his aide, Eddie Walker, who said, 'By virtue of the dispersal order' [that police had formally read to demonstrators when the march halted]. I got out the dispersal order, and it said you could arrest, not punish the demonstrators, and I voiced my very strong disapproval. "I'm sure the chief thought he had done a wonderful job, and Eddie Walker thought I was a Communist. But when [future President Richard] Nixon came out later and there was a Century Plaza demonstration when I was chief, we handled it differently, and I'm challenging they had no legal authority to use their clubs and beat people with them." Reddin said he could not recall such a conversation with Davis.
  15. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  16. ^ "Call for a National Anti-War Conference" (PDF). marxists.org. June 6, 1969.
  17. ^ "Thousands of Mexican American antiwar activists march in Chicano Moratorium". HISTORY. A&E Television Networks. August 27, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  18. ^ Reich, Kenneth (June 23, 1997). "The Bloody March That Shook L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  19. ^ Nichols, Steve (June 28, 2020). "Valley Voice: Recalling the Century City demonstration of 1967". The Desert Sun. Retrieved September 4, 2022.