Tuesday, Aug 22, 2017
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Turmoil recalls city's race riots from late 1960s

The violence that broke out in North Toledo yesterday recalled the mobs, fires, and rock-throwing of Toledo's race riots more than 35 years ago.

On July 24, 1967, shortly after Detroit erupted in one of the most destructive riots in modern U.S. history, the disturbances spread to Toledo. Fires and looting began in the area of Dorr Street and Detroit Avenue and quickly expanded.

Tensions were high and officials were worried enough to call for National Guard troops - 500 of them.

The riots led to a curfew imposed by then-mayor John Potter for juveniles and the cancellation of an upcoming visit to the city by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Police were stationed at the Michigan state line in an attempt to deal with fears that rioters from Detroit would come to Toledo.

When the disturbances finally ended four days later, police had arrested 53 juveniles between the ages of 10 and 17 and 126 adults, most of whom were under age 27. Fire crews responded to 79 blazes caused by fire bombs during that time. There were few serious injuries and no one was killed.

Mr. King's assassination less than a year later in April, 1968, sparked more turmoil.

Hundreds of Scott High School students were reported roaming the Old West End, stoning automobiles and creating disturbances for more than an hour after classes were dismissed shortly after school started.

Then-mayor William Ensign declared a curfew on April 5 keeping anyone under age 22 off the streets from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Police made 58 arrests in the first three days of the curfew, which was lifted April 15.

The mayor again resorted to a curfew later that year, in September, 1968, after a large group of people went on a window-smashing, bottle-throwing spree in the area of Dorr Street and Detroit Avenue. A modified curfew wasn't lifted until Nov. 7.

Police said the crowd - which may have grown to nearly 1,000 people - began to congregate after officers attempted to make an arrest.

In just the initial disturbances, 11 adults and seven juveniles were taken into custody. At least 22 people, 11 of them policemen, were injured, most as a result of being hit by rocks or bottles.

Another time Toledo was wracked by violence was in May, 1934, when a strike at the former Electric Auto-Lite plant led to two deaths and 200 injuries.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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