On April 5, 1968 three high school friends of mine and I drove into downtown Pittsburgh to register for the draft. It was our 18th birthday. In those days, you were given the day off to go through the registration process. The Vietnam War was in full swing. Woodstock was a year away. Campus unrest was in full swing, and the Kent State shootings would put an end to them in May 1970.
The day before, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. Some cities with a high concentration of blacks were having bouts of civil unrest. As a result, armed National Guard soldiers were stationed in the downtown areas of several large cities. Their presence was to assure us that everything was under control. As we drove to the draft board, we came face-to-face with armed soldiers. They weren’t able to stop the riots in the Hill District area of Pittsburgh that began on April 5 and lasted until April 12. There were more than 500 fires and more than a half-million dollars in property damage, one death and 926 arrests.
Early in its history, the “Hill District residents supplied the labor for mines, mills, business and government.” Jewish immigrants came first to replace the original settlers. “Between 1870 and 1890, great numbers arrived from Europe’s ghettos. After the Jews came the Italians, the Syrians, the Greeks, and the Poles. Blacks began arriving from the South between 1880 and 1890.” By 1956, the Hill district was majority Black. MLK’s assassination was the event that lit the fuse of social, economic, and political discontent.
Pittsburgh wasn’t the only city to see this anger vented in a violent way. There were five days of riots in Washington, D.C. There were other riots in large cities like Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and Chicago. The damage in these cities far exceeded what happened in Pittsburgh. Damage estimates for our Nation’s Capital was $27 million.
The riots utterly devastated Washington’s inner city economy. With the destruction or closing of businesses, thousands of jobs were lost, and insurance rates soared. Made uneasy by the violence, city residents of all races accelerated their departure for suburban areas, depressing property values. Crime in the burned out neighborhoods rose sharply, further discouraging investment. On some blocks, only rubble remained for decades.
More than 100 cities were affected by civil unrest. Why am I rehearsing this period in America’s history? Liberal commentators, many elected officials, and even the President have voiced outrage over public displaces of political discontent. When the April 1968 riots are evaluated, some historians have a problem on how to categorize them. “There is some debate about whether or not this riot should be called a ‘riot,’ a ‘civil disturbance,’ or a ‘rebellion.’ These events were indeed precipitated by the assassination of MLK, but were also evidence of larger frustrations amongst the city’s African-American population.”
Does any of this sound familiar? There is a great deal of discontent in America today, but there haven’t been any riots or civil disturbances that are anything like what took place in 1968. In the vast majority of cases, regular citizens have joined together to voice their opinions about what they believe is happening to their nation. They believe the Constitution is being violated and their freedoms eliminated in the name of social reform. Elected officials have no regard for the oath they took to uphold the Constitution. For example, Illinois Democrat Congressman Phil Hare said he “doesn’t worry about the Constitution” or the Declaration of Independence when he votes. He’s ignorant of both (see his rebuttal here). When Nancy Pelosi was asked, “Where in the constitution does Congress have the authority to control healthcare in America,” she laughed. Then there’s self-professed liberal Maxine Waters who stated that she wants to take over and run the oil companies, when she admitted in an unguarded moment as “socialism” (see video clip here), if they don’t do her bidding. James Madison, the Architect of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined.” Few elected officials pay much attention to what the Founders established.
Elected officials are afraid. They’re not afraid of riots, although they continue to bring up the false specter of them hoping their liberal sycophants in the media will be able to tip the scales of public opinion their way. They’re afraid of freedom of speech, assembly, the press, and the ballot box. The Tea Party Movement is nothing more than the freedom to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” another one of these inconvenient First Amendment freedoms. Congress thrives on voter ignorance and a growing cadre of government workers to keep them perpetually in office. Job growth is all about government job growth.
Politicians are panicking. That’s good. Let’s keep up the pressure. A few elections won’t make much of a difference in the long-run if we don’t take the loss of our Constitutional freedoms seriously. Liberals are just waiting for us to riot. It won’t happen. I’m not surprised that our government swooped down on a militia-oriented apocalyptic cult and the media have tried to link this example of “last days madness” to Tea Partiers. Guilt by association, name calling, and the charge of “racism” are the tactics of desperation.