From June 3 to June 10, 1943, servicemen stationed at the Chavez Ravine naval station near today’s L.A. State Historic Park beat up young men wearing Zoot Suits throughout Los Angeles. The sailors brutalized their victims and left them lying in the streets; police and sheriffs then arrested victims instead of their attackers. Racist newspapers viewed victims as the problem.
The Zoot Suit riots reflected a struggle over power, privilege, race, class, gender, culture, and art, including jazz music and clothing fashion styles. Non-Hispanic white sailors mostly beat up Latino, Mexican American, and some African American youths in Zoot Suits. Some Mexican-American professionals sided with the sailors and LAPD. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic activists included Lebanese American defense attorney George Sibley, attorney Carey McWilliams, Alice McGrath, and LaRue McCormick. Read on . . .