New West Side Violence- 1966

newspaper report

Violence erupted again along Roosevelt Road Wednesday night and police were forced to step up their already heavy security measures.

      The unrest, which began Tuesday night, spread west to the Madison-Pulaski area where there was a two-night surge of turmoil last summer.

      Generally, the area affected grew to be bounded by Lake on north and 14th on the south, Karlov on the west and Halsted on the east.

      Early Thursday, James B. Conlisk, deputy superintendent of police, announced that the entire force would go out two 12-hour shifts, instead of the customary three eight – hour shifts for an indefinite period.

      Conlisk’s announcement followed by several hours one by Comdr. William Coesfeld, at the disturbance command center in Police Area 4, that Wednesday night’s turbulence had quieted down soon after midnight.

      Two persons were shot but none was reported in serious condition.  Nine others, including six policemen, were hit by flying objects and required first aid treatment.

      Thirty-five persons were arrested, including 10 juveniles.

      In a spectacular incident, seven Molotov cocktails – accompanied by a number of gunshots – were hurled from the upper floors of the public housing project on Roosevelt between Racine and Blue Island.

      One of the firebombs hit the roof of a squadrol and another struck the side of the firehouse across from St. Ignatius Church on Roosevelt. Although the bombs ignited, they died out quickly and caused no injuries.

      However, Cynthia Day, 12, who lives at 1239 W. Roosevelt in the project, the Robert Brooks Extension, was cut by flying glass, and John Watson, 27, also of 1239, was hit by a stray bullet.

      Cars were stoned at Pulaski and Jackson and a hardware store was looted at Gladys and Pulaski.  Windows were broken in the Chicago Stadium, 1800 W. Madison.

      Windows also were broken in the shopping area at Maxwell and Roosevelt and a general merchandise store, M. Handelsman at 843 W. Roosevelt, was set afire by a Molotov cocktail.

      One of the homemade bombs was hurled at a squadrol going to the Day girl’s assistance.  Another was thrown at a group of policemen standing guard in the Liberty Shopping Plaza at 1313 S. Racine, where the windows of all nine stores had been broken the night before.

      Wednesday night’s outbreaks began about 6:30 p.m.  one and a half hours earlier some 200 youths had gathered at Roosevelt and Throop to watch a group of water distribution employees, backed up by helmeted police guards, shut off three hydrants that had been open during the afternoon.

      The youths dispersed, but another crowd gathered at the same intersection at 6:30 p.m. and began hurling bricks and bottles at police cars.

Organization Meeting

      In the meantime a meeting began at West Side Organization headquarters at 1527 W. Roosevelt to discuss the unrest.  While the meeting was under way a handful of white persons were asked to leave and they did so.

      Principal speaker was Rev. Andrew Young, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  His counseling against violence and looting was interrupted by occasional heated shouts.


Young told the meeting, “When property is destroyed here, people have to go downtown to do business.  When you break in a Negro merchant’s windows and steal his stuff, he has to sell.  Then you have to go to the big man downtown”.

      John Crawford, a WSO leader, declared, “Everybody must unify and get together.  I can’t understand a man throwing a rock and then hiding behind his children.

      “If we’re going to have all out war, we must get together.  This time, if you’re going to do anything, do it like men, not dogs.”

      Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the SCLC, was reported by his office to be in the riot area but did not make a scheduled appearance at the WSO meeting. 

Struck By Bullet

The 18-year-old girl who was arrested stirred up the crowds which regroup as fast as police armed with clubs could disperse them.  There were 300 policemen in the area Wednesday night.

      William Collins, 14, of 1111 W. Roosevelt was struck in the right thumb by a bullet.  He was taken to Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital for treatment and was reported in good condition.

      Three policemen receiving first aid treatment at  Illinois Research Hospital were Ronald Knollmueller, 28, who was hit by a brick; Philip Bue, 28 hit by broken glass, and Eugene Konow, hit by a brick.  

            A fourth police, Russell Lehning, who was struck by a brick was treated at St. Frances X Cabrini Hospital.

            Two policemen – John Davis, 28, struck in the mouth by a bottle, and John Lapthorne, 26, hit in the ear by a brick  - were treated at Garfield Park Community Hospital and released.

            The two civilians, also treated at Illinois Research, were Thomas Egan, 39, who suffered a cut over his eye from an object thrown while he was walking through the disturbance area, and Manuel Mecias, 51, beaten on a CTA bus in the area.

            The crowds, mostly youths in the mid-teen age bracket, formed in groups of 50 to 70 on every corner on Roosevelt for two blocks on either side of Throop.

4 Fires Started

            Earlier, four fires had been started with flammable liquids against the wall of the A & P store in the plaza.

            Firemen putting out a blaze started at the rear of the L.B. Liquors, 1659 W. Roosevelt, were the targets of rocks.  They called for police help to get the equipment away.

            Tuesday’s disturbances, which were sparked by police closing a Hydrant, resulted in four injuries eight arrests and a number of broken windows.

            In the disturbances Tuesday night and early Wednesday, gangs of roving youths hurled rocks and bottles at autos, broke store window, looted shops and attacked police.