NY Times — L.A. Group Insists Riots Halt

NEW YORK TIMES, JUNE 13, 1943

LOS ANGELES GROUP INSISTS RIOTS HALT

By Lawrence E. Davies

LOS ANGELES, June 12 -Punishment of the guilty in crimes of violence, “regardless of what clothes they wear, whether they be zoot suits, police, Army or Navy uniforms,” was demanded today by a Citizens’ Committee appointed by Governor Earl Warren to investigate the Los Angeles outbreaks of the last ten days involving “zoos-suit” wearers and service men.

Working closely with Robert W. Kenny, State Attorney General, the committee, headed by Bishop Joseph T. McGucken of the Catholic diocese here, declared that the streets of Los Angeles “must be made safe for service men as well as civilians, regardless of national origins.”

“The community as well as its visitors,” it stated, “must learn that no group has the right to take the law into its own hands.”

The committee issued an eight-page report, with demands for immediate and long-range curative action, after hearing testimony for two days behind closed doors from city police officials, representatives of minority groups, and persons active in social welfare work. Its members plan to meet again on Monday and from time to time issue supplementary reports….

Virtual calm prevailed all over the county during the day after a caravan of fifty-three “zoot suiters” had driven past the City Hall with flags of truce fluttering from the jalopies. Captain Joe Reed of the Police Department, after interviewing them, congratulated them on their frank attitude….

Race Prejudice Factor Cited

Governor Warren’s committee found it to be “significant” that most of the persons mistreated during the recent incidents in Los Angeles were either persons of Mexican descent or Negroes.

“In undertaking to deal with the cause of these outbreaks,” its report said, “the existence of race prejudice cannot be ignored.

“Youth is peculiarly sensitive. To be rejected by the community may throw the youth upon evil companions.

“Any solution of the problems involves among other things an educational program throughout the community designed to combat race prejudice in all its forms.”. . .

[The committee] asked for additional facilities for the care and study of delinquent youth and described the problem as “one of American youth, not confined to any racial group.”

“The wearers of zoot suits,” the report went on, “are not necessarily persons of Mexican descent, criminals or juveniles. Many young people today wear zoot suits.

“It is a mistake in fact and an aggravating practice to link the phrase ‘zoos suit’ with the report of a crime. Repeated reports of this character tend to inflame public opinion on false premises and excite further outbreaks.”

Rise in Juvenile Delinquency

“All juvenile delinquency has increased recently in Los Angeles. This includes crimes committed by youths of Mexican origin. But the fact is that the increase of delinquency in the case of youths of Mexican families has been less than in the case of other national or racial groups and less than the average increase for the community.

“Between 1914 and 1929 all of California, and Los Angeles County in particular, had a rapid increase in Mexican population. The tremendous difficulties experienced by immigrants in making adjustments to their new surroundings are well known. We have learned that the problem is especially acute in the case of the second generation. The foreign-born parent loses authority over his American-born child; families tend to be broken up; and if the children are not completely accepted by their neighbors; they are often without responsible guidance.

“These facts shed light on the youths of Mexican descent in Los Angeles. Many of them are second generation. About 98 per cent of them are American born.

“Of the serious crimes committed by persons of Mexican descent, only 25 per cent are committed by minors. Most of the so-called ‘zoos-suit’ crime amounting to felony has been committed by persons who are fully and legally responsible for their acts.”