What Happened on the Day MLK Was Assassinated in 1968?


The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, sparked riots across the United States. Some of the heaviest riots immediately following the assassination occurred in Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Washington D.C. saw three days of rioting starting only 90 minutes after King's death, according to local police reports. Initially, future Black Panther Stokely Carmichael was leading a group of King sympathizers to ask local business owners to close down their businesses out of respect for Dr. King. However, looting quickly ensued after a few windows were broken.

By the end of the 1968 Washington D.C riots, around 1,200 buildings were burned. It is estimated that over 20,000 people converged on the city in response to the assassination. According to the Washington Post, President Lyndon B. Johnson called in more than 13,600 troops to restore order to the city, which was the largest number of troops to occupy a city since the Civil War.

Chicago, Illinois, was another city that erupted in riots the day of the assassination. The Chicago riots lasted for two days and left 9 people dead and 500 injured, reported the Chicago Reader. According to the Chicago Tribune, 162 buildings were destroyed by arson, including many areas in the Lawndale and Austin neighborhoods.

However, Washington D.C. and Chicago were not the only cities to experience devastating riots. Riots broke out in Baltimore, Maryland, on the day following the assassination, and in Kansas City on April 9, 1968. Riots were averted in New York City, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Boston.

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