Monday, August 15, 2005

*Another* dark side of V-J Day...

The first being nuclear fall-out...

Here's an article on today's SFGATE.com:

The dark side of V-J Day | The story of the city's deadliest riot has been largely forgotten
Today is the 60th anniversary of a terrible day in San Francisco's history -- a victory riot that left 11 dead, 1,000 injured and the city's reputation besmirched.

"It was the deadliest riot in the city's history,'' said Kevin Mullen, a retired deputy chief of police who has written extensively about crime in San Francisco.

The riot, which followed the Japanese surrender announcement by a day, was mostly confined to downtown San Francisco and involved thousands of drunken soldiers and sailors, most of them teenagers, who smashed store windows, attacked women, halted all traffic, wrecked Muni streetcars -- 30 of them were disabled, and one Muni worker was killed. The rioters took over Market Street and refused to leave until military and civilian police drove them away long after nightfall following hours of chaos.

"A looting, smashing crowd is tearing up Market Street tonight,'' Chronicle reporter Stanton Delaplane wrote at 8 o'clock that Wednesday night. "... this crowd is out of hand. You couldn't stop it if you tried, not short of tear gas and fire hoses.''
And under a quintessential shot of soldiers force-kissing young women, the caption reads:
As the party turned ugly, there were -- along with iconic images of sailors kissing strangers -- eyewitness reports of gang rapes.
This story hardly surprises me as I've always kind of assumed these celebrations broke out in this manner at some point during the course of the day. Take a large number of men who assume they can force themselves on random women, add booze and the acceptability of such behavior in the name of "victory," and you've got a recipe for violence against women. Seems odd that the focus is only on San Francisco. I truly doubt this behavior, on such a large scale, only happened here on that day or any day like it.

It also bugs me that in the mainstream media, violent riots of primarily white people hardly result in the social and political legacies that people of color get to deal with.

The article goes on to quote a retired deputy police chief:

"If you pull all restraints off and add liquor, that's what happens,'' said Mullen, the former deputy police chief. "Everybody went nuts. These were not veterans, they were young people who hadn't been in the war. They were not warriors,'' he said.

They hadn't seen the war, and now they didn't have to. There would be no invasion of Japan, no long casualty lists. These young men would not see combat. So they got drunk. They were all drunk, the reporter Delaplane wrote. One in four, he thought, was "falling down drunk.''

"You put young girls with them and add liquor, and that's what happens,'' Mullen said. Some of the women were not so willing; there were several rapes, some gang rapes reported by eyewitnesses, but none was ever officially reported.
I just love it when people who have any amount of privilege give dismissive explanations so we can all can just murmur, "Ohhhh..." and nod our heads vapidly.

This is also posted on my (recently resurrected) blog Zoloft, Take Me Away. Cheers!

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