Bill Text: CA ACR84 | 2023-2024 | Regular Session | Introduced

Bill Title: The 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots.

Spectrum: Moderate Partisan Bill (Democrat 60-16)

Status: (Engrossed) 2023-09-14 - Ordered to inactive file at the request of Senator Glazer. [ACR84 Detail]

Download: California-2023-ACR84-Introduced.html


Assembly Concurrent Resolution
No. 84

Introduced by Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo
(Principal coauthor: Senator Durazo)

May 22, 2023

Relative to the 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots.


ACR 84, as introduced, Wendy Carrillo. The 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots.
This measure would commemorate June 2023 as the 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, June 2023 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots; and
WHEREAS, The Zoot Suit Riots were a series of conflicts that occurred in June 1943 in the City of Los Angeles between United States servicemen and Mexican American youths, the latter of whom wore outfits called zoot suits; and
WHEREAS, The zoot suit consisted of a broad-shouldered drape jacket, balloon-leg trousers, and, sometimes, a flamboyant hat; and
WHEREAS, Mexican and Mexican American youths who wore these outfits were called zoot-suiters; and
WHEREAS, These individuals referred to themselves as pachucos, a name linked to the Mexican American generation’s rebellion against both the Mexican and American cultures; and
WHEREAS, Pressures related to the United States involvement in World War II contributed to the racial tensions that preceded the riots; and
WHEREAS, Workers were needed in the agricultural and service sectors of the United States to fill the jobs vacated by those who were serving in the military; and
WHEREAS, An agreement was reached with Mexico whereby temporary workers from Mexico were brought into the United States; and
WHEREAS, This influx of Mexican workers was not particularly welcomed by White Americans; and
WHEREAS, As part of the war effort, by March 1942, the United States had begun rationing various resources; and
WHEREAS, Restrictions on wool had a direct effect on the manufacture of wool suits and other clothing; and
WHEREAS, There were regulations prohibiting the manufacturing of zoot suits, but a network of bootleg tailors continued to manufacture them; and
WHEREAS, This exacerbated racial tensions, as Mexican American youths wearing the zoot suits were seen as un-American because they were deliberately ignoring the rationing regulations; and
WHEREAS, The Zoot Suit Riots are commonly associated with the Sleepy Lagoon murder, which occurred in August 1942; and
WHEREAS, The Sleepy Lagoon, as it was nicknamed, was one of the larger reservoirs outside the City of Los Angeles; and
WHEREAS, On the night of August 1, 1942, zoot-suiters were involved in a fight at a party near the Sleepy Lagoon; and
WHEREAS, The next morning, one of the partygoers, José Díaz, was dead; and
WHEREAS, There was public outcry against the zoot-suiters, fueled by local tabloids; and
WHEREAS, Citing concerns about juvenile delinquency, California Governor Culbert Olson used Díaz’s death as the impetus for a roundup by the Los Angeles Police Department of more than 600 young men and women, most of whom were Mexican American; and
WHEREAS, Several of the zoot-suiters who were arrested were tried and, in January 1943, convicted of murder; and
WHEREAS, However, many people denounced the circus atmosphere of the trial and attacked the verdict as a miscarriage of justice; and
WHEREAS, The convictions of the Mexican American youths were later reversed on appeal in October 1944; and
WHEREAS, During the period from 1942 through 1943, the news media continued to portray the zoot-suiters as dangerous gang members who were capable of murder; and
WHEREAS, On the basis of the news reports, more and more people began to believe that the Mexican American youths, particularly the zoot-suiters, were predisposed to committing crime; and
WHEREAS, It was in this racially charged atmosphere that the conflict between predominantly White servicemen stationed in southern California and Mexican American youths in the area began; and
WHEREAS, Incidents initially took the form of minor altercations, but later escalated; and
WHEREAS, Within months of the Sleepy Lagoon convictions, the City of Los Angeles erupted in what are commonly referred to as the Zoot Suit Riots; and
WHEREAS, The riots began on June 3, 1943, after a group of sailors stated that they had been attacked by a group of Mexican American zoot-suiters; and
WHEREAS, As a result, on June 4, a number of uniformed sailors chartered cabs and proceeded to the Mexican American community, seeking out the zoot-suiters; and
WHEREAS, What occurred that evening and in the following days was a series of conflicts primarily between servicemen and zoot-suiters; and
WHEREAS, Many zoot-suiters were beaten by servicemen and stripped of their zoot suits on the spot; and
WHEREAS, The servicemen sometimes urinated on the zoot suits or burned them in the streets; and
WHEREAS, One local paper printed an article describing how to “de-zoot” a zoot-suiter, including directions that the zoot suits should be burned; and
WHEREAS, The servicemen were also portrayed in local news publications as heroes fighting against what was referred to as a Mexican crime wave; and
WHEREAS, The worst of the rioting occurred on the night of June 7, when thousands of servicemen and citizens prowled the streets of the downtown City of Los Angeles, attacking zoot-suiters as well as members of minority groups who were not wearing zoot suits; and
WHEREAS, In response to these confrontations, police arrested hundreds of Mexican American youths, many of whom had already been attacked by servicemen; and
WHEREAS, There were also reports of Mexican American youths requesting to be arrested and locked up in order to protect themselves from the servicemen in the streets; and
WHEREAS, In contrast, very few sailors and soldiers were arrested during the riots; and
WHEREAS, Shortly after midnight on June 8, military officials declared the City of Los Angeles off-limits to all military personnel; and
WHEREAS, Deciding that the local police were completely unable or unwilling to handle the situation, officials ordered military police to patrol parts of the city and arrest disorderly military personnel; this, coupled with the ban, served to greatly deter the servicemen’s riotous actions; and
WHEREAS, The next day, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution that banned the wearing of zoot suits on the City of Los Angeles streets; and
WHEREAS, The number of attacks dwindled, and the rioting had largely ended by June 10; and
WHEREAS, In the following weeks, however, similar disturbances occurred in other states; and
WHEREAS, Remarkably, no one was killed during the riots, although many people were injured; and
WHEREAS, The fact that considerably more Mexican Americans than servicemen were arrested, upward of 600 of the former, according to some estimates, fueled criticism of the Los Angeles Police Department’s response to the riots from some quarters; and
WHEREAS, As the riots died down, California Governor Earl Warren ordered the creation of a citizens’ committee to investigate and determine the cause of the Zoot Suit Riots; and
WHEREAS, The committee’s report indicated that there were several factors involved, but that racism was the central cause of the riots and that it was exacerbated by the response of the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as by biased and inflammatory media coverage; and
WHEREAS, The City of Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron, concerned about the riots’ negative impact on the city’s image, issued his own conclusion, stating that racial prejudice was not a factor and that the riots were caused by juvenile delinquents; and
WHEREAS, The Zoot Suit Riots is an important part of Los Angeles and California history and it is critical that we mark the 80th anniversary of this event appropriately; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the Legislature hereby commemorates June 2023 as the 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.