Unbroken chain: Modern social banditry in South La

Kenneth M Harlan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


During the 1960s, America's cities experienced more than 200 cases of civil unrest. The purpose of these communal protests was to reverse oppression and create an order based on egalitarian principals. The first of these major urban rebellions occurred in Los Angeles, California in August 1965. The violence found in the South LA uprising represents the evolution of Eric Hobsbawm's social banditry paradigm. Modern social banditry is a combination of communal protest against oppressive forces and extralegal activity commonly associated with the vigilance movements of nineteenth-century America. This type of collective violence with its socioeconomic agenda seeks to emulate the philosophy of the legendary English bandit Robin Hood. Attacking the ruling hierarchy that has historically exploited the lower classes of society is a form of self-defense that supposedly creates more opportunities for economically depressed communities. The main targets for this attack on the dominant hierarchy are usually law enforcement and merchants that have no respect for the community's values. In South LA, these symptoms are present, and the community's reaction to social oppression reflects the illusionary quality of such protests.