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80 years later, LA apologizes for Zoot Suit Riots committed against Mexican Americans


The dancing that took place in Los Angeles City Hall on Friday wasn't a celebration, it was a reminder of one of the darkest periods in the city's history.

Eighty years ago -- June 3, 1943 -- the Zoot Suit Riots broke out.

According to newspaper and historical accounts, a group of sailors confronted a group of Mexican Americans wearing zoot suits along Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The violent attacks on Latinos went on for nearly a week. Reports from the time stated that groups of sailors would go into neighborhoods, such as Boyle Heights, and other parts of East Los Angeles looking for men to fight.

L.A. City Councilman Kevin De Leon said the sailors were looking for zoot suitors, or Pachucos, and would pummel them indiscriminately just because of the color of their skin and what they were wearing.

Pachucos were a group of Mexican American men in the 1940s who were a part of a counterculture that wore zoot suit fashion and celebrated jazz and swing music.

Back in 1943, during the riots, hundreds were arrested -- mostly Mexican Americans. There were scores that were injured. Eighty years later, community members dressed in their zoot suits, asked for and received an apology from the city for what happened.

City Council President pro tempore Curren Price told the group, "We do apologize and let's work together to unite."

The resolution passed by the city council also designates June 3 to 9 as "Zoot Suit Heritage Week" in the City of Los Angeles.

Some of the people who showed up in their zoot suits and other attire had relatives who were victims of the brutal attacks eight decades ago. They say people need to continue to work on uniting Los Angeles.

"How do we not only unite with the service members, with LAPD , with Pachucos. Pachucos, zoot suiters and we have to show that it starts with us. It starts with us paying honor and respect to those members of the past, but also paving the way for the future generation to come together more in unity," said Angela Romero of the Hello Stranger Foundation.

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