Division Street Riots

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Division Street Riots
Date June 12 and June 14, 1966
Location Chicago, Illinois, United States
Parties to the civil conflict
Chicago Police
Deaths: 1 killed

The Division Street Riots were episodes of rioting and civil unrest, which occurred between June 12 and June 14, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois in the United States.

History and cause[edit]

During the first downtown Puerto Rican Parade in Chicago on June 12, 1966, the first Puerto Rican riot in the U.S. began on Division Street. The riot was a community response to the shooting of a young Puerto Rican man by Chicago Police. It was one of many urban disturbances across the nation in the 1960s. There was rioting until June 19, 1966, when community leaders rallied in the park to devise strategies to calm the crowds.

The underlying cause of the riots was the deteriorating economic conditions facing Puerto Ricans and African Americans, which embodied many aspects of the national urban crisis. Ethnic conflicts, especially those between young Puerto Ricans and Polish Americans, prevailed during the transition period.[citation needed]


The Division Street riot was a key moment in the history of Puerto Ricans in Chicago. It drew attention to the continued displacement of Puerto Ricans from downtown and the lakefront areas of Chicago by city-sponsored urban renewal projects. The additional issues of poverty and strained relations between Puerto Ricans and Chicago's police department also played a major role and was considered the spark to the violence.

A month after the riot, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations held open hearings, which provided a forum for Puerto Rican and other Spanish-speaking residents of Chicago to discuss problems facing these communities, such as displacement and discrimination in housing, discriminatory practices by the police and fire departments, and poor educational opportunities.[citation needed] As a result of these meetings, specific policy recommendations were proposed and implemented in the Puerto Rican community.

The riots, directly and indirectly, inspired the creation of many Puerto Rican community organizations, such as the Spanish Action Committee of Chicago (SACC); the Latin American Defense Organization (LADO); the Bickerdike Revedelopment Corporation; and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, ASPIRA Association.The primarily Puerto Rican national movement of the Young Lords was founded by Jose Cha Cha Jimenez and began officially on September 23, 1968; two years later. Several cultural centers also became part of organizing, such as the Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, the Escuela Superior Puertorriqueña (which is now named Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School), the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center, . These organizations, which were more militant than earlier organizations such as the Caballeros de San Juan, Damas de Maria and the Puerto Rican Congress, emerged from the riots. They worked to get community concerns such as education, housing, health, and employment addressed by the city and to assert ethnic Puerto Rican presence in city politics. The Young Lords also announced the first Latino political candidate to challenge directly the Richard J. Daley Machine in 1973. They ran the founder of the Young Lords Movement, Jose Cha Cha Jimenez as their candidate for alderman and he garnered 39% of the vote, in a three way race. In 1983, Jimenez and the Young Lords organized the first Latino rally at North West Hall in Humboldt Park to support Harold Washington for mayor.They together with the Mayor's Office of Special Events also organized the first of the official Neighborhood Festivals where there were one hundred thousand Puerto Ricans in attendance who received Young Lords buttons and witnessed Cha-Cha Jimenez introduce the first African - American mayor in Chicago's history.