A Chinese Massacre In 1871 Los Angeles

From David Kipen’s new book, Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018:

Frank Lecouvreur writes:

October 24, 1871:

There has been a Chinese massacre this month, a most disgraceful affair, the like of which is fortunately not on American records. Some members of different Chinese secret societies fought over the possession of a woman. The first battle took place in Negro Alley, but notwithstanding that several shots had been fired, nobody seemed seriously hurt. A few Celestials were taken to jail in consequence. The disturbance was thought to have ended and the jailbirds were taken the next day before the police court for preliminary hearing, at which large numbers of Chinatown were present.

No sooner had the court set the day for trial than the Mongolians repaired to their own quarters, where a new fight ensued, which soon attracted a multitude of Mexicans and Americans from that vicinity, some of whom were speedily mixed up in the fight. The heathens fought desperately and an officer, Robert Thompson, who attempted to quell the riot, was killed and his deputy, Bilderain, was wounded, which naturally roused the boundless anger of the white mob that now surrounded the Chinese dens demanding the blood of the murderers of an American official who had done his duty as a peace officer. One of the heathens ventured into the street and was at once caught by his pursuers, taken about four squares and hanged to the doorway of a corral amid the abjurations of the enraged spectators. Having tasted the blood of the almond-eyed stranger, the combined mob of Americans and Spaniards now largely reinforced, began the real massacre.

As the beleaguered heathen had barricaded doors and windows, a crowd of hoodlums in desperate frenzy climbed upon the roofs, broke holes through and shot the inmates, males, females, young and old, regardless as to their guilt or innocence. The object was one of vengeance on the cold-blooded murderers of an American citizen.

It may seem amazing that so-called civilized communities should have to witness the frenzied destruction of nearly a score of human lives, even though the provocation was very great. When quiet was restored, there were eighteen bodies found dangling in mid air, some from window casings, some from lamp posts, while one or two had actually been tied to the seat of farm wagons and others to awnings, among these the body of a child!

Though quite a number of arrests had been made, few actual convictions followed and the sentences covered but a few years of imprisonment, while the City of Angels will never be able to erase this dark page from her chronicles. How strangely human justice is sometimes meted out in this free countrv of ours!

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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