A riot, according to Webster, is "wanton or unrestrained behavior, uproar, tumult." No doubt there was plenty of that in Los Angeles in the four or five days beginning August 11, 1965. But to use the term riot to describe the entirety of what happened, as the press has generally done, is to point away from the direction in which the meaning of these events must be sought. For what is of crucial importance is not the wanton or unrestrained behavior of the residents of the Watts district, however much or little of it there may have been, but the clearly defined patterns which their acts traced out. These patterns reveal underlying causes and motives and foreshadow the shape of things to come.
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