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Baltimore mirrors Atlanta's troubled past

Is recent racial unrest in several U.S. cities really similar to riots in the 1960s?  WSB reporters were in the middle of an Atlanta uprising that proves a striking comparison.

The story from Atlanta, 1966 is not dissimilar to those from Ferguson, New York, or South Carolina, more than 45 years later.

It happened in the Summerhill district, a black community south of downtown between the zoo and Turner Field, an area Time magazine labeled "sleazy".

September 6, 1966:  a white police officer shoots a 25-year old black suspected car thief.  An angry crowd gathers at the shooting scene and turns violent; police respond with tear gas and billy clubs.

Rioters overturned a WSB news car neat Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and physically attacked reporter Andy Still. Mayor Ivan Allen raced to the scene and climbing atop a police car, trying to restore calm. Rioters rocked the vehicle so violently the mayor went tumbling off.  Unfazed, the mayor proceeded to plunge into the crowd, refusing a police helmet.  The New York Times quoted him telling the mob "Please go home...this is a good city...help keep it that way and go home."  Nearby, a demonstrator held a sign reading "We want justice.  Help stop police brutality against the black man".

The following day, Mayor Allen went on WSB:   "We did everything we could, and every restraint was shown by the Atlanta Police Department.  I'm very proud of how they handled the whole thing."

But it wasn't over--the rioting lasted four days, leaving one person dead and twenty more injured.  Also considerable property damage.

As in Baltimore and Ferguson, city officials and local black leaders suggested agitators may have incited the violence; in Atlanta's case, "Black Power" activist and organizer Stokely Carmichael, who was in Atlanta and came to the scene, was accused of being the culprit.

Local, more moderate black leaders, helped restore order. Dr. Samuel Williams told WSB, "Our work must be to build the city, not to wreck it."

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