1968 April 11

Congress Passes Anti-Riot Act


The Anti-Riot Act was a response to the urban riots of 1964–1967, which some people saw as being instigated by radicals who did not live in the local communities where particular riots actually occurred (“outside agitators,” in one of the common labels of the time). The law was actually one section of the 1968 Civil Rights Act that included both the federal Fair Housing Act, outlawing housing discrimination based on race, and the Indian Civil Rights Act (see the other events on this day).

The Anti-Riot Act is sometimes known as the “Rap Brown Law,” after the SNCC leader who some believed had incited disturbances in a number of incidents. The law was most famously used to prosecute leaders of demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (see August 28, 1968). Members of the “Chicago Seven” were convicted of violating the law on February 18, 1970, but had their convictions overturned on appeal.

The law: “a) (1) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility of interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including, but not limited to, the mail, telegraph, telephone, radio, or television, with intent – (A) to incite a riot; or (B) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot; or (C) to commit any act of violence in furtherance of a riot; or (D) to aid or abet any person in inciting or participating in or carrying on a riot or committing any act of violence in furtherance of a riot. . . . ”

Watch newsreel footage of the 1968 demonstrations in Chicago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_9OJnRnZjU

Watch and interview with H. “Rap” Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izKmQgNmYao

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