Zoot Suit RiotsThe Zoot Suit Riots were a series of riots that erupted in Los Angeles, California during World War II, between sailors and soldiers stationed in the city and Mexican American pachucos (youth gangs), recognized because of the zoot suits they favored.
The riots began in the racially charged atmosphere of Los Angeles, where the sailors, soldiers and marines returning from the war, had already come into conflict with the local Mexican zoot suiters. On June 3, 1943, a group of servicemen on leave complained that they had been assaulted by a gang of pachucos. In response, they gathered together and headed out to downtown and East Los Angeles, which was the center of the Mexican community. Once there, they attacked all the men they found wearing zoot suits, often ripping their clothing off them. In many instances, the police intervened by arresting pachucos for disturbing the peace. Several hundred pachucos and nine sailors were arrested as a result of the fighting that occurred over the next few days.
The government finally intervened on June 7, by declaring that Los Angeles would henceforth be off-limits to all military personnel. In response to the riots Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her weekly column about the problems faced by the Mexican American community as a result of racism in the United States.