Rena Price, Whose Arrest Sparked Watts Riots, Dies

Watts rioters in the street, 1965 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Watts rioters in the street, 1965 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Rena Price, a South Los Angeles woman whose arrest with her son, Marquette Frye, ignited the Watts Riots, has died. She was 97, according the Los Angeles Times. On August 11, 1965, Price went to check on Frye, who'd been pulled over by police on Avalon Boulevard in South Los Angeles, and a fight between the police, Price and Frye occured. The two were arrested, and the Watts Riots followed. 

Her son, according to the arresting officer, had failed a series of sobriety tests but had been good-humored and cooperative until she arrived. Accounts vary on what set off the ensuing scuffle, but a patrolman hit Frye on the head with a baton and his mother jumped on another officer, tearing his shirt.

With a growing crowd bearing unhappy witness, Price, Frye and his brother Ronald, a passenger in the car, were handcuffed and taken to jail.

Their arrests on Aug. 11, 1965, ignited the Watts riots – six turbulent days that left 34 dead, thousands injured and millions of dollars in property damaged or destroyed.

"I didn't know about any of the rioting until my daughter came and got me out of jail at 7 the next morning," Price told The Times on the 40th anniversary of the riots in 2005. "I was surprised. I had never heard of a riot. There were never any riots before. I went back to my house. Where else was I going to go?"

Read more at the Los Angeles Times. 

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