Case Study on the Riots in Kentucky After a Basketball Game in Comparison to the 1968 Riot in Chicago


The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action that occurred in the United States. In 1968 in Chicago, Illinois a riot broke on the west side following the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior. In 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky a riot broke out after the men’s basketball team lost a game. Both had extremely different pre-conditions, triggers, and responses. These two examples of riots show how riots can be caused by any group of people and for any reason. The pre-conditions were very different.



The pre-conditions of the 1968 riots were mainly based on race. There were tensions because the ghetto population’s density was greatly expanding, bringing many blacks into Chicago. Due to these tensions, Martin Luther King decided to focus on Chicago to bring political change. The black people in Chicago were especially fond of King because of this reason. There were many tensions between King and Daley, though, so these tensions were never truly resolved. This situation in Kentucky was much different

The pre-conditions before the Kentucky riot was much different. The year prior, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team had lost in the NCAA championship. Riots broke out that year, causing students to burn at least 17 couches, leaving 18 injured, and 7 arrested. The police used tear gas to control the crowd and get everyone to leave. As you can tell, the pre-conditions from these 2 riots greatly differed and so did their triggers.


Trigger and Responses

The trigger of the 1968 riot in Chicago was the assassination of MLK. This especially impacted the high schoolers and younger residents of Chicago. The way the city responded to this did not go well. The National Guard was immediately called in because it was mainly black people rioting, which made the environment very militaristic. Also, Chicago high schools where mainly black students attended were shut down. A curfew was set to keep young residents from rioting through the night. This made it so that the residents could not voice their feelings on the situation and also targeted the young black residents as the problem.

Similarly, the riots in Kentucky were started by younger people, but for very different reasons. The start of this riot, like the year before, was because the men’s basketball team once again lost in the NCAA championship. Lawn chairs, shirts, and other items were burned all over the streets of Lexington. Many students were injured by having bottles thrown at them and some were burned. The police responded by going through the crowds with riot gear and protective shields and arrested 31 students. According to an article on Daily Kos, “fortunately for the students involved in this repeated riot it is unlikely to result in an increase in militarized police force at their doorsteps or set curfews”. This was shocking to read, as those were the first steps in the 1968 riot in Chicago.



From what I have mentioned, it is evident that these are 2 very different examples of riots. The riot in Chicago had an important underlying cause. I guess if someone is a huge basketball fan they could argue that the Kentucky riot had an important underlying cause, but most would disagree. Both of these riots had a very different demographic group participating in it. In Chicago, mostly black, and in Kentucky, mostly white. The title of an article on Daily Kos said, “Riots, Looting & Fires Break out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” By comparing these two riots, this title seems very relevant. In Kentucky, calling the National Guard and setting up a curfew was never an option while it was the first response in Chicago.

The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action leading to riots. The 1968 riot in Chicago after the assassination and the riot in Kentucky after losing a basketball game show how different riots can be and how the pre-conditions, triggers, and responses also vary. These examples show how differently cases are dealt with depending on who is involved and why.


Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

Bailik, Carl. “The Latest Kentucky Riot Is Part Of A Long, Destructive Sports Tradition.” DataLab. FiveThirtyEightSports, 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Press, Associated. “31 Rioting Kentucky Fans Arrested after Fights, Fires.” New York Post. New York Post, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Reeves, Chris. “Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.Daily Kos, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

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