Today April 4, 2010 marks the 42d anniversary of the DC 68 riot,at which time,as previously mentioned my drug store,Smith’s Pharmacy, 2518 14th Street,N.W. was burned down.
While the destruction of my pharmacy occurred a long time ago, many memories still linger,the most important of which is that the many merchants whose businesses were destroyed had nothing to do with the sudden assassination of Doctor King, and insurance in the majority of cases, did not compensate merchants for their losses.
I invite everyone viewing this blog, to hit the link Evening Star,that expressed my feelings in a letter to that paper,and continue to scroll down.A letter to the Washington Times indicated that riot victims in another area would not be compensated for loss of good will,the livelihood value of a business. If you continue to scroll down ,you can view a letter addressed to Mayor Walter Washington, on May 10 ,1968 by John Hechinger,Chairman, of the DC Council ,stating to Mayor Washington, that one of the many suggestions made was “That businessmen and individuals be reimbursed for uninsured losses, including the loss of goodwill.” To my knowledge, the then Mayor never responded to this important suggestion .I received some insurance coverage for loss of inventory,fixtures, and business interuption, but not enough to compensate me for my loss of a profitible drug store.
A report issued by the National Archives, Washington,D.C. reported 1403 properties damaged and confirmed that 1634 businesses were damaged or lost. One half of the total damage in dollar value was on 14th Street,N.W.
Weeks after the riot was over, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia conducted a series of closed nightime interviews with police officers,and firemen,many of whom were critical of the way the riot had been quelled. He made available 1418 pages of testimony. Senator Byrd’s report in a Congressional Senate Record dated October 10, 1968 include the following statements: “The people interviewed told a story of fear and frustration and anger. It is a story of a breakdown in police protection,and a giving way to street hoodlums and thugs. ” The issue of law and order is the foremost domestic issue in the nation today. Shortly after the April riots, I characterized our nation’s capital as a city of fear.”I believe in equal opportunity for all citizens. I believe in equal protection under the law for all citizens, but I also believe in equal responsibility and accountability under the law. Justice can be little more than a meaningless word without an orderly society”
Senator Byrd’s meaningful words can still apply to the occasional crime in our nation’s capital today which does not appear to cease.
I hope that riots never occur again in our country,but feel that police and all enforcement personnel should never cease to be prepared for any civil disturbances, or riots that can occur at any time.
I thank the DC Cultural Tourism organization that installs permanent historical-photo signs throughout the Washington,D.C. neighborhoods, for installing a photo and history sign of my pharmacy,directly across the street, from its former location at 2518 14th Street,N.W.
All the retail businesses formerly located on my block, have been demolished. The remaining structure is a Boys and Girls club.
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