On September 27, 1966 a riot broke out in San Francisco's Bayview-Hunters Point, a black neighborhood, when a white police officer shot and killed a seventeen-year-old African American teen, Matthew Johnson, Jr. By the 1960’s, the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhoods were populated predominantly with African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority groups, essentially being isolated from the more desirable San Francisco area. In 1964 and 1965, black neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Harlem, Watts and Cleveland erupted in violence. A new, militant generation of blacks was turning away from nonviolent civil rights organizations and embracing the fiery new ideology of black power.
At 2.30pm on a superhot Sept 27th 1966 night, three African American teenagers were joyriding through Bayview-Hunter’s Point in a stolen 1958 Buick. Allegedly, the car stalled on Griffith Street near Oakdale Avenue just as a police cruiser pulled alongside. At the same time, the three teenagers bolted from the car, Clifton Bacon (15) and Matthew Johnson (16) took off on foot, and Darrell Mobley (14) took cover behind a nearby parked car. A white patrol officer, Alvin Johnson, chased Clifton Bacon and Matthew Johnson in his patrol cruiser. Matthew Johnson was unarmed. As he ran away down a hill in a nearby housing project, the officer fired four (4) shots, one of them hit the child in the heart. Within minutes of being hit, he was dead.
The Mayor flatly refused to address or acknowledge the situation. The buzz amongst the crowd began to hum with suggestions to burn down a local police station. Before long, there was an overturned car burning out on Third Street. In 1966, just as in recent years, by the time the Mayor, Jack Shelley, arrived and promised the crowd gathered near the Bayview Community Center that Officer Alvin Johnson had been suspended, it was too late.
Police rushed to Third Street, closed it to all traffic and marched their way up Third Street to the Community Center, all the while firing shots over the heads of residents and protestors on the street. On television and in the newspapers, people saw the police fire in the Community Center. At the time, more than 200 children were reported to be present inside the building.
When it was all said and done, the riot ended up being an uprising that saw dozens of fires set, a few police officers injured, residents of Hunter’s Point shot, and the deployment of over 2,000 National Guard troops at the behest of then California Governor Edmund Brown.