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Martinez / Santos Rodriguez and Dallas Riot

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Interviewer: We have primarily dealt with education, but in terms of some of the areas impacted, impacting citizens that usually fall under Civil Rights, housing, criminal justice, employment and so forth. Could you talk about how the Civil Rights movement has impacted Hispanics and African Americans particularly and do you see any improvements in those areas that still need to be made? Martinez: Well the other key area's been basically law enforcement, criminal justice system. I also cut my, I cut my teeth in the community relations commission dealing with the police issues. Forget about education, in the early 70's Dallas was a very volatile city as it related to police and their treatment of Hispanics and especially African Americans. There's some very very high profile shootings, Michael Morehead, Santos Rodriguez, that took place in the early 70's. Whether the police, and there was very few African American police on the force, Donald Stafford was one of the first high ranking deputy chiefs, and he was about the only one, there was no high ranking Hispanics on the police force, in fact there was very few Hispanics on the police force, so the whole notion that the police force, the perception within the Black community and Hispanic community was that it was an open season on Blacks and Hispanics. And so there was very very serious cases of shootings, and killings, during that period. Santos Rodriguez was the one that I was very involved with because it had happened three blocks from my mother's house, and I also was the organizer of one of the marches that later became a riot. And I wasn't a part of the riot but I was the organizer of the event and it turned into a riot in downtown Dallas. And this was where a child, Santos Rodriguez, was killed by policemen, in a squad car, as he was playing Russian roulette in interrogating a twelve year old about a break in into a coke machine. And the march that took place was not just Hispanics, the march was African Americans and white and Hispanics marching downtown Dallas. 5,000 people on a hot July summer afternoon. And it later turned into a riot because of the tension that existed. And I say that it was a lot of hatred and passion and, when right as the riot began to explode and the crowd started attacking police cars and motorcycles, I saw an elderly Hispanic woman coming up to a squad car, and I'd been out in the crowd trying to tell people to, to restrain from attacking people and restrain from breaking into the stores and the Neiman's and Titche's, and I saw this elderly Hispanic woman walk up to a squad car that had been smashed, and she had a newspaper wrapped up in her hand, and she started hitting the squad car. And no one around. And she just kept hitting it it and hitting it and hitting it. And I thought to myself, 'that woman has a lot of frustration, a lot of hatred, and she's been through a lot, not just that day but probably throughout her life, and she's taking it out on a symbol.' And that symbol, of course, was the police car. So I knew at that time I had to leave downtown because the riot was out of hand and the police had to come in.

Interview Interview with Rene Martinez
Subjects Race Relations › Black-Brown Race Relations
Police and Law Enforcement › Police Brutality
Police and Law Enforcement › Black Employment in Law Enforcement
Police and Law Enforcement › Latino/a Employment in Law Enforcement
Police and Law Enforcement › Community Relations and Law Enforcement
Direct Action › Marches
Direct Action › Picket lines
People › Chavez, Cesar
Family › Parents
Tags Rodriguez, Santos
Safford, Donald
Morehead, Michael
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Interview date 2011-09-07
Interview source Documenting the History of the Civil Rights Movement in Dallas County
Interviewees Martinez, Rene
Interviewers Dulaney, W. Marvin
Thomas, Alfred
Duration 00:03:57
Citation "Santos Rodriguez and Dallas Riot," from Rene Martinez oral history interview with W. Marvin Dulaney and Alfred Thomas,  September 07, 2011, Dallas, TX, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database,, accessed December 11, 2023