Remembering a Dark Chapter: LA's Effort
to Condemn the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots

June 9, 2023  |   By LRS Staff

On Friday, the City Council will discuss a resolution addressing the tragic events of the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, a period marred by violence and targeted assaults on the Mexican American community, representing a somber chapter in the history of Los Angeles.

Included in this resolution is a sincere apology for the mistreatment endured by Mexican Americans during the racial unrest that unfolded eight decades ago. Councilman Kevin de León will introduce the resolution during Friday’s City Council meeting, coinciding with the conclusion of Zoot Suit Heritage Week.

The unrest commenced on May 31, 1943, when a clash erupted between a group of servicemen and Mexican American youths dressed in zoot suits in downtown Los Angeles. Over the next three days, the violence intensified, leading to a series of attacks against the Mexican American community, specifically targeting Boyle Heights and resulting in the injury of over 50 individuals and the arrest of more than 500 Mexican Americans.


During the riots, the assailants forcefully stripped the victims of their zoot suits, burning their clothing. Subsequently, U.S. servicemen were prohibited from entering the area, and although the council at the time supported a resolution to ban zoot suits in the city, it was never enacted as law.

The Zoot Suit Riots gained recognition through a Broadway play in the 1970s, later adapted into a film featuring Edward James Olmos in 1981.

In May, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also passed a motion to denounce the Zoot Suit Riots, further acknowledging the significance of this troubling episode.