Proposition 187 is approved in California

Year
1994
Month Day
November 08

On November 8, 1994, 59 percent of California voters approve Proposition 187, banning undocumented immigrants from using the state’s major public services. Despite its wide margin of victory, the ballot measure never takes effect.

In 1994, California, the home of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, was not yet the Democratic stronghold many now consider it to be. A popular destination for immigrants from both Latin America and Asia, its demographics changed dramatically in the second half of the century, but neither Republicans nor Democrats won a decisive share of these newcomers’ votes. That would change after a group of Republican activists and state-level legislators, responding to the state’s economic slump and the presence of over a million undocumented immigrants, decided to launch the campaign for what became Prop 187. In the name of saving taxpayer money, the proposition prohibited the undocumented from accessing basic public services such as non-emergency health care and both primary and secondary education. It also required public servants like medical professionals and teachers to monitor and report on the immigration status of those under their charge.

Although public support was high from the start, the threat of barring over a million California residents from basic public services stirred up vocal opposition. As Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s campaign used the threat of immigration in an attempt to scare voters, 70,000 people marched against 187 in downtown Los Angeles, and 10,000 public school students walked out of class on November 2, just days before the vote. The measure’s passage on November 8 was an entirely symbolic and short-lived victory for conservatives.

Within a week, a legal challenge had prevented the new law from taking effect—it was held up in the appeals process until 1999, when a Democratic governor dropped the state’s appeal. Studies have since shown that Proposition 187 played a key role in galvanizing immigrants’ rights activists and pushing Latinx and Asian voters away from the California Republican Party. Over the next decade, 66 percent of newly-registered California voters were Latinx and another 23 percent were Asian. In the same period, Republicans went from holding roughly half of elected offices in the state to less than a quarter. California has since formally repealed Prop 187 and enacted some of the United States’ most sweeping protections for the undocumented.

READ MORE: US Immigration Timeline

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Off-duty police officer mistakenly enters neighbor’s apartment and shoots its owner to death

Year
2018
Month Day
September 06

On September 6, 2018 an off-duty Dallas police officer fatally shoots an unarmed Black man in the victim’s own apartment. 

Returning to her apartment complex in Dallas, Texas, police officer Amber Guyger entered the apartment of Botham Jean, believing it to be her own. The apartment door was ajar, she later testified, and when she entered she found a man inside. She fired her weapon, killing him.

Guyger was not arrested until three days later and was originally charged with manslaughter, rousing the anger of the public. She was eventually charged with murder. 

Guyger claimed that exhaustion after a 13-hour shift caused her to mistakenly climb an extra flight of stairs and enter the wrong apartment, where she became frightened when she saw the silhouette of what she believed to be a burglar in what she believed to be her home. She also claimed that told him to raise his hands and that he began to move toward her before she shot him in the chest. 

Prosecutors, however, argued that Guyger could hardly have confused a different door with a different doormat on a different level of the complex for her own, that Jean’s behavior—he was sitting on the couch eating ice cream—bore no resemblance to that of a burglar, and that Guyger broke police protocol by entering the apartment and firing her gun rather than calling for backup from the nearby police station.

Despite the judge’s decision to allow the jury to consider the “castle doctrine,” a Texas statute that justifies deadly force in defense of one’s home, the jury found Guyger guilty of murder, a charge she appealed. Guyger was the first Dallas police officer to be convicted of murder since 1973. 

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Thousands of Mexican-American antiwar activists march in Chicano Moratorium

Year
1970
Month Day
August 29

On August 29, 1970, more than 20,000 Mexican-Americans march through East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War. The Chicano Moratorium, as this massive protest was known, was peaceful until the Los Angeles Police entered Laguna Park, sparking violence and rioting that led to three deaths. The Chicano Moratorium is now remembered both as the tragic end of one stage of Chicano activism and as a moment that galvanized and inspired a new generation of activists.

READ MORE: The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America

The march was planned as an entirely peaceful demonstration in support of peace and in protest of the Vietnam War, which claimed Latino lives at a disproportionately high rate. As demonstrators assembled in the park, the owner of a nearby liquor store called the police on some Chicano customers in the fear that they might begin shoplifting. When the LAPD responded, it assumed the protest had led to looting, and before long the police were storming the park with tear gas. Three people died and hundreds were arrested as riots spread throughout East LA. 

Among the dead was Ruben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist often referred to as the voice of the local Chicano community; he was hit on the head with an LAPD tear gas canister. Salazar’s death, in particular, sparked outrage, and many believe that the police or the FBI, whose agents were present for the march, used the chaos as cover for the assassination of a prominent voice of dissent.

Many viewed the violence and Salazar’s death as a loss of innocence for the Chicano movement. For many, however, it was the beginning of a lifetime of activism and a moment that would forever encapsulate the community’s struggle for racial equality. Many prominent Chicano artists, activists and politicians were present at the rally. The former Laguna Park is now called Ruben F. Salazar Park.

READ MORE: Vietnam War Protests 

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded

Year
1980
Month Day
August 21

On August 21, 1980, animal rights advocates Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Rising from humble beginnings, PETA will soon become the world’s foremost and most controversial animal rights organization.

Newkirk’s interest in protecting animals began 11 years prior, when she found some abandoned kittens and was appalled by the conditions that awaited them at a New York City animal shelter. She set aside her plans to become a stockbroker and instead focused on animals, eventually becoming the first female poundmaster in the history of the District of Columbia. In 1980 she began dating Pacheco, a graduate student and activist who had sailed aboard a whale-protection ship, and the two co-founded PETA a short time later. 

PETA’s first major campaign came the following year, when Pacheco got a job at a research facility in Silver Spring, Maryland in order to expose the experiments being conducted on monkeys there. PETA distributed photos of the monkeys being kept in horrific conditions, leading to a police raid and, eventually, the first-ever conviction of a researcher on animal-cruelty charges.

Having made a national name for itself, PETA continued to shine a spotlight on animal cruelty. PETA continued to conduct undercover operations and file lawsuits on behalf of animals, but is is perhaps best known for its marketing campaigns and stunts. An early-’90s ad campaign depicted bloody scenes from slaughterhouses with captions like “Do you want fries with that?” while another ad series featured a number of naked celebrities in protest of the fur industry. PETA activists have been known to wear elaborate costumes, body paint, or nothing at all to draw attention to their causes, and to throw red paint symbolizing blood on people wearing fur. 

PETA has been criticized from all sides—many believe them to be extremists and find their methods distasteful, while other activists criticize PETA’s willingness to work with corporations in industries like fast food or fashion to make incremental improvements to animal welfare. Still others within the animal rights movement argue that PETA plays an outsized role, focusing attention on media controversies instead of concrete changes.

Nonetheless, PETA has achieved a litany of animal-rights reforms: convincing some of the world’s largest fashion brands not to use fur, animal-testing bans by more than 4,6000 personal-care companies, ending the use of animals in automobile crash tests, closing the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and exposing thousands of instances of animal cruelty across the world are just a few of the organization’s accomplishments.

READ MORE: 5 Animals That Helped Change History 

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Michael Brown is killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri

Year
2014
Month Day
August 09

On August 9, 2014, police officer Darren Wilson shoots and kills Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in the street of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests and riots ensue in Ferguson and soon spread across the country.

There are many different accounts of the incident, including the testimonies of Wilson and of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time. Many details differ, but most accounts agree that Wilson saw Brown and Johnson walking in the street, demanded they get on the sidewalk, then stopped his police SUV in front of them in order to confront them. He and Brown had an altercation through the open window of the car, during which Wilson fired twice. Brown and Johnson tried to leave, Wilson exited his car to pursue them, and at some point Brown turned back around to face Wilson, who then fired 12 shots, six of which hit Brown. Wilson claimed he fired in self-defense as Brown charged him, which Johnson denied. Many have claimed that Wilson warned Brown he would open fire, and that Brown responded with “Don’t shoot!” before he was killed.

The community immediately reacted with rage at the news of 18-year-old Brown’s death. The shooting ignited long-simmering tensions between the majority-Black population of Ferguson and the local police, who were mostly white. Though public opinion was sharply divided, the protests and riots and the response by Ferguson’s heavily militarized police demonstrated the extent to which the relationship between racial minorities in America and the police had frayed. 

Brown’s name, the phrase “Hands up, don’t shoot” and the very mention of Ferguson quickly entered the lexicon of the growing Black Lives Matter movement. 

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5-day long Russo-Georgian War begins

Year
2008
Month Day
August 08

On August 8, 2008, a long-simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia boiled over into a shooting war between the small Caucasian nation and the superpower of which it was once a part. The brief Russo-Georgian War was the most violent episode in a conflict that began more than a decade before.

Georgia declared independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the latter was breaking up in 1991. A short time later, pro-Russian separatists took control of two regions composing a combined 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A stalemate ensued. In 2008, American President George W. Bush announced his support for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a move that Russia viewed as tantamount to putting a hostile military on its borders. Relations between Russia and Georgia had already been tense, with the aggressive Vladimir Putin in power in Russia and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declaring his intent to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian control.

After accusations of aggression from both sides throughout the spring and summer, South Ossetian troops violated the ceasefire by shelling Georgian villages on August 1. Sporadic fighting and shelling ensued over the coming days, until Saakashvili declared a ceasefire on August 7. Just before midnight, seeing that the separatists would not, in fact, cease firing, Georgia’s military launched an attack on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Russian troops had already entered South Ossetia—illegally—and responded quickly to the Georgian attack. As Georgian troops seized Tskhinvali, the fighting spilled over into Abkhazia. The initial Georgian advance was repulsed, however, and within a few days Russia seized most of the disputed territory and was advancing into Georgia proper. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the early hours of August 13.

In the aftermath of the war, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Russia subsequently occupied them, in violation of the ceasefire. Russia conducted a similar maneuver in Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimean Peninsula and backing separatists in the west of the country. The Russo-Georgian War displaced an estimated 192,000 people, many of whom fled ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the separatist territories.

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Dayton, Ohio shooting becomes second mass shooting in 24-hour period

Year
2019
Month Day
August 04

A mass shooting takes place early in the morning in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, 2019. The killing of nine people and the injuries of 27 was significant in its own right, but this mass shooting was particularly notable for being America’s second in less than 24 hours. Just one day before, a shooter opened fire at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring 24. 

The Dayton shooting, the prior shooting in El Paso, and the nation’s shock at seeing two such events in such close proximity renewed calls for gun control in the United States, but ultimately the double massacres did not bring about such changes.

The Ohio gunman had been aware of the El Paso shooting, in which a white nationalist believed to be targeting Latinos attacked a crowded Wal-Mart. The Ohio shooter had liked social media posts calling the Texas shooter a white supremacist and calling for gun control, but an investigation later revealed that he had harbored violent tendencies for years and been disciplined in high school for planning a mass shooting. 

He was seen leaving a bar in the Oregon Historic District of Dayton roughly 12 hours after the El Paso shooting, but returned less than an hour later, around 1 am, and opened fire on the crowd with a modified AR-15. Police who had already been on the scene killed him within 32 seconds of his first shot. Authorities later confirmed that the police had also shot two people, and that the gunman’s sister was among the dead.

Mass shootings were nothing new in the United States. Nonetheless, the back-to-back massacres managed to shock the nation, renewing calls for gun control and momentarily bringing the nascent Democratic presidential primary race to a halt. 

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Operation Tidal Wave: U.S. forces attempt risky air raid on Axis oil refineries

Year
1943
Month Day
August 01

On August 1, 1943, 177 B-24 bombers take off from an Allied base in Libya, bound for the oil-producing city Ploiești, Romania, nicknamed “Hitler’s gas station.” The daring raid, known as Operation Tidal Wave, resulted in five men being awarded the Medal of Honor—three of them posthumously—but failed to strike the fatal blow its planners had intended.

Operation Tidal Wave began ominously, with an overloaded bomber crashing shortly after takeoff and another plunging into the Adriatic Sea. 167 of the original 177 bombers made it to Ploiești, whose oil fields and refineries provided the Germans with over 8.5 million tons of oil per year. Whereas most Allied bombing in World War II was carried out from a high altitude, the bombers that raided Ploiești flew exceptionally low in order to evade the Germans’ radar. The bombers lost the element of surprise, however, when one group veered off on the wrong direction, forcing the others to break radio silence in order to direct them back on course. This unplanned adjustment also led to the bombers approaching from the south, where the Nazis had concentrated their anti-aircraft batteries.

READ MORE: One of the Most Daring WWII Air Raids Targeted Hitler’s Critical ‘Gas Station’

The ensuing attack was dramatic, chaotic and costly. The Allies suffered heavy casualties, and smoke from the explosions caused by the first wave of bombers made visibility difficult for subsequent waves. Survivors reported debris like branches and barbed wire hitting and even ending up on the inside of their planes. Lt. Col. Addison Baker and Maj. John Jerstad were awarded the Medal of Honor for their (unsuccessful) attempt to fly higher and allow the crew to bail of our their badly damaged plane. Another pilot, Lt. Lloyd Herbert Hughes, also received a posthumous Medal of Honor for flying his critically-damaged B-24 into its target. Col. John Kane and Col. Leon Johnson, who each led bombing groups that reached their targets, were the only men who won the Medal of Honor and survived the raid.

Although the Allies estimated that the raid had reduced Ploiești’s capacity by 40 percent, the damage was quickly repaired and within months the refineries had outstripped their previous capacity. The region continued to serve as “Hitler’s gas station” until the Soviet Union captured it in August of 1944. 310 airmen died, 108 were captured and another 78 were interned in neighboring Turkey. 88 of the original 177 B-24s returned, most of them seriously damaged. Despite setting the record for most Medals of Honor awarded to airmen in a single mission, Operation Tidal wave was never repeated—the Allies never again attempted a low-altitude assault against German air defenses.

READ MORE: Meet the Night Witches, the Daring Female Pilots Who Bombed Nazis By Night

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President Truman ends discrimination in the military

Year
1948
Month Day
July 26

President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9981—ending discrimination in the military—on July 26, 1948. Truman’s order ended a long-standing practice of segregating Black soldiers and relegating them to more menial jobs.

African Americans had been serving in the United States military since the Revolutionary War, but were deployed in their largest numbers during World War II. By December 31, 1945, more than 2.5 million African Americans had registered for the military draft, and with African American women volunteering in large numbers throughout the war the U.S. Armed Forces had become the number one employer of Black people. By the time WWII ended, some 900,000 African Americans had served in the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army Nurse Corps.

Black WWII veterans were eligible for a free college education under the Servicemen Readjustment Act of 1944—the GI Bill—as well as other benefits, but most faced discrimination when trying to access their benefits. This led many veterans to re-examine their poor treatment while they were in service.

READ MORE: How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans

After witnessing racism in the service, Grant Reynolds resigned from his commission as a WWII chaplain and joined with the activist A. Philip Randolph to co-chair the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training. By composing letters and telegrams, holding protest rallies and hearings, and threatening to conduct a nationwide draft resistance campaign, the Committee worked with groups like the Committee to End Segregation in the Armed Forces and the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation to demand equal treatment for Black people in the United States Armed Forces.

READ MORE: When Black Nurses Were Relegated to Care for German POWs

The pressure from these groups pushed President Truman to establish a Commission on Civil Rights which, in October 1947, issued a report calling for a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, federal anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, and a bolstering of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Truman urged the U.S. Congress to move forward with the Commission’s recommendations. When Congress rejected his pleas, Truman pushed for many of the proposals on his own. One of his most significant actions was the signing of Executive Order 9981, which states: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

READ MORE: Black History Milestones: A Timeline

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law

Year
1990
Month Day
July 26

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most sweeping affirmation of rights for the disabled in American history at the time, into law.

As disability rights attorney Arlene Mayerson would later write, the story of the ADA began “when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them from their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children.” Activists explicitly compared their struggle to the Civil Rights movement, arguing that without federal requirements in place, the disabled faced discrimination both as patrons of public spaces and businesses and in seeking employment. In 1986, the National Council on Disability, an independent government agency, issued a report that reached the same conclusion, highlighting the many gaps in federal law that made full participation in society and equal opportunities for employment impossible for many disabled Americans.

Thanks largely to the lobbying efforts of Patrisha Wright, cofounder of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, federal legislation similar to a version of the Civil Rights Act for the disabled gained support in the late 80s. The eventual bill, the ADA, covered a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. The bulk of the act provides legal recourse against employers who discriminate against the disabled and set standards of access to public buildings and public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.). It also established federal laws regarding service animals, among other things. 

In March of 1990, a group of disability rights activists staged the Capitol Crawl, in which disabled people pulled themselves up all 100 steps of the Capitol building in order to highlight the nation’s lack of accessibility. Despite pressure from some church groups, who felt the ADA unfairly burdened them, the bill passed the House by unanimous voice vote and the Senate 76-6, paving the way for its signing on July 26 by President Bush, who said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

READ MORE: When the ‘Capitol Crawl’ Dramatized the Need for Americans with Disabilities Act

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