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'80 Miami riot: slow fuse, but --

The riot that broke out a year ago in Miami's Liberty City section differed dramatically from the racial disturbances of the 1960s, according to a study conducted for the Ford Foundation.

The New York Times says a 48-page preliminary report called the antiwhite violence "unprecedented in this century."

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According to the Times, the report says the way the Liberty City riot started and the way it progressed were also different from the riots in Watts and Newark during the '60s; and the rioters themselves came from a more law-abiding and representative group of residents than those who participated in the earlier racial disturbances.

In the 1960s, riots began with some incident -- usually a police arrest or the shooting or beating of a black person -- then developed into a verbal confrontation between blacks and the police. This was followed by a rock-throwing phase, and finally by looting, burning, and killing.

But the precipitating incident in the Miami riot, the killing of Arthur McDuffie, had occurred five months before, and "blacks in Miami seemed willing to give the criminal justice system an opportunity to apply itself" by not taking to the streets. When violence did errupt, the report says, it was too late to stop, "short of a massive siege."

Another major difference was the attitude of the participants. In the '60s riots, the study said, the beatings and killing of whites by blacks occurred "as a byproduct of the disorder, not as its sole object." But in Miami, although "probably as many blacks saved whites from harm as did the harming," the crucial factor was "not in the numbers but in the general air of approval that pervaded the scenes of violence."

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