After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, violence erupted in the black ghetto on Chicago's west side, eventually consuming a 28-block stretch of West Madison Street. Looting and arson took place primarily in the corridor between Roosevelt Road on the south and Chicago Avenue on the north.
The next day Mayor Richard J. Daley imposed a curfew on anyone under age 21, closed streets to automobile traffic and banned the sale of guns, ammunition and flammable materials. About 10,500 police were sent in to protect the firefighters, soon joined by 6,700 Illinois National Guards. After President Lyndon Johnson ordered 5,000 troops into the city, the General in charge declared that no one, including residents, would be allowed to congregate in riot areas. He ordered his troops to use tear gas against looters; Mayor Daley told the Chicago Police to shoot to kill anyone in the act of committing arson, and shoot to maim anyone looting.
It took many days to restore order, though some youth bands continued sporadic looting and burning. There were over 125 fires. Eleven people—all black—were dead and over five hundred were injured. Almost three thousand people were arrested. Many buildings were burned to the ground; others were damaged so badly they had to be taken down before they collapsed. The 210 buildings affected were worth roughly $10 million. Power lines and telephone lines were knocked out. At least a thousand people were left homeless.
The destruction was concentrated on the west side, though there was some in the south side ghetto and the near north side. The south side ghetto escaped the devastation that plagued the west side primarily because two large and well-organized street gangs, the Blackstone Rangers and the East Side Disciples, co-operated in controlling their own neighborhoods. Their leaders did not want to see them ravaged and ruined.