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Police Surveillance Film of White Rock Lake Riot (1977)

Dallas Municipal Archives

Silent | 1977

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  •  White Rock Lake 
  •  Jesse Brin in his yellow 1977 Trans Am in the background 
  •  Kris Kocurek kicking something on ground 
  •  Ed Harris in orange shirt 
  •  Dane Myers in the red 1968 Volkswagen leaving 1977 White Rock Lake Riot 
  •  Rick Burns 
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This surveillance film of the White Rock Lake riot was made to study crowd behavior and police response to civil disturbances, a hot topic in police training by the early 70s. White Rock Lake was one of Dallas’ cruising and hang-out spots for youth during the 1960s and 1970s. Approximately 200 Dallas teens were on the bluff near East Lawther and North Cliff Drive in the late afternoon of March 6, 1977 when several fistfights broke out. About 20 police cars converged on the area and attempted to clear the park. The teens taunted police, clapping and chanting peace slogans, until police dispersed the group. At least nine people were jailed for various offenses.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, March 7, 1977
Melee erupts in Dallas park
One police officer remained hospitalized today following a confrontation Sunday between policemen and several hundred bottle and rock throwing youths at White Rock Lake Park, officials said.
Forty-two persons were arrested during the two hourlong melee that police said was sparked by an officer trying to make an arrest.
Eight persons, including six police officers, were injured during the disturbance, police spokesman Bob Shaw said.
Police Sgt. Kenneth Heard was hit in the head with a rock and was hospitalized after later complaining of chest pains, Shaw said. Others injured were treated at local hospitals and released.
Shaw said the disturbance was "probably the result of youthful exuberance."
Every Sunday when the weather is good, there are lots of cars on the east side of the lake" Shaw said. "Today something went wrong. Before you knew it, it was them versus us."
The area of the park where the disturbance occurred is a favorite spot for young people to gather on warm afternoons to drink beer and toss frisbees.
Officials said the melee began when several young persons on the east side of the lake objected to an arrest made by an officer on the drive that runs alongside the lake in North Dallas.
About 100 police officers responded to help control the crowd and divert traffic from the area, which was jammed with people taking advantage of the warm weather.
Police stopped traffic from entering the drive and began ordering the young people, estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000, to leave the area. A police helicopter hovered over the crowd and broadcasted orders for the crowd to disperse. The park was closed for 2 1/2 hours.
One officer fired a warning shot into the air when he and several other policemen were surrounded and physically attacked by part of the crowd.