‘A gang is an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously and then integrated through conflict.’ In the 50’s and 60’s police brutality in Los Angeles was directed against the African American populations. Young black males were routinely harassed. Thousands would be rounded up taken to the police stations, mug shotted, fingerprinted and then made to wait till their families picked them up. All this for no crime other than the colour of their skin. Once mug shotted these young men were officially on the police records and became virtually unemployable.
They were young, male, innocent but had no future to look forward to. Poverty and unemployment was to be their destiny. The atmosphere was perfect for the development of gangs. Gangs would become everything for these beleaguered youngsters – their family, their college, their religion, their everything. Gangs would be their haven in a world dominated by the most lethal legal gang – the Los Angeles Police Department.
In 1969, Raymond Washington a high school student founded CRIP – Community Resources for Independent People. The group was formed as a response to police harassment of the black community. It was styled after the Black Panthers that had been started 3 years previously in Oakland, by Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale, with the mission statement of protecting and serving the community.
Unfortunately the LAPD feared these groups and instead of seeking dialogue and reconciliation went after the leaders. They harassed, imprisoned and even murdered the leaders, leaving behind the group without a visionary.
By 1971, two million blacks were being arrested and harassed at police stations every year. In this atmosphere the Crips movement began to grow. The East side Crips was the original group founded at Fremont High School. The West side Crips was started on the other side of the Highway. Within ten years the CRIPs had grown into a massive organization with membership across California. There was no central leadership and small CRIPs groups became very powerful. They started terrorising the neighbourhoods. They turned into gang bangers, harassing the people they had set out to protect. Their main activity became extortion of non-gang members, theft and assault. Rivalry was intense and Raymond Washington was murdered in 1979.
As the CRIPs became more powerful and more violent, the Bloods emerged in the 70’s to counteract the CRIPs. As with the CRIPs the original purpose was to protect themselves from the violent intimidation of CRIPs, the Bloods became the very monster that they wanted to fight. Smaller gangs with a grudge against the Crips all rallied around Sylvester Scott and Vincent Owens, the founders of the Bloods. Soon the Bloods had become the most violent and unlawful of all the African American gangs in Los Angeles. Merciless violent behaviours became the signature of the Bloods.
Soon various factions of CRIPs and Bloods were claiming portions of Los Angeles as their own. Gang member started adopting mannerisms and behaviours that would make them immediately identifiable. The CRIPs always wore an article of blue clothing. Blue is the colour of the High School were the group was first formed. The gang members refer to each other as Cuzz or Blood Killa (BK). They wear athletic shoes branded British Knight (BK). They replace c with b in conversation and in writing so that coffee becomes boffee.
The Bloods wear red the colour of the Centennial High School where they first started. They call their fellow members Blood or Yo Blood or Wuz up Blood. In disrespect for the CRIPs the Bloods always cross out the letter c.
By the 1980’s there was so much money to be made in dealing cocaine that both gangs turned their attention to dealing in crack cocaine distribution. Their influence spread to the East Coast, where the local gangs joined up with either the CRIPs or the Bloods.
The gangs now distribute crack cocaine in 33 states and in 123 cities across the United States. New York City is just one of the American cities where the two gangs rule the streets.