Favorite

1980 - Crisis at Ft. Chaffee 

Overcrowding and frustration lead to riots by Cuban detainees, and a national spotlight on Arkansas.

The biggest Arkansas story of 1980 - not counting the defeat of up-and-coming Bill Clinton at the hands of Frank White that fall - was undoubtedly the riot of Cuban detainees at Fort Chaffee. Refugees of Castro's infamous Muriel Boatlift, over 19,000 Cubans were detained at Fort Chaffee that spring, making the camp the 11th largest city in the state (Fort Chaffee's history had often seen it used to hold detainees and prisoners, from German POWs during WWII to refugees from the fall of Saigon). Brought to the fort in early May, the Cubans had been promised a quick processing by immigration and medical authorities and then resettlement with their families, many of whom had been separated during the exodus from Cuba. Plagued by bureaucratic setbacks and rumors that Chaffee was full of Cuban criminals released from prison by Fidel Castro, however, camp life ground on for a month, with few Cubans released. Then, on Sunday, June 1, the frustrated detainees rioted, clashing with State Police and National Guard troops, destroying 4 barracks, and turning the eyes of the world on Arkansas for the first time since 1957. Sixty-two refugees were injured - some by gunfire - and 46 others were arrested. As Arkansas Times reporter Bob Plunkett wrote then: "Before El Domingo (Spanish for 'Sunday'), the term used by the refugees to refer to the June 1 riot, Fort Chaffee's only containment barrier was a limp cotton rope draped over a line of sawhorses place around the Cuban housing area." After the riots, Gov.Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter ensured that the lightly fortified camp was turned into a prison, encircled with miles of concertina wire and 2,000 heavily-armed federal troops. It wasn't enough to keep White from triumphing with twin issues of "Cubans and car tags," the latter a hated fee increase. Clinton apologized in 1982, beat White in a re-match and says the first loss was instructive in political victories later.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Readers also liked…

  • The two faces of Mike Huckabee

    Medicaid expander, Obamacare opponent. Man from Hope, mansion in Florida. Child health proponent, Duggar apologist.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Separate and unequal

    Sue Cowan Morris won the battle to equalize pay of black and white teachers. It cost her her job.
    • Jun 11, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Plant of the year

    The legalization of medical marijuana was Arkansas's most significant news of 2016.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Profile of a plant

    What science does and doesn't tell us about the health benefits of cannabis.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Other lights

    Honorable mentions for 2016 Arkansan of the Year, with plenty of solid contenders for the crown.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Inconsequential News Quiz: Trumpocalypse Now Edition

    • PLEASE READ!!! Celebrate this season with joy and gladness in your heart, Do you know…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Profile of a plant

    • I have been diagnosed with COPD for over 7 years. A couple of months ago…

    • on January 19, 2017
  • Re: Profile of a plant

    • There is plenty of studies out there, which fill in the holes in this story…

    • on January 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation