Understanding unrest in America

ABC News’ Steve Osunsami reports on the history of riots in the U.S. sparked by racial discrimination.
8:06 | 05/30/20

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Transcript for Understanding unrest in America
And as we have seen across the country the death of George Floyd is a symptom of a larger cold. His death has struck a nerve and sparked anger not only in Minneapolis but across the country in New York City still on lockdown many are making their voices heard despite the risks of the pandemic. The street in San Jose California filled with protesters and take a look at this scene and Atlanta the anger goes from coast to coast. But many watching the violent and destructive images in parts of Minneapolis are asking why how is this a constructive way to express your frustration. Our clos in summing takes a look at the history of unrest in this country. To many Americans it doesn't make sense why wood to burn down businesses and set fire to the streets. And in your own neighborhoods. California's governor has declared a state of emergency for lots and looks to curb the violence. White Americans were asking these same questions in the late 1960s. As these heartbreaking images of fire and fury beamed in to their homes. And they're asking those same questions tonight. We must confront our shortcomings with both humility as well as hope. We must restore. The peace. So that we can do this hard work together. When black Americans were riding in the 1960s many were still attending segregated schools were kept from registering to vote in the south. And still couldn't sit at white lunch counters the execution. Of the greatest civil rights leader this country has ever seen. Only added gassed to the flames and this was the eruption in my. Two hours an a rating of bricks and bottles and editors and reducing in the background some of the debris. These persons here or determined to drive away jobs out of the area. It too was violent. Dad would not have wanted it to happen this week and over a hundred cities all the 100. One up in flames. Between that period of April 4 April 8 or ninth when he was actually bear yen. And people frustrated they have no out and have lost hope. That is what happens. And people are beyond tired of going higher beyond disrespect. The oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King says he does not condone the violence and the looting happening on American streets this evening. But he certainly understands it. It's an inhumane way of treating people. People are looking for humanity where's the humanity. Well as the humanity of this police who took his movie and does the demand it's a different discussion at the man and editing. But he's begging or leave if you humane. And seeing a lot of people's FaceBook pages like. You know what good does it do. To burn down neighborhoods much lesser role in its what do you say to those people who asked those questions. Balance is the language of on her when my father's in. That was true when you see added and it's true today. When people feel led they have no recourse. It is the lowest level. That Whitney operate aren't so wow I would not ever. And don't balance ever. I do understand the emotions. Of anxiety and frustration. That people going there. And I think you know. Com. This this is wrong it's may be wrong on many levels but buildings can be restored. How do you restore human life. He says what's happening is that black Americans are telling the rest of the country. That they're fed up. Fed up after the acquittal of white officers who mercilessly beat Rodney King due within an inch of his life after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer and Ferguson Missouri who was never charged. Freddie gray in Baltimore parts of that city. We live in a society that still sees black people. As violent as dangerous as in moral as untrustworthy. So when they had interactions with law enforcement. We don't get a presumption of innocence so when things escalate even a little bit. We're likely to be killed when things don't escalate there's a sense that they could if we're not put to excessive force black people are subject to a level. The wrecked in a level of danger that the white counterparts simply are. In Minneapolis these images of people stealing from a target superstore hit many Americans the wrong way just seems like the wrong way to protest. The president came out strong on line calling the protesters talks. Threatening to send in federal soldiers and saying that when the looting starts. The shooting starts the language isn't going over well in Twitter labeled the message violent. The phrase has borrowed from this former police chief in Miami who in 1968. Threatened to crack the skulls of civil rights activists and war protesters. At the Republican Convention that year. There's actually research on the sort that protest movement are affected. When their large. Broadly represented sustained over time. And an important part nonviolent. And researchers find them especially effective when authorities are violent but the demonstrators are not. Martin Luther King the third says some of this is happening on the streets today and he believes that Minneapolis. Will not be the last to seat streak set on fire. Until he says every sees the injustice and these Americans. Feel hurt this is not just one after group that is black the black last matters not just black allow don't like. We are doing because they CD injustice. And he seemed unfair and AC the mystery. And they say this is wrong that might about America and would it all should be. And what it RB is a nation where every one into right. We everyone has a decent educated best education every one. As decent house is out and yet to have. It could be a 200 where all 150 where but it. In America ever that she viewed him ever match in a decent job everybody should be able to have yes and we can create. Well when we more yes. Yes indeed violence is the language of the unheard such a poignant statement there and Steve Olson summing joins us now live from the kings center Martin Luther King in junior is certainly an icon of the twentieth centered. When you alive many Hannah did different view of him. Yes Lindsay some of the same Americans who waxed politically about Doctor King was buried directly behind me. Would've had a different opinion in the 1960s if they were around to give whine when he was alive. During that period many if not most Americans thought he was a trouble maker. And he was a law breaker. He made Americans uncomfortable issue repeat that famous quote a riot is the language on the of the unheard in it is possible to understand that. And still. Condemned Iraq Lindsay. But there is a difference I mean there are several differences obviously between now in the sixties person or certainly been advancements in communities of color but there's no central figure leading the charge against injustice had a thing that changes things. You know there's no central figure the the only central figure leading the the charge here. Is youth. The young people the young people of this country. Who have decided more than any other generation so far that they are not going to stand for these injustices. They have a lower tolerance for this than even our generation. And and there certainly driving this bus Lindsay Steve Ellison Sami thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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