A physical memorial to L.A.’s shameful Chinese Massacre of 1871 is one step closer to reality.

Elevation looking west, from Los Angeles Street to Garnier BuildingSze Tsung Nicolás Leong / Judy Chui-Hua Chung

Last week, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument announced the selection of the winning design team for the project: artist Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and writer Judy Chui-Hua Chung. Their concept, which beat out more than 170 other proposals, would be located along the 400 block of North Los Angeles Street near the Chinese American Museum - not far from the actual site of the massacre.

“There are few things more important than knowing our full history, including, and maybe especially, when that history involves violent injustice, hidden out of sight," ,” said L.A. Mayor Karen Bass in a statement. The City is taking these steps to honor the victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in order to better understand our past and build a better future. This important chapter in our history, long clear to our neighbors of Chinese descent, will now be known and considered by all Angelenos."

The massacre, which occurred when Los Angeles was a town of less than 6,000 residents, saw the murder of 18 Chinese men. As described the L.A. Public Library, the event occurred as follows:

View south from Silvery Tree, showing Timeline arcs and Petrified Grove in distance.Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong / Judy Chui-Hua Chung

"In October, 1871, tensions were running high in Chinatown because of a feud between leaders of two rival Huiguan (mutual benefit associations) over the kidnapping of a young Chinese woman. A shootout between several Chinese men broke out in the middle of Negro Alley. The ensuing response by two police officers resulted in the wounding of one of the officers and the death of a civilian who assisted the officers, Robert Thompson. The shooters took cover in the Coronel Building."

"Word quickly spread that Chinese had killed Thompson, a popular former saloon owner. A mob of rioters quickly grew to 500 people, ten percent of the population of the city. The rioters forced the Chinese out of the Coronel Building and dragged the captured Chinese to makeshift gallows at Tomlinson’s corral and Goller’s wagon shop. When John Goller protested that his children were present, a rioter pressed a gun to his face and said, "Dry up, you son of a bitch." After Goller’s portico crossbar was filled with seven hanging bodies, the crowd dragged three more victims to a nearby freight wagon and hung them from the high side of the wagon. While there are varying accounts of exactly what transpired, there is no disputing the brutality and savagery of that night."

"The next morning, seventeen bodies were laid out in the jail yard, grim evidence of the horrific events of the previous night. The eighteenth victim, the first man hanged, had been buried the night before. Ten percent of the Chinese population had been killed. One of the Chinese caught up in the mob violence was the respected Dr. Gene Tong. In fact, of the killed, only one is thought to have participated in the original gunfight."

Grand Park / City Hall: In the aftermath, along a wall of the City Jail, lining up in 2 neat rows, lie the mangled bodies of 17 men (photo below). About 20 survivors, both men and women, huddle on the ground: some fled to the jail on their own, others escorted by rescuers. Root benches under a newly planted coast live oak quercus agrifolia (native to Pacific coast of California).Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong / Judy Chui-Hua Chung

While 25 indictments on murder charges followed, only 10 men stood trial afterward, eight of whom were convicted of manslaughter. However, those chargers were overturned, and the defendants were never retried.

The winning concept by Leong and Chung appears as a series of headless trees, stumps, and benches at the various locations throughout Downtown where the massacre occurred. See the gallery for more information.

More information is available at the DCA website.

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