Machine gun fire echoed as torpedoes ripped through the waters at the Gulf of Tolkien near North Vietnam paving the way to the opening moves of the near future Vietnam war. In the United States Thousands of ecstatic fans screamed until they nearly passed out as the Beatles exited Pan Am jets at John F. Kennedy Airport as British Rock and Roll music took our nation by storm. In the Mediterranean Turks and Greeks clashed in urban warfare as a new civil war erupted. Boxing legend Cassius Clay announced he was no longer by that name and he was now Mohamad Ali as he now dedicated himself to the nation of Islam and would now become one of the biggest professional boxers in history as he now stood up for civil rights. Rioters around the country clashed with police over racial injustice as cities burned as an oppressed people would no longer take the treatment they were given paving way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
1964 was a year with significant events that swept the headlines, some of these events would have an impact on our country forever. As significant as the 1964 events were for our country and our world it was an even bigger year for Chicago street gangs that experienced their own major events that have left a permanent stamp on these organizations to present day. Again, and again while I heard all the stories of the gangs’ earliest years, I would often hear 1964 come up again and again and a lot of it pertained to the largest organizations in our city. Vice Lords nations, Harrison Gents, Black P stones, Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples and Latin Eagles are some of the groups the most impacted by this fateful year in Chicago gang history. I had figured it best to have all that history spread out among all the different gang pages and I figured my readers would piece it together about the importance of this year but then I realized not many are going to dig as deep as me and be detailed like that so now I am writing this piece to make 1964 stand out as the most significant year in Chicago gang history. It is of great importance for this year to be given a spotlight as some of these events caused other events to occur in gang history. This also effects four of our top five largest gangs in the Chicago area and it deserves focus. 1964 impacted gangs in the black community on Chicago’s south side and west side. The impact was felt in the developing Hispanic communities of Little Village, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and many other pockets of Hispanic communities among both Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. 1964 also had an impact on the most significant white street gangs on Chicago’s north side.
The growing movement in the south
As cities across the country burned in the name of racial injustice Chicago as a city was spared from these 1964 racial riots but not the suburbs. Growing racial tensions had been building for years in the south suburbs. In the 1950s the first black residents moved into Harvey, Markham, Dixmoor and Chicago Heights and more black families came to Ford Heights and Phoenix which began racial tensions; however, the issue did not worsen until the early 1960s as the black populations grew in these suburbs. All these tensions led up the Gin Bottle riots of the Harvey and Dixmoor areas.
On August 16, 1964 a massive riot erupted that turned violent as there was a dispute that the store manager of the Foremost Liquors in Dixmoor should have been arrested for assaulting a black woman that was accused of stealing a bottle of gin. The store owner and the woman tangled over the bottle and claims came out that the owner punched the woman and beat her while the store owner claimed otherwise. Regardless of what really happened this incident was enough to push rioters to stand up for ongoing racial injustice actions that had occurred over the years as the pot finally boiled over. Buildings burned, people got hurt, windows were smashed as rioters in the area mimicked the rioting around the country. This was the rise of black power and the tipping point when black people had had enough. The fight for racial equality took a violent turn in this country and here in Dixmoor-Harvey area the riot became legendary that was heard around the world.
The Civil Rights Act was passed on July 2, 1964 but it did not stop incidents of racial injustice which further angered black communities throughout the country as the months of July and August were packed with riots nationwide. During this time period the black gangs of the south side of Chicago felt the spirit of the civil rights movement especially the Blackstone Rangers (now known as Black P Stones). The Stones’ very foundation was based upon racial injustices as black families struggled to settle peacefully in the Woodlawn and Englewood white communities in the 1950s. A movement against oppression began by the black youths that they called the “Players” which was soon replaced by the Blackstone Raiders in 1955. This organization rather quietly fought back against the oppressors even though the name and their activities never made the paper. Future Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s brother was a co-founder of this organization so you can see how deep these roots are. By the end of the 1950s the Raiders’ operations were falling apart even after they had swelled to having thousands of members in Morgan Park, Englewood and of course Woodlawn. The organization was revived in 1959 when they became the Blackstone Rangers.
Although the Rangers were not making headline news in the early 1960s, they still grew and became highly organized, at the same time their arch enemies the Disciples were growing incredibly starting in 1959 and during the early 1960s. The Disciples were a silent organization that did not want any attention; however, they would end up getting attention anyway from the press and the police especially because of their size. The Disciples first appeared in the newspaper in the year 1960 well before Rangers were published, Rangers would not have their name in the paper until 1965. During this time period in the first half of the 1960s when the public knew very little about these gangs they were growing exponentially on the south side of Chicago. In the year 1960 both Disciples and Rangers landed in the white community of South Shore as they arrived the help curtail racial injustice by this hostile white community that didn’t want black families moving in. The real boost in recruitment into these gangs would come in 1964.
The spirit of the civil rights movement breathed more life into the Rangers and Disciples as they now swelled in numbers in their respective neighborhoods because this was the way to be part of some real power on the streets. When the Gin Bottle riots kicked off in the late summer of 1964 the Blackstone Rangers saw this as their opportunity to open a gateway into the south suburbs to address all the problems with racial mistreatment.
The beginning of the Gangsters
The term “gangster” is a general term that can be used to describe any individual participating in a criminal syndicate. Here in the Chicago area “gangster” many times implies something else especially if you are referring to the gangland community mainly on the south side.
In the year 1964, young boys around the age of 13 and younger gathered at 68th and Green in the Englewood community to watch the local pimps, hustlers, players and gang members do their thing late at night around the Gal’s and Guys’ Club right at that corner that once existed. They watched young men in their teens and twenties act out syndicate activity as they pimped women, sold drugs, hustled all night and sometimes shot and killed people. These were the wild streets of Englewood that were growing more dangerous each year by this point in history. Gangsters and hustlers were what these boys grew up admiring.
At this time the Disciples and Rangers were growing larger every day, but they weren’t big money makers back then. The boys at 68th and Green had a dream to make money and be just like groups like the Disciples that composed of the cousins of these boys. The boys went their own direction in 1964 and instead of joining the Disciples they started their own group and the “Gangsters” of Chicago were born!
The Gangsters of Chicago were first known as the Supreme Gangsters until they invented the Gangster nation in 1966. In 1969 they became a part of the Black Gangster Disciple Nation alliance with the Disciples then they took this name as their own in 1981 before eventually becoming the Gangster Disciples we know today.
The Gangster Disciples have been hailed many times throughout history as the largest organization in the Chicago area. Not only that the Gangster Disciples also known as GDs are one of the biggest gangs in the world. There are GDs, in England, France, Japan, the Caribbean, you name it. One may ask why the GDs are so big, well, one of the best ways to sum that up is that not only does their name attract a lot of attention but so does the fact they know how to make money. In the Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor projects alone, the GDs made over $100,000,000 a year in drug profits from Crack distribution. This organization is a money-making powerhouse with connections all over the place between the Chicago Outfit to Mexican drug cartels or just about any syndicate out there.
So how did the GDs get so connected one might ask? Well it took a lot of being cool with parts of other organizations, it took keeping their mouths shut (moving in silence) and abiding by strict organizational laws in their early years. Larry Hoover, the man who put it all together at the age of 13 back in 1964 was very intelligent and very organized. Any time a successful syndicate operated in human history there was always a man or men with big brains putting it together. Many of these men cannot read or write very well but that doesn’t matter when the human brain can be wired for the intelligence to organize and brainstorm at a higher caliber.
The GDs tapped into everything, every kind of hustle out there and would brutally enforce any violations of their laws upon their members if needed and brutally remove opposition that got in the way of profits. Now this sounds like just about any other big gang in the city, but the GDs got into the game first and got in early. The GDs also had the support of the majority of the Disciple nation in the 1960s and 1970s; therefore, when it came time to decide if one was to claim Disciple or Gangster more Disciples chose to go with Gangster than Disciple and with the combined business ethic of the Gangsters and sheer size of the majority of the Disciples the GDs were able to hit the ground running right away in 1981 during their rebirthing. It all happened so fast and the GDs took the drug trade by storm in the projects just in time for Mayor Jane Byrne to come spend a few weeks in Cabrini Green. Right away Byrne knew of the GDs even though the Black Gangster Disciple gang had just developed. The Gangsters moved silently since 1969 and operated under the BGD alliance confusing law enforcement and the general public that couldn’t tell the difference between Gangsters and Disciples. During this time period the BGD nation was able to amass much power and when the split happened the Gangsters offered money making opportunities on the streets that the Disciples couldn’t offer yet. Eventually the Disciples became a money making powerhouse in the later years but at this time they were not as large as the Gangsters.
The roots of a gang are what makes the mob flourish so well later. It is because the Gangsters came up in 1964 and showed new avenues of making money that Disciples, Cobras and Rangers had not yet tapped into. The Gangsters were a step ahead in the money-making game and remained that way through the years. Charisma is a key to GD development. Larry Hoover had Charisma and so did his inner council of guys. This charisma was taught to young men and women over the years that followed the ways Hoover set back in the 60s. This was also the year of the civil rights movements and the Gangsters could offer making money to really achieve the power many young black men were looking for on the streets of Englewood.
West side unity
The race riots exploding around the country not only inspired the south side streets of Chicago the west side streets also experienced change. The south side was all about growth, but the west side was hollering out about unity. In July of 1964 as the civil rights riots just began nationwide the west side Vice Lord older members felt the spirit of these actions but instead of feeling violent, they had an opposite revelation. The older Vice Lords felt they could help their community more by helping to repair the damage done instead of adding to the chaos. Starting on that July day and forward the older Vice Lords now wanted to preach peace and now wanted to legitimize their organization.
It all started with meetings after meetings on the streets in the summer of ’64. Vice Lords called a truce with Egyptian Cobras and Roman Saints only to find out these groups’ older members were also hungry for peace too. Before you knew it there was a big cease fire all over North Lawndale and to a lesser extent East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park and the Near West Side. Of course, this ceasefire wasn’t in effect every day as small wars erupted at times but now gang leaders had the tools and contacts to meet with one another to cool things down.
Among all the meetings Vice Lords held one of the most important of all meetings which was the establishment of the different Vice Lord branches that made history that year. It was in 1964 when the Vice Lord nation broke into different factions which gave birth the legendary Traveling Vice Lords and Unknown Vice Lords. Most of the branches that were established in 1964 eventually died out but the UVLs and TVLs would live on into present day. If it wasn’t for 1964 these Vice Lords groups would not have achieved their individuality they have today.
Not only was 1964 pivotal for the creation of Vice Lord factions, it was also pivotal for the foundation of true Vice Lord beliefs as a peaceful organization that is aimed to better the black community and the members of the organization. In the news all you see is the negative and the violence that Vice Lords get involved in but just remember, the basis of the Vice Lord nation does not have any written constitution gearing young men to become gangbangers that is just the byproduct of what the organization does to make money in desolate situations. The CVL structure was produced in 1964 by men with good intentions as they put away their life of crime in place of community involvement. Those same men were the ones who crafted the bylaws for Vice Lords to live by after they refuted a life of crime, this shows Conservative Vice Lord is not meant to be about drugs and crime.
A nation of Kings is born
Since the 1910s-decade Chicago has experienced waves of Hispanic migration that has shaped the culture of this city. Hispanic culture has become a pivotal part of Chicago heritage over time that is very much celebrated by our city. According to 2016 census statistics Chicago is over 29% Hispanic which shows how deeply rooted Hispanic culture is in this city.
The settlement of Hispanic people has by no means been an easy task as many political and street battles had to ensue over the decades just for Hispanic people to prosper and raise their families. What is seldom written about in any books, newspapers and in interviews is the street battles that Hispanic people had to endure as migration waves came to this city. Hispanic people seldom protest and often have too much pride to make a big deal out of mistreatment, hence, why you rarely hear about racial injustices of the past. The Hispanic youths endured to worst of the treatment on the streets as growing up in Chicago and just going to school or engaging in recreational activities often became difficult. Chicago has been a city of ethnic and racial hatred for many years as Jewish, Italian, Irish, Hispanic and black people had been targeted for discrimination. In later years some groups of Italian and Irish began to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics which kept up a cycle of hate.
Mexican people migrated to Chicago during World War 1 then slowly throughout the 1920s decade settled in the Back of the Yards, Near West Side and South Chicago neighborhoods. By 1930, Mexican people that had settled during this first wave were deported back to Mexico due to employment loss during the Great Depression era. This was done after these families had already made a life in this city and now were forced to leave. During World War 2 Mexican people came back in a second wave but this time they would not stand for deportation when the war was over, but this involved engaging in politics and fighting politically for their rights to stay. Companies in this city used Mexican people to fulfill labor jobs that whites and blacks didn’t want as these companies paid a lower wage than before, then once the wars were over and the Mexican workers were not needed the government tried to send them back to Mexico. Mexican people fought for their rights to stay and succeeded and by the late 1950s another wave of Mexican people were able to grace this city.
Puerto Rican people first migrated to Chicago in a small wave in the late 1930s, but the bigger wave didn’t come until after World War 2 as visas were issued for Puerto Rican families to flee the war-torn country of Puerto Rico. The United States extended control over Puerto Rico ever since the United States came in to eradicate the brutal Spanish rule during the Spanish-American war of 1898. At that point the United States ruled Puerto Rico which angered many who had advocated for Puerto Rican independence and now had to trade one ruler for another. This brought about some anti-American sentiment as many families were left in poverty and felt they had no other choice but to migrate to the very country they hated in order to find a better life for their families. When Puerto Rican people arrived, it was assumed that all were anti-American and racial attacks began that were largely undocumented. Puerto Rican people primarily settled in the downtown Loop area and the Near North Side in the Old Town area in an area known as “La Clark.” Puerto Rican people also were scattered on the south side in areas like Woodlawn. Middle class whites resented Puerto Rican presence and made it a living hell for the men to walk to work in the neighborhood. Constant heckles, bullying and attacks led to the formation of “La Hacha Vieja.” La Hacha Vieja (The old hatchet in English) was considered the first Puerto Rican gang in Chicago and was probably the first significant Hispanic gang even though not much is known about them. I don’t know exactly where their turf was and it seemed more like a movement than a gang as men in their 30s were joining. One of their biggest goals was to assist the working men and women in the community with getting to work without being harassed. I don’t know what happened to this group, but I believe they were replaced in the late 1950s by more well-known groups like the Young Lords, Spanish Lords and the Imperials.
Mexican gangs were rare too during these early years and if they did exist, they were zoot suiter types wearing those zoot suit outfits. Zoot suit style is more about looking cool and tough as opposed to being a movement of any sort.
The focus of Hispanic migrants was to just work and make a living. Mexican people were often allowed to move into white communities while Puerto Ricans were forced to live in black neighborhoods until 1958 with just a few exceptions before 1958 moved into some white neighborhoods like East Village, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Humboldt Park but only sparsely.
In the year 1959, Puerto Rican youths at last started gangbanging back against white rivals as the young Lords and Spanish Lords formed. The Imperials got in on the action in West Humboldt Park and Wicker Park after their members moved there. Regardless of the efforts of these early groups Puerto Rican gangs had minimal impact especially since they had to lie low to stay away from too much heat from the much larger white gangs and the police that were eager to lock them up and beat them down. Early Puerto Rican groups like Spanish Lords and Imperials operated low profile and developed many guerilla warfare tactics to hit their enemies while avoiding the spotlight. Although this method of warfare is effective and quite brilliant it didn’t have enough of an impact upon the overall protection of the Puerto Rican populace because they were in such small numbers and not known enough.
In the early 1960s, Puerto Rican people continued to slowly move to the north side neighborhoods of Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown, East Village, East Humboldt Park, West Humboldt Park and Wicker Park. As this migration progressed small Puerto Rican clubs began to develop that were like social athletic clubs geared toward sports activities and such. Puerto Rican youths did their best to avoid the gang life but as these years progressed these clubs discovered it was increasingly difficult to exist as a crew without catching problems from white greaser clubs or even other Puerto Rican SAC groups.
In 1962, the first Mexican families settled in the Little Village community and soon learned the neighborhood gangs like Gaylords and Outlaws and such were not so friendly toward Hispanic neighbors. Once again Mexican people moving in were treated like second class citizens and this led to the formation of small Mexican gangs along 26th Street between 1962 and 1964. Once again, just like in the Puerto Rican community up north these small clubs could not make a big impact on the community because they were so outnumbered and did not have the knowledge to organize a large group.
During these years Puerto Rican and Mexican youths suffered bullying and beatings from neighborhood gangs, racist groups of youths and the police as they tried to simply get on or off a school bus, go to a neighborhood store, go swim at the pool or anything else. Hispanic youths were bullied in school having their lunch money taken away or subject to other humiliating circumstances. In the meantime, their parents were treated like second class citizens in daily life in the neighborhood. There was clearly a problem Hispanic people faced in Chicago in these times but the Hispanic community lacked the ability to fight against this politically or socially, not only that the discrimination they faced was not as widely publicized as what the black community faced and even in the black communities’ issues were often underreported. I had to learn about all this treatment from people I talked to from the neighborhood and to my surprise they often acted like it was no big deal because it wasn’t to them so much; however, at the same time it was in a sense that they had to knuckle up against attackers but didn’t want to make a big protest about it. Also, in more recent years after 1964 whites, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans often joined the same gangs; therefore, many Hispanics don’t want to make a big deal about white attackers from the past because respect was later achieved.
After suffering taunting, attacks and even police mistreatment it became time to fight back. Under the direction of Ramon “King Papo” Santos Puerto Rican and Mexican youths in Chicago were going to team up to fight the powers that put them down. Santos had already assembled the Imperials street gang in 1954 which was the first Hispanic street gang in Chicago that had true organization. Santos wanted the Imperials to be for ALL Hispanics which included Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Brazilians etc…The only downside to the Imperials was that they were so discreet you hardly knew they were in existence. It took until 1962 for them to recruit among a younger generation and grow outside being a small circle but now in 1964 Santos took it to a new level.
The sun shone brightly as the birds chirped as children played in the beautiful Humboldt Park. The air was crisp, and energies were high as Imperials from nearby Kedzie and Ohio and Leavitt and Schiller in Wicker Park organized several Puerto Rican youth gangs from the area to meet at this park for a historic meeting. Little did these young men know that they were partaking in a legendary meeting that would shape U.S. history perhaps forever as a new organization would be put together that May 15th day of 1964 that would one day number over 100,000 members in all states and several countries. The idea was sold right away as pretty much most Puerto Rican gangs on the north side pledged to become part of a larger nation and the first Hispanic super gang in Chicago. The only groups I know of that didn’t want to be part of this were the Spanish Lords, Young Lords and Insane Unknowns because although these groups weren’t as big, they were organized like the Latin Kings and felt the need to be independent but seemingly every other group turned Latin King on that day.
From What I know Ramon Santos was not present for the Latin King formation in Humboldt Park on May 15, but he put it together before that meeting and had representatives go to the park to recruit other gangs. People from the Little Village community that I spoke to recall Ramon himself coming to Little Village in 1964 and personally addressing the Mexican youths and the gangs among them like the Marshall Boulevard Kings, Supreme Clique, 26th Street Jokers and the 23rd Street boys to preach to them about this big brotherhood established in the north. He connected with the Mexican youths who were going through the same problems as the Puerto Ricans did and they even fought against a gang with the same name, the Gaylords. From there these Mexican youths joined the Latin Kings and assembled the legendary “Boulevards” chapter at 24th and Marshall Boulevard in 1964. This chapter became the origin of all south side Latin King chapters and eventually southern Chicago area suburbs which all link back to the Boulevards.
Latin Kings could now be found in 1964 on the northern part of Chicago in these neighborhoods and sections:
Wicker Park: (the original motherland) Leavitt and Schiller (Closed in early 70s, reopened in late 70s with a different group then closed again by the 90s as they shared with Insane Unknowns until gentrification)
West Humboldt Park: Beach and Spaulding (the later motherland that is still the motherland today) and Kedzie and Ohio (closed long ago in the 1970s as the area became majority black)
Near West Side: Newberry and Roosevelt (closed in the 1970s due to area becoming majority black) and Laflin and Van Buren (original motherland of the Imperials which closed down by the 1970s)
Uptown: Winthrop and Ainslie (closed by the 21st century due to gentrification)
Lincoln Park: Armitage and Dayton (closed by the 21st century due to gentrification)
East Village: Ashland and Cortez (closed in the 1970s)
East Humboldt Park: Maplewood and Division area (closed in 1979 after their leader was imprisoned)
Latin Kings could now be found in 1964 on the southern part of Chicago in these neighborhoods and sections:
Little Village: 24th and Marshall Boulevard (the south side motherland and still is today)
Bridgeport: 27th and Normal (closed then a new group of Kings opened 33rd and Morgan in 1979)
Englewood: 57th and Halsted (closed in 1972 then relocated to 50th Street in the Back of the yards and are still there today)
Right away upon inception the Latin Kings were already a major force to be reckoned with overnight as they recruited some of the toughest, craziest and gutsy guys out there into their army. Latin Kings didn’t discriminate on skin color, as soon as they formed in 1964, they took in whites and blacks especially up north. Skin color didn’t matter at all if the members were willing to fight for the overall causes of the Latin King nation. The Blackstone Rangers, Vice Lords and Devil’s Disciples and Egyptian Cobras were super gangs among the blacks in Chicago and now the Hispanics would have their own.
On the streets of Chicago now there was a major force to be reckoned with as hundreds of young men gathered in large groups sporting black and gold sweaters as they moved in large numbers converging upon their enemies. When this army of hundreds came barreling down the streets and alleyways rivals took off running and many found themselves beaten and crushed as the Latin Kings showed Chicago that the Hispanic man was fighting back.
One day in 1964 white gangs ruled the whole north side and the upper south side and deep south side while Hispanic gangs were small at best or were just social athletic clubs trying to move in numbers to survive. The most elite groups in the Puerto Rican community like the Imperials, Spanish Lords, Young Lords, Artistics and Villa Lobos were mostly pushed into reclusion as they were too heavily outnumbered. In the Mexican community the most significant groups were along 18th Street in Pilsen like Latin Counts, Ambrose and Satan Disciples but in all other communities like Bridgeport, Back of the Yards and Little Village Mexican gangs and social athletic clubs were heavily outnumbered and failed to put together anything significant. Ambrose and Satan Disciples were originally founded by white guys; therefore, they got their boost in the 1950s by not being racially targeted. The Latin Counts were the first Mexican gang to really stand up to the greater powers even the police but kept themselves local at the time along 18th Street; therefore, there just wasn’t much else offered to the Mexican community until a visitor from the north came down one 1964 day. Overnight an entire army was assembled in every community Hispanics lived accept South Chicago that was too far away and Pilsen which already had local gangs that rejected the Latin Kings. In almost every other community on the north and south sides where Hispanic people were living Latin Kings became the biggest deal as they swelled into the thousands overnight.
One neighborhood says no way to Latin Kings (the beginning of the Latin Eagles)
As I stated, the Latin Kings were rejected for recruitment on the southern neighborhoods of South Chicago and Pilsen and for the time being the Back of the Yards. South Chicago was too far off the grid but mostly the issue was South Chicago had their own gangs and were not in tune to outsiders growing on their streets. The Back of the Yards was no place for Mexican street gangs to get big even though Mexican people had been there since World War 1. The concept of Mexican gangs was a complete no go as this community had the toughest greaser gangs in the city. Back of the Yards also was on their own agenda not allowing outside gangs. If Mexican youths in this community were interested in joining a gang in 1964, they usually would need to turn to the Saints which was a white dominated gang that took in Mexican youths openly as long as one was fearless. Back of the Yards, South Chicago and Pilsen all had one thing in common, they had gangs already established well before 1964 on those streets; therefore, nothing new that had such great power could grace their streets.
There was one neighborhood were a significant amount of Puerto Rican people were living, had a significant amount of Hispanic youths to recruit and no strong Puerto Rican gangs. It was normally fertile grounds for Latin Kings to recruit in such a neighborhood like Lakeview but in this community Hispanic youths said no to Latin Kings and downright opposed them. I had heard rumor this decision was somewhat influenced by the Young Lords from Lincoln Park that were enemies of Latin Kings at this time but I can’t confirm, all I can confirm is that a group developed on the streets of Lakeview in 1964 that immediately found rivalry with Latin Kings. Latin Kings were developing directly to the north of Lakeview in Uptown and directly south of Lakeview in Lincoln Park and felt they had the right to meet in the middle and conquer Lakeview but the youths of Lakeview said no way as they turned to their own homemade group known as the Latin Eagles.
More options other than being a Latin King
In West Humboldt Park and Wicker Park Latin Kings of the north had their biggest sections in the growing Puerto Rican community. The heaviest concentration of Latin Kings were needed in these neighborhoods as gangs like the Jokers and Simon City in West Humboldt Park were formidable foes and some of the toughest greasers out there. In Wicker Park C-Notes, Gaylords, Chi-west, Playboys, Ventures and Pulaski Park haunted Puerto Rican youths and often preyed upon them. Then by Bell Street a growing group of Vice Lords were evolving among the small black community that clashed with Puerto Rican youths. Even though these were ripe breeding grounds for Latin Kings to provide back up for disadvantaged Puerto Rican youths some youths just didn’t like what the Latin Kings were all about. Sometimes it was because maybe some guys joined the Latin Kings that had issues with another group of guys before the Latin Kings began. Perhaps it was because some groups of youths gained popularity, threw good parties and got the girls but excluded the Latin Kings from their fun. Perhaps it was because a group just thought the Latin Kings were punks and started problems with them just to show they were tougher. Whatever the case was some youths in Wicker Park and West Humboldt Park gravitated toward other groups like the Spanish Lords or simply started their own group. One group called the Warlords was friends with the Latin Kings and even had members in the Latin Kings but wanted to follow their own rules which brought about their independence. In West Humboldt Park independence from the Latin Kings was less acceptable and this led to a vicious rivalry between the Latin Kings and new group called the Imperial Gangsters.
The Imperial Gangsters became the biggest arch enemy of the Latin Kings as even wars both groups had with white gangs would shy in comparison to the war these groups had with each other. Imperial Gangsters and Latin Kings often attended the same schools, hung out among some of the same social crowds and even visited some of the same public places as opposed to being in the same places as the white groups, this sparked a vicious rivalry.
The Harrison Gents organization from the Near West Side was a group that began in 1959 and was for a mix of Puerto Rican and black youths from the neighborhood. Because of this the Harrison Gents were one of the primary options for Hispanic youths to join in Hispanic populated areas. The reason I haven’t mentioned them thus far is because they were founded by both blacks and Hispanics equally and were never based upon any certain race. In the year 1964 many Puerto Rican Harrison Gents moved away from the Near West Side community and landed in the East Village community and Uptown. Much of the reason for the move was University of Illinois at Chicago construction that began heavily that year displacing many families. Harrison Gents arrived that exact year according to several accounts I have heard over time and sure enough were landing in majority white communities with a growing Hispanic population. Not only that, in Uptown there was a growing black community that would help continue the Harrison Gents’ legacy as a mixed-race group but this time including white members, a perfect cultural melting pot for the Uptown community. The Harrison Gents got real big real fast as they found many Puerto Rican and white youths in East Village that couldn’t stand Latin Kings or Playboys. Those were the biggest clubs in the neighborhood and some youths were the victims of racial attacks by the Playboys while others just couldn’t stand how Latin Kings were dominating the neighborhood causing the Harrison Gents to become a big deal. In Uptown the Latin Kings were good friends with the newly arrived Harrison Gents as both gangs hung out at Ainslie and Winthrop constantly. These groups came together perhaps because of the trouble they got from southern based white groups. 1964 was indeed the year that really put the Harrison Gents on the map in Chicago as they were now becoming one of the fastest growing organizations in the city. The Harrison Gents were dynamic not only by how they were very multiracial during racist times but also because their rivalry with certain groups was confined to the politics of that neighborhood and they didn’t let it affect their relations with other sections of Harrison Gents, this is how they would kill Latin Kings in East Village and be best pals with them in Uptown.
Battles in the north: Chicago’s first coalitions
Despite the efforts of the Latin Kings Puerto Rican youths up north were still heavily surrounded by white gang enemies as these neighborhoods still belonged to those groups. The white gangs didn’t even need to be teamed up to fight the Latin Kings many times and they especially outnumbered all the smaller groups. The Latin Kings saw this as a problem as even if they could outnumber a white gang and fight them well there was still another white gang to fight right up the street and all around no matter where they turned. There was also the business of what to do with the gangs that refused to assimilate into the Latin Kings that were trying to avoid war with the Kings as well. These became very important matters to discuss with other neighborhood Puerto Rican groups and it led to a peaceful meeting to be held between Latin Kings, Spanish Lords and Warlords. Spanish Lords were the only other Puerto Rican gang to dare to claim the Wicker Park streets at the same time as the Imperials; therefore, both groups had a long history together fighting the same enemies. The Warlords had recently broken away from the Latin Kings to start their own group which was risky indeed for them to do against the bigger gang, but they wanted their own nation and there was no changing that.
Despite possible disappointment that the Spanish Lords and Warlords wouldn’t join the ranks of the Latin Kings, the Latin Kings looked at the bigger picture that there was still a racial attack against their organizations that they all had in common in Wicker Park. Before goals of neighborhood expansion and domination the Latin Kings put their focus on the bigger issues of protecting the growing Puerto Rican community in Wicker Park. Bottom line is there were too many white gangs out there that were hostile toward a Puerto Rican presence in the community and Puerto Ricans needed to stick together, this brought about a meeting on Latin Kings, Warlords and Spanish Lords in Wicker Park. The unity discussed was given a name but would not be uttered on the streets, the unity was called the United Neighborhoods. This alliance was a brotherhood that became the very first organized gang unity in Chicago history. This was a unity that had rules and expectations unlike anything unofficial before then. Under this unity these three organizations would protect each other on the streets in an organized fashion and any disputes between these gangs would be handled in an organized council type of fashion. This unity only effected the Wicker Park neighborhood. Latin Kings in other neighborhoods were mostly unaware of the UN alliance. At that time Spanish Lords and Warlords were only located in Wicker Park so it effected their entire organizations.
Just as the greasers thought they had it all handled on the streets of Wicker Park and even sized up the Latin Kings the best they could, here came an army barreling down the streets out for blood in overwhelming numbers. Many greaser groups were forced to retreat, or others stood their ground and took a beating from hell as they were suddenly outnumbered greatly. This was a force to be reckoned with beyond anything expected as white gangs didn’t expect Puerto Ricans to come together like this. Among the crowds coming in for the attacks they saw faces they recognized from the Latin Kings, Spanish Lords and Warlords and now knew a unity was built.
The greaser gangs now felt they needed to do something about this attack from the United Neighborhood’s unity. Although they never learned about the alliance specifics nor even the name of the UN unity, they knew the gangs had teamed up against them which they felt was a big threat to the white community and their territories. At last the Puerto Rican gangs had found a way to outnumber the white gangs in many situations and this didn’t sit well with the white gangs that ruled West Town. C-Notes, Gaylords, Lazy Gents and the Dominos were mainly situated in Noble Square, East Village and in the Patch area but roved all over West Town from East Humboldt Park to River West they roamed these neighborhoods and brought trouble to the Puerto Rican gangs of Wicker Park. Now the United Neighborhoods would rove to the C-Note, Gaylord and Lazy Gent neighborhoods and reign down terror on them, hitting them back on a level they never could before.
C-Notes, Gaylords, Lazy Gents and Dominos comprised of members mostly of Italian ancestry which is something they had in common; however, these gangs still didn’t get along but in 1964 that would all change. I am not positive how severe the rivalry was between these gangs before 1964 but I do know there was conflict. I theorize the conflict was not severe since they were easily able to call a truce in 1964 and create a unity of their own. The unity was very strong for several years which further shows to me that the old rivalry wasn’t too deep. These gangs met in 1964 with a mutual hate for what the United Neighborhoods was up to and now they felt they should create an alliance to mirror the UN and perhaps crush it or at least contain it. The Dominos was the smaller of the foursome and just decided to absorb into the Gaylords, the other three groups combined forces to create an alliance called Gaylords C-Notes and Gents or the “GCG.” With the GCG now put together this spelled trouble for the UN and that triggered the Latin Kings to grow even larger as the GCG became a bigger problem than ever for Puerto Rican youths; however, groups like the Lazy Gents and C-Notes were taking in Hispanic youths and Gaylords were recruiting Mexican youths so some Hispanics got to be part of the CGC but they had to be fearsome warriors to get in.
For some greaser groups both the UN and GCG were a major threat especially in Wicker Park. The Playboys of Wicker Park and East Village were formed in 1958 as a direct result of problems they got from Gaylords and C-Notes and now those groups were teaming up against them. The Playboys were not very nice to Puerto Rican gangs, especially the Junior Playboys that began in 1962 and had since been a terror to Hispanic gangs. The Son’s of Satan Slaves changed their name in 1964 to the Ventures and they were also founded based upon conflicts with C-Notes and Gaylords in 1960. Pulaski Park was yet another group formed in Wicker Park in 1960 that had the same problems with Gaylords and C-Notes; therefore, all three groups had that in common. All three groups were mostly Polish, Irish and German by heritage and all three gave problems to Puerto Rican youths and all had war with the UN. The UN was targeting each of their organizations as was the GCG. It was now time for these three groups to come together to create a unity of their own to fight the UN and GCG. This new alliance would become famously known as Playboys Ventures and Pulaski Park or “PVP.” The PVPs now ferociously challenged the UN and the rivalry grew all over West Town. PVPs also went after the Harrison Gents after they settled in the area that year. PVPs and Harrison Gents had such bad blood between them that by the later 1970s when the Last of the Lazy Gents went to join another gang they joined the Harrison Gents because of how badly they hated PVPs; however, the PVP and GCG war was not nearly as severe as both groups’ war with the UN. These two alliances became much lessor foes especially as the 1960s progressed.
The long term or permanent impact
If you ever see lists of Chicago’s most powerful gangs you will always see Gangster Disciples, Black P Stones, Vice Lords and Latin Kings on that list. Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and Latin Kings are always on the top 5 list with the Black P Stones often making that list too. These groups number over 25,000 members each in just the Chicago area alone. These are the biggest mobs in Chicago and some of the largest in the country residing in all 50 states. The events of 1964 were key to these groups becoming the power houses they became. If it wasn’t for 1964 Gangsters would not have existed and would not have eventually merged with some of the Disciple concepts to create the Gangster Disciples. If 1964 didn’t happen the Black P Stones would have never embarked upon their aggressive expansion campaign further south in Chicago and would have never colonized the Chicago south suburbs, same can likely be said about the Disciples. If 1964 didn’t happen Vice Lords would not have developed their civility in their bylaws and we wouldn’t have factions today like TVLs, RVLs, CVLs and UVLs. If it wasn’t for 1964 the Imperials would have never created the Latin King concepts and combined forces with several Puerto Rican and Mexican gangs to create the Latin King nation we know today.
If it wasn’t for 1964 significant mobs that still exist today like the Latin Eagles and Imperial Gangsters would have never existed. The Harrison Gents also would have likely ceased to exist long ago as their expansion campaign in 1964 wouldn’t have happened. With that all being said we wouldn’t have the Almighty alliance up north consisting of Harrison Gents, Imperial Gangsters, Latin Eagles, Simon City Royals, Insane Popes and Ambrose because the HGs, IGs and LEs wouldn’t have existed.
If it wasn’t for 1964 the precursor to the infamous White Power Organization and United Five Organizations would not have existed as C-Notes and Gaylords would have never come together and Playboys Ventures and Pulaski Park would not have come together to create the PVP. Playboys and Ventures would not have been able to unify with the Taylor Jousters in 1971 to create the PVJ since PVP wouldn’t have existed. Playboys and Ventures would not have been able to unify with the Rice Boys around that same time in the Austin community to create the PVR alliance. If PVP and GCG were never formed in 1964 the conflicts between the gangs within each of those alliances would have continued and would have soured much worse which would have made the 1969 alliance between CGC and PVP never happen and would deplete the chances of the UFO alliance to form in 1973 between C-Notes, Gaylords, Playboys, Ventures and Pulaski Park.
Most importantly, if 1964 didn’t happen there would be no precursor to the creation of the People nation in 1978 as the alliance between the Spanish Lords, Latin Kings and Warlords would not have happened that later took in the Insane Unknowns. As a matter of fact, the whole Folk and People nation would not have existed because Chicago gangs would have no model to unify with as Gangsters and Larry Hoover wouldn’t have existed and the model put out by the UN, GCG and PVP wouldn’t have happened.
As you can see, 1964 clearly shaped how our most significant mobs would develop and is an important year to recognize in Chicago gang history.