Although considerable scholarship has explored the riots of the 1960s as the culmination of tensions simmering throughout the tumultuous decade, this article examines Philadelphia’s 1964 riot and the ways that local newspapers attempted to frame the violence. By urging Philadelphians to view the riot as the outcome of an ineffectual police department, which was ill-equipped to confront black “hoodlums,” journalists privileged frames of police paralysis and marginalization. The circulation of these two frames alone, however, cannot explain the eventual demise of the city’s Police Advisory Board. This study argues that the imagery of police standing idly by while the streets of Philadelphia dissolved into chaos proved invaluable ammunition for opponents of the Board, who found in the news coverage further evidence of postwar liberalism’s failure to protect the populace.

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Copyright © 2012 E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. This article first appeared in Journalism History 38:2 (2012), 110-121.

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