On April 4, 1968, in Chicago, violence sparked on the West side of the city, and gradually expanded to consume a 28-block stretch of West Madison Street, with additional damage occurring on Roosevelt Road. Lawndale and Austin neighborhoods on the West Side and the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side experienced the majority of the destruction and chaos. The rioters broke windows, looted stores, and set buildings (both abandoned and occupied) on fire. Firefighters quickly flooded the neighborhood, and Chicago's off-duty firefighters were told to report for duty. There were 36 major fires reported between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm alone. The next day, Mayor Richard J. Daley imposed a curfew on anyone under the age of 21, closed the streets to automobile traffic, and halted the sale of guns or ammunition.
Approximately 10,500 police were sent in, and by April 6, more than 6,700 Illinois National Guard troops arrived in Chicago. President Lyndon B. Johnson also sent 5,000 U.S. army troops into the city. The General in charge declared that no one was allowed to have gatherings in the riot areas, and he authorized the use of tear gas. Mayor Richard J. Daley gave police the authority "to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand ... and ... to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city."
The south side ghetto had escaped the major chaos mainly because the two large street gangs, the Blackstone Rangers and the East Side Disciples, cooperated to control their neighborhoods. Many gang members did not participate in the rioting, due in part to King's direct involvement with these groups in 1966