Local Filmmaker Recounts Rancho High School Riots - 8 News NOW

Local Filmmaker Recounts Rancho High School Riots

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Photo Credit: Rancho High School Riots documentary Photo Credit: Rancho High School Riots documentary

LAS VEGAS -- In honor of Black History month, a local filmmaker has released a new documentary shedding light on the racial tension and violence that once rocked parts of Las Vegas in the 60s and 70s. Some of the most turbulent confrontations took place inside rancho high school.

Stan Armstrong wrote and produced the documentary called Rancho High School Riots. He was once a student at Rancho and his work revisits what happened on the campus more than 40 years ago. Today Rancho High is a much different place, but the lessons behind the race riots still linger in the hallways of the school.

"This is really unbelievable. I am really proud to be back here," Armstrong said.

The local filmmaker reminisces as he walks through the halls of his alma mater. He was in the class of 1972.

"It was the worst of times and it was the best of times. The riots, that was the worst of times."

The race riots that took place at Rancho High became the basis of Armstrong's new documentary. It highlights the racial tension among African-American and white students on campus in the late 60s and early 70s coinciding with social changes at that time, the Vietnam War, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

"It was all mass chaos over here," Armstrong said.

He points to the school parking lot where he says police officers once broke up a fight by spraying mace into a bus filled with students. He also recalled the day when a Rancho coach saved him from rioting classmates.

"When the riots started, he put me in the equipment room. He picked me up and put me in the equipment room."

Armstrong and Jesse Salas were friends in high school. Salas, now a PE teacher at Rancho High, says just by looking at the pictures along the gym's hallway, one can see how the demographics of the school's student population have changed over the years.

"Here's me in the class of 1973 as a sophomore here," said Salas.

At that time, he was one of the few Hispanic students on campus. Today, Hispanic students make up nearly 80 percent of the student population. Salas says, the line that seems to divide some students isn't race, it's economics.

"Now, it's more like haves and have not's," he said.


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