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The Benton Harbor Riots of 2003 in Michigan started after a pair of suspicious deaths of Black men that allegedly involved the police. The town, which rests on the west side of the state by Lake Michigan, was plagued by riots in the past. The 2003 riots just escalated the rising tensions.

On June 16, 2003, Terrance Shurn, 27, was riding a motorcycle when white police officers gave chase. In the high-speed pursuit, Shurn crashed into a building and died.

Though Shurn’s death touched off the riots, in April of that year, police came to arrest Arthur Partee at his home on an outstanding traffic warrant.

In an ensuing struggle with police, he died. Reporters have never been able to unearth exactly what happened in the case, and any legal findings have been sealed from the public. Even Partee’s family declines to clear up any confusion in the matter.

Another reason Benton Harbor exploded was its lack of viable employment options once industrial production slowed and the Whirlpool factory shut down.Adding to that frustration is its proximity to wealthy St. Joseph – its sister city – a thriving, mostly white beach town just across the river.

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