Note: We understand there will be a variety of documentaries and special reports trying to recapture the voices, the anger, the rage that resulted in the Unrest of Los Angeles back on April 29, 1992. Our founder grew up in South Central Los Angeles at that time, so we hope you’ll allow him to have his say in a series of blog posts he shared six years ago.
This is Part Two of Rebuilding (South) L.A.
In case you forgot or didn’t care, July 12, 2011 marked the twentieth anniversary of this landmark film:
Boyz N The Hood. You remember that movie, right? Of course you did. Right in the middle of the Rodney King case and impending trial against the four police officers who beat him up, captured on video for all to see.
Yes, Copz N The Hood was just as dramatic, if not as unfortunate. All the while the community mourned over another death, that of Latasha Harlins. Thoughts and feelings about her murder and lawful devalue of this young lady’s life is posted from this past blog. The rage directed at Empire Liquors where this sad saga occured came in the form of a burned building after Judge Joyce Karlin‘s verdict. Clearly, the community was incensed not only of the shooting death of a young girl. That’s one thing. It was the fact the judge clearly did not have the wisdom of Solomon and based the area, climate and….her race….determined how much the life of a young girl like Latasha was valued.
Funny, Bessie in Native Son was treated as an afterthought more than Mary Dalton. Perhaps if Ms. Harlins wore a different skin…..oh never mind, that never makes a difference, does it?
So for the better part of a year, while the jury was assembled and witnesses began to mysteriously ‘vanish’ or ‘die off’, South Central, Los Angeles, and the world held their collective breaths for the trial which would determine the lives of four cops….in a city held where most cops lived. Simi Valley. Yes, there was a venue change from Los Angeles.
Before April 29, 1992, the former MetroMedia local station now sly as a Fox under a different name, had a reporter approach citizens at their front doors asking the simple question:
“Will you riot?”
To this day, I believe the seeds were already planted by the media. Even if it didn’t occur, the thought was out there. Somebody, someone, somewhere, was going to……..
April 29, 1992.
Verdict: Not Guilty.
The four officers celebrated, a community (among others) was incensed.
I worked as a teacher’s aide that day and I worked the late shift. However, when I saw trouble brewing at Florence and Normandie I politely asked my co-worker, the teacher that closed up with me if I could leave. She didn’t have to say a word. The nod was good enough.
April 29, 1992 was supposed to be a normal day. The Lakers were at the Forum in Inglewood to play the Portland Trailblazers in game three of the first round of the playoffs. My mother went to bible study, people were getting off work at approximately 5:00pm or close to it. It was supposed to be another normal day in the city of Los Angeles.
LAPD confronted a few people, then went ghost afterwards. To this day, not a reasonable explanation can be found.
Angry citizens threw bottles, rocks, bricks, etc at passing vehicles. This is something not condoned by the author of this blog BUT….Not Guilty on live television will provoke the living demon in you.
Reginald Denny was taken out of his truck and beaten almost senseless. He was saved by four people not gripped in anger and madness.
Later that evening after the Lakers game, traffic was diverted away from Manchester and even Florence. If you didn’t live in the community and you attended the game, would you want to go back there? The I-105 wasn’t built yet. The NBA’s reaction was to place the Lakers in Las Vegas for their final game of the season, while the Clippers also in the playoffs, played the Utah Jazz in the Anaheim Convention Center.
Days after the Unrest (not a revolution as Watts had been, according to community activists of the effects of the 1965 revolt), the National Guard was called in. The Fire Still Burns in my book, The Depths of My Soul hinted of the irony of these men in uniform who fought against a repressive regime a few months before in Kuwait in the Persian Gulf, now defending properties on American soil. On the days I happened to walk down the block, I saw Guardsmen with rifles in hand standing on street corners in the midst of burned down buildings surrounding them. One building left intact was the nearby post office, with our elected congresswoman asking for ‘100 Black Men’. I suppose the symbolism was fair, but when she told me directly to stand there at the post office until she returned, I waited…..and waited…..and waited…..until I had to tend to other matters at my parents house. That’s the thing about us as a race. We need symbols, not realizing that whosoever will, is good enough. Even if it were five black men, that would have been good enough because it would have drawn the ninety-five left our congresswoman suggested. The older I get and the further this experience with the Unrest moves away from me, I sometimes have to shake my head and wonder why things are so messed up in our communities. Maybe it’s because I know the answer.
Judging from the television shows it seems the locals wanted to make peace with the National Guard by singing church hymns on the parking lot of one of the ABC supermarkets (which isn’t there anymore) while having a barbecue with them. The organizations and college students who decided they would take their brooms in the streets and sweep up Los Angeles came and cleaned up debris from the burned buildings. In my anger, my rage, my resistance to anything from ‘the outside’ and these were people from outside the neighborhood, I didn’t want to participate with them. Tales From a Firestorm puts that into detail but I am inspired to write about this soon. It’s much easier to sweep trash from a sidewalk but it’s a lot harder to sweep away the conditions that led to the 1992 Unrest.
Don’t tell that to the National Guard who rolled their trucks into Nickerson Gardens in Watts along with LAPD sending a message to gangbangers who’s really in charge. According to all the conspiracy theories floating around like leaves from a tree in these days of the early 21st Century, they could have something there. After that brave act, the Guardsmen left.
While other communities like Hollywood had their share of ‘rioting’, South (Central) Los Angeles will always be identified as the ‘flashpoint’ of the Unrest due to the fact of Florence and Normandie and all that happened there. Let me bring up this one important point and hopefully make it stick: a field reporter from a local television station went to the neighborhood asking people “will you riot?” But Mayor Tom Bradley will always be blamed for initiating it with his speech here:
If he is to be held accountable for telling people to express their ‘feelings’, then shouldn’t the local reporter and staff who asked if people riot also be held accountable? Sidenote: I tried for years and I can’t find a clip of that segment ANYWHERE! Oh well, if you can’t see it, you can’t prove it, those doubters say………maybe one of my old VCR tapes has it, hmm……..but I digress.
Part three will come soon, ‘This is the age of aftermath’
But first, the following message is brought to you by Furious Styles…….