I Missed The Burnings of LA AND London

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized
                    I was informed that yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Simi Valley, California jury acquitting the four LA police officers of assault on Rodney King despite video evidence clearly showing excessive force. Since the four cops were white and King was black, and the trial was held in a mostly-white suburb, it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise that LA’s Black communities rioted in response to the verdict. During the ensuing riots, just like last year during the London riots,  I was in another locale (San Francisco), fiddling while my city burned. During the last week of April, 1992, I was working in Las Vegas for the Comedy Store, arriving there the day the verdict was announced, and not returning to LA til the following Monday. Whew, I said at the time, but though I lucked out in not having to deal with the riots in person, the impact was felt globally, and on a smaller scale, there WERE riots and looting in Vegas, which has a large ghetto that tourists never get to see. 
                      During the day in Vegas, I pretty much stayed in my hotel, continually watching CNN and feeling the impact almost as much as if I’d been home. Plus there was reason to worry, as my then-wife was home in LA, but due to curfews and martial law, she wasn’t going out anyway. The TV showed horrifying images of people so caught up in “Burn, baby, burn,” that all common sense seemed to go out the window. There was the footage of the white man, clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time, being pulled from his truck while at a stoplight and badly beaten, fortunately surviving. Some footage of a department store looting showed a man leaving with nothing but a baby carriage. The one that truly made me cry was that of a black man screaming at looters as they ransacked his electronics shop, “What are you doing? I was raised in the ghetto, too! Why are you stealing from your own?” This was a question many asked, and one of the more valid answers would be, “We’re too caught up in the rage of the moment to organize a caravan of cars to Beverly Hills to confront the REAL enemy.” 
                       When I returned to Los Angeles the following Monday, things had simmered, but there were still National Guard troops around, though the curfews had been lifted. The whole area smelled of ash and cinders for several days, and when I went to The Comedy Store for a spot later in the week, one black comedian whom I considered a friend was openly hostile to me.  Another sad result of the riots was that many of the buildings totally gutted by the rioters remained burnt out shells for many months, even years, afterward. You could spot this from the air when you were landing at LA Airport, for the flight pattern took the planes directly over South Central LA.  
                        Some considered it a vindication three years later when O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, but all that verdict showed was that a RICH black man can get away with things that most black people can’t. When Simpson was jailed three years ago, it may have been on unrelated charges, but I believe, like many, that there was such pressure to convict him of SOMETHING, he’d probably have gone to jail if it were only a parking violation. 
                           Though the London and LA riots were 19 years apart, both were triggered by a miscarriage of justice against a black man by white police officers, so maybe no one’s learned that much over the years. In the case of the London riots, it was the killing of a black man by white police officers. Rodney King wasn’t killed by the officers in 1992, and he unfortunately went on to have a string of offenses and convictions. Still, one of the more poignant images was that of him during the riots, asking everyone, “Can’t we all just… get along?” That became a catch phrase for many years after, and could well have applied to the idiots in my neighboring town of Barking, who became infamous on YouTube for their mugging of an injured London riot victim after first appearing to be helping him.
                            I’ve been lucky to have been absent from the cities while they burned, and I guess the best way to avoid ever getting caught up in that chaos is for it never to happen again. I wish I could believe it won’t. 

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