Thinking of London and Remembering When My City Burned

Sweetie gets angry with me at the times I’d decide to still go into work. We just had an earthquake the bridges are down, and I’m going in. The hills are on fire and the sound isn’t music and I’m going in, but that’s how I rocked it at the time.  I was what I called a Mark I Corporate Issue Sales Rep.  I was a few years in and a rising star at the payroll processor Paychex.  Locked and loaded with a territory to protect and clients who valued both our names.

The strands of serendipity are numerous in this world Rodney King and I are from the same town in Southern California, Pasadena heck he and I even went to the same high school and although we were there at the same time I don’t remember him.  Good ole John Muir for every Sirhan Sirhan we turned loose on the world we had a Jackie Robinson, but poor Rodney.

I watched like the rest of America when the video came out.  From my perspective it was an orgy of violence feedback loop, an ass kicking that that brother was going to take.  Lay down Rodney don’t move man, but he was definitely knocked unthinking if he was thinking at all from the beginning.  They beat him like a sack of potatoes, but this time it’s on tape.  No way can the police get out of this one.

Simi Valley?  That’s copland.  Remember the movie with Stallone about the community where the police escaped the city to live, That’s where they decide to hold the trial?  Ok then.  All white jury?  No, the pool was drawn from the Valley; there will be at least one Black person there, oops no Black people one Asian person, and one Latino.  Oh boy here we go.  You guys know the Stevie song Living for the City?  “You have been found GUILTY BY A JURY OF YOUR PEERS.  TEN YEARS! Huh what I didn’t know?”  Reverse that emotion in your mind instead of an innocent going to jail being the American archetype it’s the guilty that go routinely free, live and on Memorex.


The verdicts came out in the late afternoon on a Wednesday.  Not guilty said the jury.  I had just completed my last appointment of the day and was making notes in my day timer of what I wanted to get done the next day sitting in my car on a side street just on the other side of the 110 freeway downtown.  As the downtown area proper was my territory I knew the little side streets I could park on without parking hassle, and the little areas I could regroup in that were not so terribly dangerous.  When KNX made the announcement I think the closest approximation of my emotion was “oh shit”.

My town was on edge and the Black members beyond tired of getting our asses kicked by the Darryl Gates led LAPD.  They had adopted a purely military style of policing and had been highly criticized for their brutality and their batter ram tank that they destroyed the homes of colored folks with looking for crack houses, and <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/39th-and-dalton-incident ">where the police swooped down on apartment buildings</a> and went on trips so wild they broke the sinks and put the pieces in the toilet the police had been off the chain, and Darryl Gates was mad anyone had the audacity to mention it.

By the time I got back to the Ponderosa the news already showed people beginning to gather by the criminal courts building in downtown, and the first chants of “No Justice No Peace” were being heard.  I can recall our media, but not exactly what was being said, but I remember the emotion.  They were getting smart, smug dismissive, and to put it mildly they were horrible.  At least from the perspective of someone who is not part of the power elite.

That first night saw white hot anger from the community, and coming out of the woodwork some of the nastiest examples of humanity the White superiority state has ever produced in Damian “Football” Williams and his gang of mayhem makers.  They danced in the street absolutely destroying the face and life of Reginald Denny, and Fidel Lopez.  The corner of Florence and Normandie became almost like a charnel house of violence, and at the time the only thing I could think of was where in the hell are the police?  Any other time they would have taken this opportunity to take care of business.  Any other time there would be no way a man could be smacked with a concrete block on national television and there be no response.



They fled the scene.  At the time I recalls thinking not so brave when it’s not 6 on 1 are you?  I remember thinking get the hell in there!!!  How can it be that a sole Black man with a bible has more heart than you?  What the entire heck are we paying you for just to kick our asses when you have the advantage?  Thank the lord for Bobby Green Jr. who saw Reginald Denny being beaten to nearly death on television.  He left his home for the corner of Florence and Normandie, and did what LA’s finest would not do.  He saved that man’s life.

When I woke up at the crack of dawn the next day as is my custom, put on my suit and wingtips and prepared to go to work you had to know I had Sweetie in my ear.  No you won’t go into work today those people can live without their checks.  No you won’t go into that city today do you know what is about to jump off?  Yes, I will and yes I do, but I have payrolls to deliver!  If I don’t go into work my clients and their employees won’t have their pay!  Bwahahahahaha!  WHAT AN IDIOT I WAS!  I saddled up and headed for my office.  All I was going to do was get 3 businesses their payroll packets and I was out.  My offices were on the corner of Slauson and La Cienega, that was a bit north and west of the flash points.  Things will have calmed down.

I knew things weren’t calm the minute I headed south on the 110.  There had been reports of fires overnight, but you could actually see a pall of smoke headed up the hill towards Dodger stadium.  Once I had crested the hill went around the corners so that one had a view of LA proper it was like a scene out of a nighmare.  There were columns of smoke dotting the landscape.  Traffic was almost non existent, and for the first but not last time that day I called myself a dumb ass.

I flew through the intersection of the 10 and 110 freeways and looked north and south from the freeway and I could see crowds.  On the major streets people were milling about and it was still relatively early.  People don’t really walk the streets in LA not like they were this day.  I couldn’t get off the freeway on La Brea which would have been my normal exit, but I could on La Cienega so off I went and headed south for the office.  That’s when I got my first full eyeball that this would be a most abnormal Thursday.  I saw a dude basically cruising up the middle of the street with a powered walking fork lift coming out of what was at the time a Fedco department store with four maybe five televisions on it.  I yelled at him basically WTF are you doing, and he replied something to the effect that they were FREE!

So, now I’m thinking to myself oh crap overnight we’ve gone from white hot righteous anger to shopping.  I make it to my office with no issues what so ever.  I do not know why my mind allowed me to think I’m Black they won’t mess with me, but it did, and I really don’t know why my lovely White lady boss left Rancho Palos Verdes for Los Angeles that day.  There were a couple of my other Associates, women, who felt the same way, and I was able to convince them to give me their funky payroll packets I’d run out and deliver them, you guys go home.

I had 5 packets to deliver as I recall and I got out 3 of them before I decided that my life was more than Thomas Galisano’s company and my place within it.  I started out in Santa Monica which at the time was cool, hit one on the West side which at the time was scared.  By the time I was heading into downtown and my last two deliveries I had noticed that the liquor stores were being bum rushed, and hearing that the police had decided to try and take back the streets.  So, I tossed the last packet I was going to in the mail drop of the closed building and beat feet for Pasadena, which was beginning to show signs of wanting to riot itself!

That was a horrible day and night.  The merchants of Koreatown armed themselves and that was ugly.  We had multiple firemen shot and one killed.  How do you shoot someone that would give their lives coming in a burning building after your ass?  Any of the righteousness that might have attached to no Justice no Peace was lost as people from all races decided to take advantage of situations.

Sweetie had no problem with me the next day.  I wasn’t going anywhere the police were getting serious as a heart attack and President Bush was talking about calling out the army and Rodney King went on television and told the world “can’t we all just get along”.  By the next day we had humvees and soldiers in our city and the smoke of our lungs wasn’t the brush fires we all had been used to, but the smell of businesses homes and factories that would be gone for a generation.
Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, argued likewise that the violence resulted from the breakdown of economic opportunities and social institutions in the inner city. He also berated both major political parties for failing to address urban issues, especially the Republican Administration for its presiding over "more than a decade of urban decay" generated by their spending cuts.[57] He maintained that the King verdicts could not be avenged by the "savage behavior" of "lawless vandals". He also stated that people "are looting because ... [t]hey do not share our values, and their children are growing up in a culture alien from ours, without family, without neighborhood, without church, without support

Wiki-link of the LA Riot

And then he and Lanny Davis went all Sistah Souljah on us, and decided that all those fundamental problems he discussed were not as important as him showing White America he could be tough with Black folks, and their legitimate grievances all the abuse and etc?  Well ask the victims of the Danzigger Bridge, or Oscar Grant about that if you have the ability to commune with the dead.
African-American Congressional representative of South Central Los Angeles, Democrat Maxine Waters, said that the events in L.A. constituted a "rebellion" or "insurrection" caused by the underlying reality of poverty and despair existing in the inner city. This state of affairs, she asserted,  were brought about by a government which had all but abandoned the poor through the loss of local jobs and by the institutional discrimination encountered by people of racial minorities, especially at the hands of the police and financial institutions

Wiki-link to the LA riots

Oh my financial institutions? Looks like all of America paid leaving that rock unturned
Conversely, President Bush argued that the unrest was "purely criminal". Though he acknowledged that the King verdicts were plainly unjust, he maintained that "we simply cannot condone violence as a way of changing the system ... Mob brutality, the total loss of respect for human life was sickeningly sad ... What we saw last night and the night before in Los Angeles is not about civil rights. It's not about the great cause of equality that all Americans must uphold. It's not a message of protest. It's been the brutality of a mob, pure and simple.

Wiki-link of the LA riots

David Cameron?  Is that you?  Sounds like déjà vu all over again to me.  I have to wonder when the real lesson will ever be absorbed, when will the root causes get top billing?  When will the organs of authority treat the lives of it’s non white citizens as if they have value?  How many more cities have to burn like London like mine?