On April 29th, 1992, I sat on the bluff on my campus as night fell and looked out over a sweeping panorama of the Los Angeles basin. I was there for a couple of hours, watching the city.
In clear weather, you can see from Catalina Island to the Hollywood sign, past downtown Los Angeles to some parts of the foothills near Pasadena.
The post image, in full panorama, gives you an idea of the view (image from here, reproduced with permission) You have to click on the pic below to embiggen to get a really good idea:
This picture isn’t current, nor is it period accurate from 1992, but you get the idea.
Anyway, on that night I could see scattered structure fires in Hollywood, central Los Angeles, up through Century City and as far west as Palms. There was about $1 billion in property damage, 53 fatalities, and over 2,000 people injured over six days. Thousands of arrests, with many taking place weeks after the event, as security camera footage led to folks getting picked up for things they did during those six days.
This event is commonly referred to “the Rodney King riots”
In 2000, I had the good fortune to be present at the Staples Center when the Lakers won their first championship with Shaq and Kobe. I walked several blocks through downtown Los Angeles with giddy fans… and folks who were out and about engaging in minor mayhem, under the cover of “there being a lot of folks around and so we can get away with turning a car over or setting a car on fire or some other criminal blowing-off of repressed anger”, or whatever motivation was the root cause of any one individual’s actions that night.
This event was widely referred to as a “riot” in national media reporting.
If you Google search for images of “Los Angeles Lakers 2000 championship riot” you get this. It looks scary.
If you Google search for images of “Rodney King Riots”, you get this. It looks really scary.
It was. Even from miles away, atop a bluff.
If you Google search “Ferguson Riots”, you get this. That looks pretty damn scary, too. It looks just like the Rodney King riots.
I don’t know what my point is, precisely, regarding this post, except that the terms “riot”, “looting”, and “civil unrest” seem woefully insufficient if they’re applied to all three of these cases. I don’t know the extent of the unrest in Ferguson, and I’ve been trying to follow the story via Twitter and livestream as well as the national news (which has been terrible, by the way, in comparison to the things I’ve seen coming out of Twitter).
I do know that a lot of folks on social media have been reacting to this event like it’s the Rodney King riots, and whatever it is it isn’t that (not yet, anyway).
I do know that a lot of folks on social media have been reacting to this event like it’s a sports championship riot, and it’s not that, either.
I can’t help but think that the FAA no-fly zone over Ferguson has done more damage to getting a clear perspective on this event, for folks who aren’t there, than any other single government action in response to Ferguson.
Because I have to tell you, sitting on the bluff in 1992, the scale was starkly evident to anyone with eyes.
SODA POP GIRLTM included
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