It began with a TV broadcast.
The reading of the verdict.
The helicopter view of Florence and Normandie.
The first reports of looting.
The first sign of fire.
More signs of fire.
Signs of looting and fire heading north.
A Parker Center protest.
Police cars being overturned.
Palm trees burning alongside the 101 Downtown.
More signs of looting and fire.
Koreatown shop owners standing atop their businesses, rifle in hand.
"Can we all just get along?"
Looting and fire -- in one's neighborhood -- right before one's eyes.
Smoke filling the air.
The police car situated down the street.
Family members breaking down and crying.
Final exams postponed.
What's going on here?
What is happening to my City?
Is this for real?
This is madness!
Oneself breaking down and crying.
We need an earthquake - NOW - just so everyone will stop.
That is what the Militant recalls from April 29-May 2, 1992. The event known as an uprising, a rebellion, a civil disobedience, an urban disturbance, a melee, an insurrection, a riot -- depending on one's cultural, geographical and sociopolitical perspective, was something the Militant will never forget, yet he kind of wants to.
He is keenly aware, just as he was aware back then, than many do not, could not and will not understand. They think it's just "California people being themselves." They think it's just "L.A. getting what it deserves" (they probably selectively forgot that other such events happened in several other American cities on 4/29/92 as well). They will never understand.
A good percentage of people reading this were not here when it happened, or maybe not of the age where they could comprehend what happened. But it did.
The Militant would not condone any of the actions, he has more sense than that. But looking back, it was the breaking point of a society that tended to wallow in naive content. A wake-up call. It was part of a process. Like the Oklahoma City bombing three years later or the multiple terrorist acts in the East Coast nine years later, it meant reality was no longer knocking at our door - it was busting it down.
So what now, 16 years later?
Many people contend "There's gonna be another one." The Militant wonders whether they're just guessing, or actually hoping. The Militant doesn't think so, at least not on the same scale. 1992 was also the birthdate of the World Wide Web, and in less than 10 years it would become a mainstream phenomena. Now it's a part of daily life. Heck, you're on it right now.
No, teh Int3rw3bz isn't gonna stave off another riot, but people are less and less in the dark regarding information and self-expression. Blogs and forums and the like won't save the world per se, but perhaps the pent-up anger that got unleashed in '92 could have been prevented if people had a common means to express themselves. Granted, not everyone has the luxury of the web (though you'd be surprised, the Militant knows for a fact that more and more low-income people have access to the Internet than you would assume). But the web is starting to leave the stationary computer realm and go mobile - on our phones or other devices. It is becoming more accessible.
The Militant also believes communities - and the perception of communities - have changed since 1992. When the fires finally burned out and actor Edward James Olmos invited citizens to go outside and help clean up the mess, the Militant was instantly inspired. The awesomeness of that spirit of involvement seemed to overshadow the ruckus of the previous few days. This spirit of cooperation, of involvement soon grew into the love and care of our communities that never really existed before.
Others may think this whole obsession with identifying with communities and neighborhoods, be it Westside, Eastside (both the wrong one and right one), NELA, Downtown, Silver_Lake, Silverlake, Boyle Heights, Palms, Sherman Oaks, Harbor City, Garvanza, Atwater Village, Pacoima, etc. etc. is "Too East Coast." No, it's a process. People are starting to take stock in their communities, they are starting to frame them. What was one ambiguous "city" that wasn't really a city is becoming more like a real city. We're a young city, remember that. Comparing Los Angeles to New York or Paris or Tokyo is like comparing a teenager to a bunch of senior citizens and asking, "Who's smarter?" To many the answer may be obvious, but the younger one can still have the opportunity to grow and learn, whereas the older ones will always be set in their ways.
More importantly, from the perspective of this lifelong Angeleno, pre-1992, people took their neighborhoods for granted. They enjoyed life and when things went wrong, they didn't really give much of a care. Post-1992, people are making an effort to improve their quality of life. Countless non-profit agencies dedicated to improving of communities, be they regional, socioeconomic, ethnic/cultural or other demographic, have started up. Citizen groups dedicated to community improvement, safety or beautification have also started up. The Militant definitely got more involved after '92. He never understood why until he realized that it was all part of the changed psyche of the city. Yes, you cynical hating transplants, of course not everyone wants to get involved, but the level of involvement that exists today is something that never happened in the '60s or '70s or '80s. Each and every one of the Militant's operatives - he is proud to say - are community-minded people who are involved, be it local government, academia, neighborhood councils, non-profits, etc. They are definitely doing things. Are you?
Things are not perfect, of course, especially in this current economic situation nationwide. The event that sparked on 4/29/92 was tragic...yet, perhaps a necessary evil. What happened isn't necessarily justified. But it happened, and we must use our experience in a constructive manner. As Angelenos, we should own our own perspective of history and point to that event not from the perspective of hate, embarrassment or shame, but as an important lesson to all, that we should get off our asses and get involved.
Stay Militant, Angelenos. Truly.