(Our coverage of Los Angeles’ 1992 civil unrest continues with this post by Martín Hernandez, a former Bus Riders Union organizer, L.A. Weekly theater critic and a currently “overworked Social Worker with L.A. County’s Department of Public Social Services.” He is also an SEIU Local 721 shop steward.)
“Maybe we should break into Circuit City and get us some new computers.”
I remember this idea floated among me and other volunteers who worked for a cash-strapped State Assembly candidate’s campaign when the fires and “looting” erupted after the not-guilty verdict for the cops accused of beating Rodney King. Ours was a dark attempt at humor as decades of pent-up rage exploded around Los Angeles, unleashed from people too long oppressed based on the color of their skin and their lack of the color of money. Even a prominent Latina politician opined one night in our Montebello campaign office that the only time “they” pay attention to “us” was when “we” burned things down.
(Photographer Ted Soqui’s account of the 1992 events, as told to Frying Pan News, appears below. He covered the violence for the L.A. Weekly and created some the unrest’s most memorable images. In 2011 his photograph of an Occupy L.A. protester was used by Shepard Fairey to produce Time magazine’s Person of the Year cover. This Wednesday afternoon, April 18, Soqui will speak at the Central Library about his experiences as part of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photographer’s Eye lecture series.)
I was at the Simi Valley courthouse when the jury came in – nobody could believe the verdict, but no one thought the city would blow up. Later I heard something on AM radio about rocks and bottles being thrown at Florence and Normandie,
This month Frying Pan News presents personal stories of L.A.’s April 29-May 4, 1992 explosion. These recollections do not represent the point of view of this blog or its sponsor, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. In this installment we interview painter Anthony Ausgang, one of the best-known proponents of Los Angeles’ Lowbrow art movement; his psychedelicized images of cartoon cats and rogue hot-rodders have become iconic staples of Southern California galleries.
In 1992 he was the property manager of an eight-unit block of storefront studios near the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, an area near Los Angeles City College that would see much arson and looting. He lived in one of the units, which he still manages today; he and his companion, painter Marcy Watton, who lived next door, were taken off-guard by the violence that erupted after the Rodney King verdicts.
This month Frying Pan News is presenting personal stories of the April 29-May 4, 1992 explosion, an event that has been called everything from a riot to a rebellion. These recollections do not represent the point of view of this blog or its sponsor, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. Today’s post comes from Judith Lewis Mernit.
This city was new and strange to me in April of 1992. I had been hired to be the L.A. Weekly’s arts editor just one year before and had moved out from St. Paul, Minnesota. I had been initiated, in a way: My car had been stolen — twice — and I knew what an earthquake felt like. But I had still so much to learn. I did not know a neighborhood had been leveled to build Dodger Stadium. I was still too frightened to swim out past the big waves in the ocean.
This month Frying Pan News is presenting personal stories of the April 29-May 4, 1992 explosion that has been called everything from a riot to a rebellion. These recollections do not represent the point of view of this blog or its sponsor, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. They do, however, present snapshots of a moment in a city’s troubled history — as well as opinions about how far we still need to go to make Los Angeles work.
Today’s post comes from Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear. He teaches creative writing at U.C. Riverside.
A Tale of Two Riots
I was protesting at Parker Center when the Simi Valley verdict was announced. I spent the evening in South Central, talking to people and watching the fires.