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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.
Last year I wrote a one-man play that I perform called To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine. It’s about the one truly radical Founding Father whose greatest vision was for genuine equality. Paine called for an end to slavery, as well as for all men to vote, and suggested equal rights for women – all outrageous propositions for his time. Yet in the process of writing my play I discovered just how politically isolated we are from one another today. My Google Alerts for Paine have enlightened me as to many Web sites, events and points of view — particularly the YouTube videos of one Bob Basso. Until recently I had never heard of Mr. Basso. Neither had any of my friends or audience members from my show.
Basso has an interesting resume, however. He is a former flamboyant television show host in Hawai’i,
Walking back from the SEIU-SOULA* demonstration for immigrant rights at the downtown Federal Courthouse, I am wearing my clerical collar and carrying a CLUE-LA picket sign slung over my shoulder. Just across the 110 Freeway on Sixth Street, an older, tall, rather dapper looking white man passed me. Then about 10 paces on, he turns and asks: “What club are you with?”
“Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice,” I say.
To which he he asks, “Isn’t there justice in this country?”
“If you’re part of the one percent,” I answer.
“Well, I am part of the one percent,” he says, “And I am not giving any of it to you!” Then he strode on at an increased gait.
“Give” I thought. Who said anything about “giving”? Apparently, he does not believe in giving one’s self to another for their nurture and for one’s own.
Twenty years ago Los Angeles exploded in a confusing nightmare of violence, triggered by the jury acquittal of four police officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King. For the next month Frying Pan News will present personal stories of the incendiary events that have been called everything from a riot to a rebellion. Today’s post comes from Lovell Estell III, a longtime L.A. Weekly theater critic.
Hold the Flak Vest
I was in the fourth month of an internship at the Silver Lake-based L.A. Weekly on that day in April. There was a lead-dense atmosphere of tension in the building – but also an electric current of excitement. Earlier in the day, publisher Mike Sigman had asked me if I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of field reporting, after which he handed me a flak vest. I politely declined both the vest and his offer of potential journalistic immortality.
Next week the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and a coalition of faith, labor, environmental and community organizations will hold a major action at L.A. City Hall, where they will release a plan for pulling the city onto a higher and healthier level of civic life.
PROSPER LA — the Program for Shared Prosperity and Environmental Renewal — looks at eight of the region’s core industries (energy efficiency, construction , grocery/retail, ports, tourism, waste and recycling, airline services and home care) that could be the source of a broadly shared economic recovery. The program offers both a positive vision for the future and a ready-made inventory of statistics that show both L.A.’s potential and its warning signs.
Among the facts contained in the PROSPER LA plan: