Expecting Flames

Los Angeles was supposed to be nice – beaches and sunshine and the movie stars up in Hollywood, and Malibu and the surfers just a few minutes up the coast. Everyone was tanned and pretty, and loose and relaxed and creative. The job in aerospace was cool too, even if it was just in Human Resources – others made the spy satellites and missile guidance systems and whatnot. And the office was just right, high up, with a wall of windows that looked out over the LAX runways and then all the way to downtown and beyond. Imperial Highway was right outside the door. Randy Newman, who grew up in Pacific Palisades and who had three uncles who were famous Hollywood film-score composers – Alfred Newman and Lionel Newman and Emil Newman – and who went on to win his own Oscars for his film scores – wrote his paean to Los Angeles back in 1983 – I Love LA – and it mentions Imperial Highway:

Rollin’ down the Imperial Highway
With a big nasty redhead at my side
Santa Ana winds blowin’ hot from the north
And we was born to ride…

It was supposed to be like that, and it was (she was blond, actually) but Randy Newman, being who he is, also added this:

Look at that mountain
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He’s down on his knees
Look at these women
There ain’t nothin’ like ‘em nowhere…

There were things you saw, but didn’t really see, and you moved on, but at that office window, on Thursday, April 30, 1992, we all stopped working and looked out over Imperial Highway and the runways and watched Los Angeles burning. The scattered columns of smoke rose in the distance, all over the city, out to the mountains.

That was the second day of the massive Los Angeles riots – the largest riots since the sixties, after Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the death toll was fifty-three, the worst death toll since the New York City draft riots way back in 1863, not that anyone remembers those. These lasted six days, with about a billion dollars of damage done to everything. Koreatown went up in flames. Even shops here on Hollywood Boulevard were looted and burned – many of them still have metal roll-up security doors that rattle down each night, in case something like that ever happens again.

We watched from the office windows down at the airport. A young African-American computer programmer said she was ashamed for her people. A white guy said he was ashamed for the human race. Management sent us home early, if you could get home. That night, Bill Cosby spoke on the NBC affiliate out here, KNBC, and asked people to stop what the hell they were doing and watch the final episode of The Cosby Show instead. He’s a strange man, and he seems even stranger now that it seems that he had been a serial rapist all along, but back then he was just trying to be helpful – or he was worried about his ratings.

That didn’t help:

The third day was punctuated by live footage of Rodney King at an impromptu news conference in front of his lawyer’s Los Angeles offices on Wilshire & Doheny, tearfully saying, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” That morning, at 1:00 am, California Governor Pete Wilson had requested federal assistance, but it was not ready until Saturday, by which time the rioting and looting was under control. The 40th Infantry Division (doubled to 4,000 troops) continued to move into the city in Humvees, eventually seeing 10,000 Army National Guard troops activated. Additionally, a varied contingent of 1,700 federal law-enforcement officers from different agencies from across the state began to arrive, to protect federal facilities and assist local police. As darkness fell, the main riot area was further hit by a power cut.

Friday evening, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed the country, denouncing “random terror and lawlessness”, summarizing his discussions with Mayor Bradley and Governor Wilson, and outlining the federal assistance he was making available to local authorities. Citing the “urgent need to restore order” he warned that the “brutality of a mob” would not be tolerated and he would “use whatever force is necessary.”

And then it was over. Not much force was really necessary. The riots had run their course. There wasn’t much more to burn, and there was no point in burning anything anyway. Nothing was going to change. The previous year, four or five white Los Angeles Police Department officers had beaten Rodney King, who was black, after a car chase. King had given up and was on the ground, but they kept beating him with their nightsticks, and then they kicked him around, and then they beat him a bit more. It happens, but someone had caught it all on videotape and had shopped that amateur videotape to the media. Everyone out here saw those white cops beating that helpless black guy on the ground, who was just lying there half-conscious, and beating him again and again. It seemed to go on for eight or ten minutes. It didn’t, but the LAPD was still in a fix. The officers were finally brought to trial.

But then there was that change-of-venue motion. That was successful. They couldn’t have the trial downtown, in the city – the people were too outraged. They couldn’t be fair. The trial was moved out to Simi Valley, at the far end of the San Fernando Valley, where, curiously, almost all the folks were white and where a whole lot of LAPD officers had retired. Ronald Reagan is buried at his ranch in the nearby hills. On April 29, 1992, the seventh day of jury deliberations, the jury out there acquitted all four officers of assault, and acquitted three of the four of using excessive force. Maybe one of them had gone a bit overboard, but they were deadlocked on that last charge. All four officers walked. The riots followed.

African-Americans had had just about enough of this crap. Lincoln had freed the slaves. Martin Luther King had forced the country to change the law – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been signed, sealed and delivered – but even now white cops, in a pack, could beat a single black man, who had already surrendered to them, nearly to death – and walk. Do you think that’s okay, whitey? You’ll be sorry.

In the end everyone was sorry. Much was lost in those riots and little was gained, except for a few police reforms, not quite implemented. The Trump administration stopped all the consent decrees that specified the required reforms. Whites did, however, become more fearful, and angry that they were more fearful.

Blacks saw nothing much would change. They saw that their anger, while satisfying for a week or so, made them look like thugs – or like fools who burned down their own neighborhoods. They also saw that their anger alone changed nothing.

Los Angeles hasn’t changed much either, except the cops are now a bit more careful, or circumspect, and America hasn’t changed much. Now, this time, it’s just one cop, with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, forcing the life out of him, and keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck long after Floyd was obviously dead, perhaps to make a point. Who knows?

And he may walk. Cops almost always do. But this isn’t sunny idyllic Los Angeles thirty years ago, where no one expected anything to go wrong. Everyone knows better now. Chauvin may walk. If he does, as he might, expect all hell to break loose. That seems certain, and as CNN reports here, this time everyone will be prepared:

With jury deliberations in Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd expected next week, Minneapolis and other US cities are preparing for protests and possible civil unrest.

The verdict in one of the most closely watched police brutality trials in decades could come next week as the Minneapolis metropolitan area and other cities reel from police-involved deaths, including the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by an officer in Brooklyn Center last weekend just miles from the courthouse.

Chicago has been on edge this week since authorities released body-worn camera footage showing an officer firing a single shot that killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who had been holding a handgun he appeared to ditch at the end of a foot chase, according to police.

The twenty-year-old Black man was unarmed. The thirteen-year-old Black kid was unarmed. George Floyd was unarmed. All three are dead. One man is on trial, or maybe not. Something bigger is wrong, but if he walks that’s big enough. That would be a confirmation.

Everyone knows this. Prepare for the worst:

A nationwide reckoning on policing and systemic racial injustice reignited by Floyd’s death last summer has prompted new, sometimes violent, protests this week.

Minneapolis Public Schools will move to remote learning starting on Wednesday in anticipation of a trial verdict, according a letter to students and parents from Superintendent Ed Graff…

Graff said all students will do distance learning from Wednesday through the end of the week. Athletic events and before and after school childcare will not take place.

“The racism and violence that has been highlighted in these tragic incidents may be widely discussed among some students in our schools,” Graff said in the letter posted on the school system’s website.

“As appropriate and as they are comfortable, teachers will give students the opportunity to process their feelings, how this feels to them personally and how they are impacted by having the eyes of the world on Minneapolis.”

But still, everyone, stay home! This could be war:

In downtown Minneapolis, where the sequestered jury will hold deliberations, crews were seen this week installing razor wire around a police building. Similar measures were being taken at other police precincts, according to Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.

National Guard troops have been deployed in parts of downtown Minneapolis.

Mayor Jacob Frey said before the trial that up to 2,000 National Guard members will be prepared to respond along with up to 1,100 law enforcement pooled from 12 other jurisdictions.

And elsewhere:

In Los Angeles, police have stepped up community outreach efforts and planned to make additional officers available, according to Capt. Stacy Spell.

“We are also strongly encouraging that if those people who want to express themselves see something, that they say something,” he said. “We don’t want small groups of individuals with malicious intent to hijack what would otherwise be a peaceful demonstration.”

In San Francisco, police said discretionary days off for officers have been canceled and additional officers will be deployed.

The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that it’s coordinating efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement and have officers prepared to respond quickly.

They know. Everyone knows:

In New York City, police were preparing for protests.

“We’re in constant, literally daily conversations,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Obviously, so much will happen based on what the verdict is and how it’s expressed.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the city has averaged 10 to 20 protests a day basically since last year. “It’s never really ended,” he told 1010 WINS radio on Wednesday.

“We’re just asking anyone that, that may come out to voice their, you know, concerns over this trial to let’s just work together, do it peacefully, no property damage and we’ll get all through it together,” Shea said.

Dermot Shea was sounding like Rodney King. Can we all get along? But no one expects that:

The Philadelphia Police Department said it is prepared “with additional personnel to secure and patrol strategic locations.”

In the nation’s capital, the Metropolitan Police Department will be “fully activated with members on 12-hour shifts starting Monday,” according to spokesman Hugh Carew.

They know. Do you think that’s okay, whitey? You’ll be sorry.

This time that’s explicit:

Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) told demonstrators to “stay in the street” and become “more confrontational” if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is acquitted of killing resident George Floyd.

Waters arrived in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Saturday to join demonstrations over the police shooting of Daunte Wright last week. A local officer shot and killed Wright with a handgun during a traffic stop after intending to use a Taser, sparking nightly demonstrations in front of the local police headquarters, with some turning violent.

“I’m going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice,” Waters told reporters at the Saturday demonstration. “We’ve got to get justice in this country and we cannot allow these killings to continue.”

She didn’t say burn it all down but she did say this:

When asked what protesters should do moving forward, Waters said “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Waters told reporters “I hope we’re going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty,” in the Chauvin trial. “And if we don’t, we cannot go away.”

She didn’t say burn it all down but that was close enough:

Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday suggested that Rep. Maxine Waters was inciting violence by encouraging demonstrators in Minnesota to continue protesting against police brutality…

Cruz, a Republican from Texas, blasted those remarks from Waters.

“Democrats actively encouraging riots & violence,” he tweeted in response, along with a Daily Mail article reporting Waters’ comments.

“They want to tear us apart,” he added.

He sees no reason that she, or any other Black woman or Black man, should feel fed up with three decades of this stuff, day after day after day. What’s her problem? Why does she hate America? Why does every single Democrat hate America? And so forth and so on. Ted Cruz was being Ted Cruz.

And then there was this:

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) announced on Sunday that she plans to introduce a resolution to expel Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) from Congress.

Greene in a statement on Sunday said that she will “be introducing a resolution to expel Rep. Maxine Waters from Congress for her continual incitement of violence.”

The Republican lawmaker specifically targeted Waters for speaking to protesters at a demonstration in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Saturday. Protests broke out in the city last week after police fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on April 11.

Waters told reporters on Saturday that she is “going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice,” adding, “We’ve got to get justice in this country, and we cannot allow these killings to continue,” Fox News reported.

But she wasn’t talking about White cops, or any cops, killing unarmed Black men or Black kids, or anyone at all. She was talking about armed liberals out to kill us all, to kill all the White folks, to kill all the good guys:

Greene on Sunday claimed that Waters’ comments “led to more violence and a drive by shooting on National Guardsmen in Minnesota early this morning.”

Two guardsmen were injured early Sunday morning when a gunman fired at a Minnesota National Guard and Minneapolis Police Department neighborhood security team, the Minnesota National Guard said.

However, National Guard officials did not provide any immediate evidence of who fired at the law enforcement officials or a connection to Waters’ comments.

But she is who she is:

Greene previously announced she would file articles of impeachment against President Biden just one day after he was sworn into office. She said that the articles accused Biden of abusing his power while serving as vice president by allowing his son Hunter Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

That went nowhere, and Maxine Waters stays. Greene is the one in trouble now:

Two far-right House Republicans linked to a document calling for the protection of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” distanced themselves from what they said was a draft of prescriptions for an “America First Caucus.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said in a Saturday statement that he “did not author” the document and that he became aware of it only after it was reported by the news media, saying he “will continue to work on America First issues in the House Freedom Caucus.”

“Let me be perfectly clear. I did not author this paper,” he said. “In fact, I first became aware of it by reading about it in the news yesterday, like everyone else.”

In addition, Nick Dyer, a spokesperson for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said in a statement that the document was merely “an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved.”

Greene released a statement Saturday saying the platform was “a staff level draft proposal from an outside group that I hadn’t read.”

Perhaps she should have read it:

The seven-page organizing document, which includes the group’s name and a logo, says: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Black folks are outside that culture and those traditions. So are Asians and Hispanics and Muslims and of course Jews too. She has frightened her party:

Gosar and Greene have faced backlash this year – Greene for her promotion of conspiracy theories, which led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to condemn her for spreading “loony lies” and the Democratic-controlled House to remove her from committees in February, and Gosar for speaking at “Stop the Steal,” promoting the Jan. 6 rally ahead of the Capitol riot and spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election.

Among the Republicans who pushed back against the platform were Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who tweeted that Republicans “teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage.”

They do? We’ll see. The jury will return a verdict. If this man is convicted of murder, will they say that’s justice? If he walks, will they acknowledge that the anger out there is understandable? We’ll see. We’ve been here before. Expect flames.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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