Despite my assurances, things did not settle down. As much as we all remember the 29th as the day of the verdict, it was the 30th when all h_ll broke loose. We started the day in the production office with a reduced staff due to the police lockdown. Things got tenser as the day went on. We were glued to the radio, wishing we had a television. The crew had given up getting through the work scheduled for the day. Instead, they gravitated to the Simi Valley Courthouse and joined a group of protestors there.
By eleven am, five hours after the start of our day, through the closed doors and windows we could smell burning. Cautiously we stepped outside. Smoke was visible hovering over the roofs of nearby buildings. Bits of ash floated through the air. The roar of the helicopters was almost deafening. We retreated back into the office and began to question the wisdom of us being there. We didn’t want to be trapped in the building; we didn’t want to be forced out of it.
We tried to get through to the production in Simi Valley. They weren’t answering. We continued to monitor the situation with an added sense of urgency. We finally reached the Producer around 2pm. He was surprised we hadn’t left already and told us to get the heck out of there. There were ten of us. Our cars were parked on the streets surrounding the office – mine and a few others were right outside the door, the rest were parked further away. We decided there was safety in numbers.
I loaded four people into my Mazda, others parked nearby also took extra passengers. Moving in a caravan we delivered each person to their car, each delivery adding to the chain of vehicles. When everyone was in their car, we moved slowly in our chain toward the nearest freeway on ramp. We had agreed that our best bet was to get out of the area as quickly as possible. We snaked along La Cienega Blvd. bumper to bumper until we got to the Santa Monica Fwy on ramp. Once on the freeway we went our separate ways. Each person had a buddy to call upon arriving safely at their destination – for some of us that meant home for others it was a friends.
I took the Santa Monica Fwy to the San Diego deciding that heading East, the more direct way to my East Los Angeles home, was perhaps not the best idea. Driving North on the San Diego Fwy I felt a sense of relief to be out of the danger zone. I glanced at the drivers in the cars alongside me. I expected to see the same relief on their faces. Instead I saw nothing. These drivers, crisscrossing the city on its freeways, were oblivious to what was going on just a mile away. Unaware, they nodded their heads in time with the music on their radio.
That’s when I realized how divided our city was. The Westside, the Valley, even East L.A. where I lived – were untouched by what was happening in South L.A. – it might as well have been happening across the country as across town. There was the heart of the problem.
I don’t think we’ve learned to “get along” as King wished. I don’t think we’ve become a more unified city. Still I hope that the changes in the LAPD were for the better and that something positive came out of all the negative. I’m surprised by all the coverage of this twenty year anniversary. Surprised by how many people claim to have been involved. I find it difficult to accept that those who I saw drive past the riots, blissful in their ignorance, now want us to believe they were there, fighting alongside, being outraged by the injustice.
No justice, no peace? I say no truth, no justice.