As the Ferguson decision draws near, remembering the LA riots

The LA Riots of 1992 gave me the scariest memories of my childhood, aside from a friend’s guest room with Egyptian hieroglyphic wallpaper and earthquakes (and all highly intrigued me as well). And mainly out of fear for my grandmother’s safety. She lived right in the midst of some of the worst riots, in Hollywood (near Western and Santa Monica), while my mom and I lived in Van Nuys/San Fernando Valley. The only actual in-person within-touching-distance images that brought my fear were the National Guard troops on almost every corner, no actual rioting or looting. Though the image that will always represent the enormity of the drama was seen from dozens of miles away, a huge fireball explosion, almost a mushroom cloud, coming from over the Hollywood hills, looking south from North Hollywood, just coming from the YMCA with my mom and grandma, walking to a bus stop , where my grandma was about to get on to go back to… just about where the fireball was. And turns out, later that day on the news, we find out the explosion was at the McDonald’s two blocks from my grandma’s place, the McDonald’s I went to for years, of course a happy place for a child. Sort of a poetic loss of innocence, eh? But at the time I was just worried for my grandma, and of course we decided for her to come back to our place, and pretty sure those buses were going nowhere around there anyway. We went home and watched it from our relatively safe living room through the TV set (which also blew up inside at one point down the road). We were so relieved that we saw that fireball, something straight out of an apocalyptic movie, the ground hidden by the hills, and stopped her from getting anywhere close.

I’m older now. As I sit here waiting for the Ferguson announcement, or basically just waiting to hear/read the inevitable, I do not know what social reaction it will bring, to what extent. Those riots were of course also racially-based and fueled by the police, after the letting off of the cops who beat Rodney King. I’ve been wondering for a long time when such a reaction would happen again in the U.S. I’ve wondered why it hasn’t happened for the tens of thousands of brutal police mob beatings since then, or the thousands of police killings. There have been some outbursts and short media and local firestorms, but no violent uprisings. I have not looked forward to these, unless it’s the time we bring about the true change, the final option, and I know my family is safe… but I’ve wondered when the outrage will boil over again. I of course realized that there has to be the certain atmosphere, the “perfect storm” of emotions and dynamics between people and the police, and unfortunately in our culture, between races. Of course that’s not unique to the U.S. But why is it so much of the rest of the world is ignited time and time again by outrage against their governments, so often as a united people? Well I’m trying not to get too much into the Whys and Hows or else I’ll go on forever, I’m mainly trying to convey this sense of tension given the context of what I’ve semi-witnessed in the past.

That this situation has come to this, this boiling point, in ways feels like a natural part of humanity and even a must, a growing pain, a buildup and release of tension. More and more of us have felt this tension building, and we don’t know that this will be much of a release, or a release at all. But we will react significantly to this one way or another. It will show our character. Ferguson/St. Louis certainly doesn’t represent us all, although Missouri is often called “The Heart of America”… but they are our gauge at this moment, and represent us for now across the world, far more than our government could. I want the government scared… they’re supposed to be. I have been hating their posturing and shows of intimidation in the leadup to this “inevitable” decision, but it shows they are fearing the citizens, and yes, we are their bosses. No I don’t want violence. The police and National Guard and DHS and FBI and unknown agents and on and on have far more firepower than the people. The presence was nowhere near that even after weeks of LA riots, and there has been no very recent rioting in Ferguson. Maybe they took a history lesson from LA, since those got so out of hand… but their language and actions have not sounded like they want to keep the situation calm and controlled. Well, controlled yes, but looking for a fight. Looking for blood. And this has gotten the people even more riled up. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a protester out there right now, one with every peaceful intention, but knowing the opposition they face because the police are supposedly scared, and having to be ready to defend one’s self, and those around him, and assure their loved ones stay safe.

Obviously not everyone has the same intentions or motivations… and unfortunately this has become a race-driven issue, just like the LA riots, although police are and were the instigators, and the primary targets of rage. There are many, many white police in Ferguson… I may have heard that all of them are but I don’t know if that is true. LA has long had more diversity. So I’m pretty sure they will keep in mind who their enemies are… although I’m also pretty sure not all Ferguson cops hate the protesters. But who knows given the recent climate… I feel bad for the small business owners who suffer damage and theft and violence whenever shit hits the fan. But of course this always brings out the outlaws, those always looking for violence and ways to rob, those that are not out there to make a statement and a stand against an unjust government. Sure, they hate the government, but mainly because they’re in their way of the chaos they want to unleash. I hope that doesn’t become the face we’re presented with in the coming days- I really do hope that we don’t see any violence or damage. I hope more than anything that the killer cop is indicted.

But I also know there come times when the people must stand- certain moments represent the state of a nation and especially this year has been full of police-provoked outrage after outrage, and the biggest stands we have seen have been Ferguson and, well, Bundy Ranch. That was a victory, whatever people say, and has more similarities to Ferguson and what could or could have happened there, than many people would like to admit. So at least we did “release some tension” there, in a world in many ways radically different than Ferguson, but in a similar conflict of militarized government against the people. At Bundy Ranch, violence was prevented, and the militarized agents retreated from an armed mass of peaceful protesters (along with many unarmed). If riots erupt, this could easily become a loss for the people. But there’s also the chance it could be a victory, if certain routes are taken, but I have a hard time seeing that. Though the cops and troops and agents could make themselves look really bad, and villainize themselves to the country even more. Most likely I’d imagine it’d be a loss for all involved, and maybe the police response will be criticised, but will the country be pushed in solidarity to action? Will this become a wildfire that fans into a mass uprising? Could it be the trigger of widespread Martial Law? I do not want to see Martial Law, I do not want to see people hurt or killed or their property destroyed… I do want things to change. Sometimes when revolutions happen, things change for the better. Other times, for the worse. And sometimes they stay about the same. They’re never pretty, except they can be inspirational as hell, if it’s for the “right” reasons. Are these the right reasons? I say yes and no, but who am I to say? I just know I feel tension that’s going to be released in one way or another anytime now, tension emanating across the country from the heart of America.

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