It was spring. 1992. I was a 10th grader in the middle of JV softball practice at University High School in West Los Angeles when our coach abruptly stopped practice. The "Rodney King" verdict had been announced. Four white police officers on trial after their vicious beating of King was caught on tape were acquitted of all charges. Practice was cancelled and we were sent home.
I quickly boarded the school bus desperately wanting to get home quickly. Riots. They were rioting in South Central LA. Sure enough, the view of the Los Angeles skyline that I'd so often seen from from the vantage point of a school bus on THE 405 was different. Smoke plumes peppered the horizon. I worried about my grandmother - she lived in South Central and was certainly in the thick of it. Cellphones weren't widely used back then - there was no way to call home and check in. So I sat anxiously in 405 traffic watching the city I grew up in and loved burn.
Once I got home, the evening news was covering the savage beating of truck driver Reginald Denny. Stores were being looted. Buildings were burning. It was utter and complete chaos. People were mad and LA was burning. Our Ladera Heights home was far enough away from the epicenter of the unrest but literally only a handful of miles away from the thick of it. We sat and watched our city in turmoil for four days before the authorities finally and methodically shut down the riots.
Fast forward to 2014 - Officer Darren Wilson shoots and kills an unarmed black teen. Mike Brown. He looks sweet in his pictures - almost like a gentle giant. But a surveillance video soon surfaces that portrays Brown in a different light - a pretty bad one too. He apparently stole some cigars and physically assaulted the store owner 10 minutes or so before he was killed. Officer Wilson got into a confrontation with Brown and a friend. There was a struggle. And Mike Brown ended up dead.
Last night around 8 p.m., an announcement was made that the grand jury failed to indict Officer Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown. Honestly - I wasn't surprised. There was that moment of hope in which I thought the grand jury might do the right thing - indict Officer Wilson and let him stand trial for the killing. Let people know that black lives matter. Send a message that killing unarmed black teens would not be tolerated. That didn't happen. And chaos broke out in the streets of Ferguson. The images of looting and burning buildings were so familiar. It was just like LA in 1992.
We talked about this on The Broadcast this morning. I have a rule - no crying at work. Today was an exception. The conversation was so frustrating. And sad. I'll let you watch today's table talk here.