Twenty years ago, I worked in a camera store in downtown Burbank. The man who delivered the photofinishing came inRodney King poster

and told us that the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial would be delivered that afternoon. The store got busy and I didn’t get a chance to hear the actual announcement, but when the last customer left I went into the back room where my boss had the TV on.

One look at that dirtbag Daryl Gates on the screen and I knew what had happened without a word being spoken. And I said “We’re in for it now.”

And so we were. It didn’t take long before we could see plumes of smoke rising up past the mountains, as the riots started in Los Angeles. My boss decided to close the store early, just in case. A lot of the businesses on that block also closed early, just in case.

Those were scary times. We did not know if our community would be touched by the riots. Torching and looting were going on in cities that seemed perilously close. Smoke hung over the entire Los Angeles megalopolis for days on end and the air was hard to breathe.

We always watched the 10pm news on KTLA, so we were watching the very first time the video of the beating was shown. Rodney King has since admitted many times that he should have just pulled over, but people do stupid things when they’re drunk. Still, I can’t think of anything any unarmed person could do that would merit being beaten with that degree of savagery by that many people. It was sickening to watch it, the first time and every replay.

But how can people outraged about someone being savagely beaten turn around and savagely beat someone else? Why did all those hoodlums do what they did to Reginald Denney? I remember seeing Damian Williams’ mom on TV mooing about her baby boy. If she really loved her baby boy so much, why did she let him hang out on street corners when he should have been in school or at work?

Even at this late date I don’t understand any of it, to tell you the truth. I’m glad our community was untouched, but so many others weren’t so lucky. ┬áIn the end, Rodney King had it right: Can’t we all get along?

 

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