Wednesday, April 28, 2010

18 Years Ago In L.A.

LAPD cruiser on fire.
Rodney King.
Kiosk near LAPD Parker Center.
National guardsman outside the Hancock Station post office.

Pico Union area.
Mid town mini mall.
Overpass near the 110 freeway.
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in Koreatown.
Parker Center.
The first time I met an actual war photographer was in then South Central L.A.,
he was flanked with two armed body guards and queried me with "where's the action at?"
He was three days too late for "the action," but the burnt out shells of buildings were still smoldering.
This was Los Angeles 18 years ago during the last part of April and early May. The war photographer didn't wait for my answer, maybe he could read my the disgust on my face, he left quick as he showed up with both guards in tow.
It was a sad week that started in Simi Valley. The verdicts of "not guilty" came down for the four LAPD officers who beat down Rodney King a year earlier.
L.A. radio station KFWB reported "rock and bottle throwing at Florence and Normandie," thought to myself that that was a rough neighborhood and probably avoid that intersection. Several of my colleagues went there and ended up getting robbed and or beaten.
I headed towards downtown L.A. to Parker Center, LAPD headquarters. Thought it would be a good idea to park next to a LAPD cruiser, would be safe. Little did I know a mob would soon turn over the cruiser and set fire to it. Only the ammo popping off from the trunk, lit by the fire, would keep the mob from turning my car over and setting it ablaze. Followed the mob of rioters through downtown till they broke in to Ross Cutlery, a knife shop. The looters ran out of the store with huge blades, I ran off for my life.
Was running low on film, headed over to a 24 hour camera store, PIX on Melrose Ave. Tried to buy every roll of film I could till I heard a machine gun rake the store from the street. The manager yelled out "WE ARE NOW CLOSED!"
The city was burning, LAPD Chief Gates was at a fund raiser, and anarchy was in charge of my city. Over the next four days I saw the city of angels burn, national guard soldiers roll in with armored vehicles, and my fellow citizens loot the city dry.
A full generation has grown up since 1992, the wounds are still fresh south of the 10 freeway, and constant neglect dogs the area. Politicians have come and gone, all have promised a re-vitalization, none has truly arrived.
Recently saw a book by the war photographer I met that week in April 1992. It was about all the major conflicts he has photographed, the LA riots were not included.

Photographs by Ted Soqui © 1992