25 years after L.A. riots, Dodgers, Lakers reflect on violent week…

stringer bellstringer bell Posts: 21,209 ✭✭✭✭✭
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2017/04/28/twenty-five-years-later-eric-davis-jerry-west-still-disbelief-over-los-angeles-riots/100975652/

All-Star outfielder Eric Davis remembers sitting in the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse that afternoon, staring at the TV in disbelief, too numb to move.

Los Angeles Lakers GM Jerry West was at the Forum in Inglewood, his team on the court during their NBA playoff game, and he was horrified, knowing lives would be changed forever.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ruben Amaro was sitting on the team bus back to the hotel, still in full uniform staring at the blazing fires alongside the freeway, while tightly gripping the bat in his hands.

Dodgers All-Star outfielder Darryl Strawberry, born and raised in South Central, was praying for his brother’s safety. Michael, a Los Angeles police officer, was patrolling the area when someone took out an AK-47 assault rifle, firing away, with a bullet striking the back of his brother’s head, only for the helmet to save his life.

Twenty-five years ago this weekend, on April 29, 1992, the deadliest race riot in 150 years broke out in Los Angeles.

When the rioting ended, more than 55 people were killed, 2,400 injured, and 12,000 people were arrested. In six days, more than 5,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, 3,100 businesses were affected by looting, leaving more than $1 billion in property damage.

It was a time that stood still, and those who lived it, will never forget it.

“It was mind-blowing how the city erupted,’’ says Davis, who also grew up in South Central, told USA TODAY Sports. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would witness something of that magnitude.

“I don’t condone any violence, but after what happened with that verdict, people got a chance to fight back. And they were going to use everything they had. I’m not going to say what was right or wrong, but I understood the anger.

“We had been sitting on a powder keg for years.

“And when that verdict came down, we exploded.’’

Not guilty

Four white Los Angeles police officers, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, Laurence M. Powell, Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind, were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American construction worker.

King, who admittedly was driving drunk, led police on a high-speed chase the night of March 3, 1991, when he finally was stopped. He stumbled out of the car, and an amateur 81-second videotape then revealed that he was brutally beaten by police officers. They kicked him, used a Taser, and swung a baton 56 times into King’s body, lying helplessly on the ground.

The 12 jurors in suburban Simi Valley, none of whom were African-American, acquitted each one of the policemen.

“Not guilty, not guilty?’’ says Davis. “Nobody who saw that tape ever thought those white police officers were not guilty. Not guilty? When you have someone beaten that severely? When it’s all on tape?

“This was the time we thought, ‘Well, they can’t get away on this one?’ And they did. It’s like if we can’t get justice on a tape, when can we ever get justice?

“If there was any case that was a slam dunk, this was it. They had a wide-open slam dunk, and missed it.

“So we exploded.’’

It wasn’t just the African-American community that was outraged, but factions of white America too, unable to grasp the rationale of believing it was acceptable for anyone to relentlessly beat an unarmed man with their hands, feet and batons.

“That bothered me, that bothered me a lot, and it still bothers me today,’’ says West, 78, the Hall of Fame player who is now an executive with the Golden State Warriors. “I always try not to be judgmental about things, and I believe that police have the most difficult job in the world, but when I saw that tape, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t even watch it. I didn’t know what perpetuated it, but I just could not believe that any man, regardless of what happened, warranted that.

“So I understood why people were angry, I really did. I was angry, too. Oh, my God, it was just a powder keg that went off. It was a horrible time for me, a horrible time for this community.

“In the course of this country’s history, you’re supposed to learn from the past, and not replicate history.

“Unfortunately, we keep repeating it.’’

There was the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by a neighborhood watchman in 2012. The unrest and protests in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot six times and killed by a police officer. The Baltimore protests in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray while being transported in a police vehicle.

“It’s disturbing, because they all have a link to it because of the police,’’ says Davis, now a special assistant with the Cincinnati Reds. “As a black man, we have to take responsibility. We know about Black Lives Matter, and I’m all for that, but then why don’t we do something when innocent black kids are killed in cities.

“Why is there only an outbreak or marches when it involves the police? Do black lives only matter when a cop kills somebody? Chicago is terrorized. But I don’t see people marching every day there.

“I ask myself, does the government really care? Do the governors of these states really care? Do the mayors of these cities really care? Does America really want to clean up?

“It’s been 25 years, and to me, it just seems it’s just getting worse.’’

The biggest difference, of course, is that we have not endured the severity of destruction or the number of deaths from those Los Angeles riots, terrorizing not only a city, but an entire country.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the Philadelphia Phillies that evening when at 3:15 p.m., the verdict was read. There was an immediate outcry, but no immediate signs of violence. Three hours later, demonstrators began gathering outside police headquarters. TV stations started airing scenes of violence near Florence and Normandie.

It was 3 1/2 hours later, 6:46 p.m. to be exact, when TV cameras showed a red 18-wheeler with 27 tons of sand driving to a plant near the Forum. When it entered the intersection of Florence and Normandie, the driver, Reginald Denny, was stopped by rioters, pulled out of his truck and brutally beaten.



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  • stringer bellstringer bell Posts: 21,209 ✭✭✭✭✭
    And America watched in horror.

    “Reginald Denny was just a victim of a time that exploded,’’ Davis says. “That’s what hurt me. You started to see innocent white people abused and viciously attacked for no reason.’’

    In a matter of hours, Los Angeles was in flames, but the Dodgers’ game went on. This was a time when cell phones were considered a luxury, but news spread quickly. The crowd of 36,639 that evening dwindled to about 10,000 by that time the game ended. Fans were advised to stay away from downtown and not to travel south on the roads exiting Dodger Stadium.

    “We were all watching this stuff on TV in between innings, and couldn’t believe what we were seeing’’ says former Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros, who would win the NL rookie of the year that season. “The game is going on, but you’re thinking, “Holy (expletive). And it’s getting worse and worse. You’re watching everything get destroyed.

    “We’re in the clubhouse after the game, and we’re told that you can’t drive south. I was living in Manhattan Beach at the time, but all of the southbound exits to the freeways were shut down, and I couldn’t go home. It was crazy. I ended up staying at (teammate Brett Butler’s) house in Glendale for four days before I ever got home.’’

    Former Dodgers starter Tom Candiotti said: “We were staying in Bel Air Crest at the time, right next to Tony Curtis, and I’ve never been so happy to live in gated community in my life. But we had guys like Kevin Gross and Bobby Ojeda who went home, and sat atop their roof with their hunting guns, just in case someone came to their neighborhood.’’

    The Phillies, who won the game, 7-3, hurriedly left Dodger Stadium. Most of the players never showered. They simply got onto the team bus, in full uniform, with several players carrying bats to their seats. They had a police escort to their downtown hotel, and then ordered to stay in their rooms.

    “I’ll never forget that as long as I live,’’ says former long-time Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler. “The bus pulled up onto the field, right next to the dugout, to get us. You never saw a bus ever come onto the field at Dodger Stadium. I’ve never been in as scary situation in my life.’’

    “When we pulled out of there,’’ says Amaro, now the Red Sox first base coach, “there was literally smoke and fire on each side of the highway. I tell you what, I literally thought we were in Beirut. It was a war zone.

    “I just remember it being so surreal, and also remember being very frightened.’’

    Says Curt Schilling, the former Phillies ace: “The story I remember the most vividly was the next morning after they cancelled the series. We were in the lobby of the hotel ready to take a bus to the airport. They asked us, 'Do you want a police escort?' We said, 'Are you kidding? No. It would like putting a bullseye on the side of the bus.’

    “I think it was the first time I ever questioned the integrity of our police force.’’

    The city was shut down with a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Schools and day-care centers were cancelled. Malls closed. The bus service was shut down. Mail delivery was postponed. The National Guard called in 6,000 troops.

    The next four Dodgers’ games were cancelled, rescheduled as doubleheaders in July. The Lakers’ next playoff game, against the Portland Trail Blazers, was moved from the Forum to Las Vegas, where they were trounced 102-76 and eliminated from the playoffs.

    The Dodgers returned, and produced their worst season in 80 years.

    “It was really hard to focus after that,’’ says Strawberry. “There was just so much tension in the city. I had never seen so much hatred for each other.

    “Really, the game wasn’t important any more.’’

    Strawberry and Davis waited a day, and then drove into South Central to help the healing process. They owned a custom interior store together and braced themselves for all of the damage.

    They turned the corner at 84th and Broadway, looked up, and there it was, still standing, with even the front store window intact.

    “Every store in the whole neighborhood was burned up,’’ Davis says, “but our store. They had so much respect for us, they didn’t allow any outsiders to come and mess it up.

    “But the rest of the street, it was gone. We did everything we could to get down there as often as we could to help people out.’’

    They also came up with the idea to bring King, who happened to be a former Dodger Stadium usher, to their season home-opener in 1993. They got him box seats with security, brought him into the clubhouse, and even introduced him to everyone after the game, trying to bring unity.

    “You should have seen their faces,’’ Davis says, “you would have thought that he was the one who whipped 50 cops’ ass instead of him having his ass beaten. Teammates weren’t saying anything. Wives were holding their purses close when they saw him.

    “Let’s just say it didn’t turn out the way I thought. That was made clear. Everything was just so black and white.’’

    King was awarded two years later with a $3.8 million settlement but on June 7, 2012, was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool, ruled an accidental drowning. He was 47. A federal grand jury returned indictments against all four officers in the King beating, and two of them, Koon and Powell, were sentenced in 1993 to 30 months in prison for violating King’s civil rights. LA police Chief Daryl Gates, who had left the police headquarters at the start of the riots to attend a fundraiser in Brentwood that evening, resigned two months later and died in 2010 of cancer.

    And today, 25 years later, we still have racial tension, and civil unrest. We may have had a black president for eight years, but this still is a country divided.

    “We all don’t look alike, act alike or talk alike,’’ says West, who grew up in West Virginia, and was drafted by the Lakers in 1960, “but we should all be treated alike. It was a learning experience for me, too, when I came to LA.

    “I didn’t go to school with anyone who was black, and when I came into the league, I was so naive. My best friends became my teammates and roommates, who were black, and I learned all about respecting people, and different cultures.

    “We should be embracing those differences today, but we don’t.’’

    Instead, 25 years later, we still have so much distrust, fear and hatred that permeates our society.

    “I didn’t get exposed to racism until I was in the minor leagues,’’ Schilling said. “When I got to the minors, people used the N-word as often as I used the word, 'the.’ It was startling. We had some die-in-the-wool rednecks that hated black people. We were in Charleston, S.C., one day, and there was a KKK rally in the town center. It’s like, 'These people live on same planet as me. Thank God I wasn’t raised that way.'

    “But still, things like the 'Hands up, don’t shoot,’ thing bothers me. That whole movement is built on a complete lie. (Quarterback) Colin Kapernick disgusts me. The statistics don’t back it up. That’s not built on racism at all.

    “There just needs to be a bigger price on betrayal with officers and elected officials.’’

    “I look at America today,’’ says Strawberry, “and it’s a broken nation. It breaks your heart to see what’s happening today.’’

    Maybe, says Davis, it’s time for the sports world to step up once again, become leaders, and show the way.

    “We all have to do a better job,’’ Davis says. “If we’re down for cause, let’s be down for cause. Not just when a police officer is involved. Or if we don’t get a right verdict in the court system. It’s time for everyone to help.

    “That’s the way we can make change.”
  • VulcanRavenVulcanRaven "No Title" MarylandPosts: 17,576 ✭✭✭✭✭
    They cannot stop mentioning Chicago. They never highlight areas that are not like Chicago. The difference is criminals who kill people are prosecuted when caught, cops who kill innocent people are not.
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