Like most days, after work, I headed to the gym. It was beautiful spring day in LA. We had set the clocks forward at the beginning of the month to capture an extra hour of daylight. During my work-out a palpable hush fell over the main ﬂoor as all eyes became ﬁxed on two huge TVs overhead showing a live helicopter feed as a truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck, kicked, beaten, and knocked unconscious with a concrete brick to the head.
It was Wednesday, April 29, 1992 in Los Angeles CA. A few hours earlier, at 3:00 PM, an acquittal of four accused Los Angeles Police ofﬁcers, in the beating of Rodney King, was read aloud to the waiting crowd. Within 30 minutes an angry mob of hundreds appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse and Parker Center protesting the verdicts passed down. What happened during the next several hours was played over and over on every news station. By the evening news, a vivid picture of anarchy had reached throughout the country.
The following hours from downtown LA to South Central, angry mobs grew and lawlessness prevailed. Stores were robbed, looted, and burned. People were pulled from the safety of their vehicles and beaten to near death, ﬁreﬁghters were shot while putting out ﬁres.
The mobs didn’t sleep. By day two violence was widespread and unchecked. Looting and arson appeared across Los Angeles, as rioting began to make its way from South Central north, reaching as far as Hollywood. Store windows were smashed, ransacked, burglarized and ﬁres set. Plums of smoke darkened the sky from Hollywood Boulevard as far south as the eye could see. At night the whole sky turned a lurid rust color.
LAPD was not prepared for this event and police were sparse, unable to respond to the hundreds upon hundreds of 911 calls. Calling the police was futile. A call to 911 received a busy signal or “please hold”. Imagine the feeling of helplessness as the truth enveloped your entire being. You are on your own! If there was a problem, you had to deal with it the best you knew how.LAPD and Sheriff Departments organized a response team which came together by mid-day of day two. After a state of Emergency was declared, the national Guard had been called out and was expected to arrive late afternoon. They too were ill prepared and arrived without ammunition which had to be brought from Los Alamitos Air Force base.
The Korean community had been a target even prior to Rodney King. Koreatown was hard hit and law enforcement was insufﬁcient to respond. Koreatown, was on its own, but the Korean community was not going down without a ﬁght. I remember vividly as news helicopter live feeds showed Korean businessmen on the rooftops of their stores
with riﬂes and shotguns at the ready to dissuade the angry mobs. It worked and many businesses which remained were spared.
On Friday May 1st I received a phone call from a friend at the gym. She and her 8 year old son were in the heart of a ﬂash point, one block east of Beverly Blvd and La Brea. Henry’s Camera on Beverly Blvd & La Brea had been stormed by angry mobs, ransacked and burned to the ground on Thursday. She given notice to her landlord and planned to move this very weekend. The moving company cancelled. They were frightened to be at home alone and asked if I would help her move a few things to her new place on the west side of town where she would feel more safe.
It had been nearly two years since my home invasion robbery, but that’s another story for another time. My point, in 1990 I became owner of a Sig Sauer 9mm, took classes to learn proper safety and proﬁciency, went to the range once a month (with a lawyer friend who also experienced a home invasion robbery while his wife was pregnant with their ﬁrst son). I was now learning Krav Maga, at Steven S. Wise and at 45 years of age felt as good if not better than I did at 25. So I reached out to a few friends whom I knew owned a ﬁrearm and could be counted on in a pinch. Saturday morning we drove three SUV’s to help Lyla (name changed) move important personal belongings to her new condo on the west side of town. The bulk of her belongings could be moved later, when LA regained a semblance of law and order.*
We arrived at Beverly and Orange to ﬁnd the street blocked off with large trash cans, and automobiles. I pulled over and got out of my car. Slowly a large ﬁgure in a black hat ﬂanked by two other men became visible and approached. Each had a ﬁrearm strapped to their waist and a shotgun in hand. As you may know, the Hancock Park area is home to a large Hasidic population with many synagogues on Beverly Blvd and on La Brea. I explained why we were here, and showed him Lylas’ address. We were free to go as he signaled others to clear a path for our travel.
Being aware most Jews are Democrats. Democrats are largely opposed to gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment. Seeing an army of Hasidic Jews protecting their neighborhood each with ﬁrearms was an interesting surprise. Curiously I asked, “as a religious Jew I’m surprised to see you are all armed” His reply shall for ever be inscribed in my mind. “Are you Jewish”, he asked? Yes, Yes I am, I replied. Shame on you he said, as he explained the meaning of “Never Again”. In that moment, I felt awash with Jewish pride. “Never Again”, I said. Never Again.
Note: * The Riots in Los Angeles continued sporadically for a minimum of six days although the media plays this down. Lawlessness prevailed as gangs of offenders roamed the city streets packed in automobiles, their ﬁsts thrust out of car windows looking for targets and victims in parts of the city where few, if any, police were available. Although the Mayor lifted the curfew on day 6, crime continued for several days thereafter. Federal Troops did not stand down until May 9; the Army National Guard May 14; and some soldiers remained to assist with hot spots as late as May 27, 1992.
Riots, looting and burning erupted in 26 U.S. cities to a far lesser degree than in Los Angeles.