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L.A. riots: Memories of mob violence fade at Florence and Normandie

April 29, 2012 |  2:13 pm

 

The flash point of the Los Angeles riots was the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues.

It was there that TV helicopters captured the beating of trucker Reginald Denny, scenes that became the symbol for mob violence during the riots.

Los Angeles Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez went back to Florence and Normandie this month. She found changed demographics and fading memories of the violence.

"Riots here?" asked James Oh, pointing to his store, Tom's Liquor. "No, no. Riots long, long time ago."

Today, the shelves are neatly stocked, the floors are sparkling clean and marigold daisies blossom in the sun a few feet from his door. On the walls outside: "No graffiti at all," he says proudly.

Twenty years ago today, when Oh was in Germany clearing minefields for the Army, one of the nation's worst riots exploded in Los Angeles. Tom's Liquor, at the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues, was ground zero.

The youths who now dash in and out of the green-roofed building for chips and sodas bear only the faintest connection to those days. And many of the neighbors who lived through the violence have moved out or died or simply don't care to keep harping about the past.

But history's a tough thing to escape at Florence and Normandie.

Every April, as surely as the faithful flock to church for Easter, TV cameras descend on this corner to remind the world about the time when buildings burned, more than 50 people died and thousands were injured.

On a recent day outside Tom's, a woman known to all as Lil' Momma had had enough with the attention. She grabbed a reporter's notebook and ran off with it. Angrily, she raised a fist toward the intersection:

"Florence and Normandie, Florence and Normandie! What about Florence and Normandie? When are y'all just gonna drop it and leave us the hell alone?"

Read the full story here.

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-- Esmeralda Bermudez

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