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L.A. riots: Readers reflect on 'a twisted reality show'

May 2, 2012 |  5:00 am

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As a part of ongoing coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, The Times has been collecting reader memories of the days surrounding April 29, 1992.

Residents across Los Angeles watched their city burn in the chaos, with buildings belching fire, and neighbors locking down to protect one another.

When dawn broke through the smoke in Pico Union, groups of women armed with brooms took to the streets to clean up, shouting that they weren't afraid, wrote Richard Davidon of Palm Springs.

Wayne Carpenter of Pasadena had opened a retail store in Van Nuys just a month before the riots. When looters broke in, there was nothing the security company or a nearby cop could do to stop them, he wrote. 

"It was a surreal scene as if all law and order was suspended and the cops were helpless to assist. So the cop and I just stood in the middle of the street and watched it happen," Carpenter wrote. 

As a 13-year-old, James Brand of San Francisco remembers waving at the National Guardsmen protecting a neighborhood mini-mart in Carson on his walk to junior high school.

"Live uncensored footage of chaos in our streets like a twisted reality show, you couldn't escape it. It changed me, it changed every one I knew around me," he wrote.

For David Theiss of Elk Grove and several other readers, the riots were a tipping point. An L.A. native who spent 40 years in the mid-city area, he grew tired of worrying about safety and moved his family to Sacramento, he wrote.

When second-grader Courtney Arredondo's classes resumed after the riots, her University Park school held a peace rally. Back then she didn't feel afraid because of the positivity of her teachers and parents. But reflecting, she realizes what a task teaching young children about race, equality and hate must have been, she wrote.

"The lessons learned that year have stayed with me and have definitely shaped my views as an adult," wrote Arredondo, of Imperial Beach.

Some readers wrote that the battle against racism was still being waged. 

"This generation only knows the folklore. Still, more can be done to build the community, and relations between Police, Politicians can always improve," wrote Sal, of Los Angeles, who did not give a last name.

It's not too late to contribute. Share your story here.


The L.A. Riots: 20 years later

Remembering the riots: Reader stories

Then and now: Scenes from the 1992 L.A. riots

-- Samantha Schaefer

Photo: Word cloud compiled from memories of the L.A. riots submitted by Times readers.