An African American noted for his plaintive plea “Can’t we all get along?” he died in June 2012 twenty years after the Los Angeles riots sparked by his case. In our current events/public policy database we nickname him “Rapped-on-Rodney” to distinguish him from comedian “Rappin’ Rodney” Dangerfield—both of whom “got no respect” or R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
“Rodney King pleads to rioters to end the violence during a press conference in front of his lawyer's office on May 1 saying ‘People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?’” -- CNN

        We’re at our editorial office on W. 43rd St. when the Simi Valley, California—location of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library—jury recognize (ahem) good police work when they see it and acquit LAPD officers accused of using excessive force when arresting King; among aggravating circumstances such as a radio call from squad car to police station referencing the movie Gorillas in the Mist.

Escape from New York

        My colleagues deem it prudent to abandon ship a few hours early that afternoon. I escort some of them to Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) a few blocks away while one of my other co-workers accompanies another group to Penn Station a short distance south. We both live in Midtown and plan to rendezvous later.

        I get my charges up to their bus platforms and try to turn around only to see lemmings-worth of people surging up the steps. The escalators are shut down to avoid crushing the crowd. If not panic it’s a tense situation. I can barely make my way down and out of PABT only to find the sidewalks jammed with even more people trying to get in. There’s more police about than usual but no National Guard as there is now.   

         (On 9/11 bridges and tunnels were closed to traffic; instead people flowed west past our building on their way to the Hudson River ferry landings and the People’s Republic of New Jersey, aka “Land of the Setting Sun” as seen from Manhattan. Most annoying thing in PABT a decade later is seemingly random ear-piercing alarms and eye-dazzling flashing strobe lights that harry commuters and hurry patrons at McAnn’s or Frames bars. We’re OK with it.)

O’Dwyer’s

        I retreat across W. 42nd St. to the long-since-gone O’Dwyer’s Pub. There I watch TV news, drink beer, and await events in comfort. Many an evening after work my colleagues and I sit sipping away until Jeopardy comes on. At that point we’re too mellow to answer any of the questions so go grab some chow from the old-fashioned, fragrant steam table. This is before the cell phones that would likely be jammed by network overload anyhow. I wait in vain for my friend’s return.
A fire department crew attends to a burning building in south Los Angeles on April 30, 1992, a day after rioting broke out caused by the acquittal of four white police officers charged with assault and the use of excessive force on Rodney King.” -- CNN

Times Square

        I want to walk the ten blocks home in daylight. I depart the bar and head east toward Times Square. Along the way I notice something disconcerting: stores and restaurants are covering over their plate-glass windows with plywood battens. As we hadn’t had a hurricane hit the city since I moved back here the only time I’ve seen this happen is on New Year’s Eve with its roving bands of revelers. I pick up the pace.

Home but not alone

        Is something happening that I don’t know about yet? I’m barely through my apartment door when my Japanese American neighbor comes knocking. In one hand he’s holding a snub-nose revolver, in the other some bullets. He hands them to me complaining that the bullets don’t “fit.” That’s because it’s a .38 caliber revolver and the bullets are .45 caliber ACP rounds for a semi-automatic pistol I reply—can’t help you. He dashes off I assume to dig out his Samurai sword and the Rising Sun headband he usually dons while doing yoga or chasing mice down the hall with a broom.

        Meanwhile out in LA Korean American shopkeepers arm themselves with rifles to defend their properties silhouetted against flames and smoke on TV.

Bad day at black rock

        I briefly consider breaking out my 12 gauge shotgun and tube wrenching out the duck hunting choke, converting it once again to the “street sweeper” I wielded years ago during a night-long altercation in my “El Barrio” Philadelphia neighborhood; I demurred.

        Hey Leroy—New York City did NOT have a race riot that day.

        But now we have Trayvon.

Photos from
http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/17/us/gallery/la-riots/index.html
 


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