Riot Stories

L.A. Riots: Zev Yaroslavsky's Car 'Was Totally Destroyed'

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Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM
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South L.A. was gutted by the L.A. riots, which were sparked 20 years ago Sunday. Hollywood was hit. Parts of Koreatown burned.

But news coverage of fires and looting further west was rare. As we look back at the uprisings with our Riot Stories vignettes, we checked in with L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was an L.A. City Council member representing the Westside back then.

He was at the First AME Church in South L.A. when the neighborhood exploded:

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I was at the First AME Church the night the riots broke out. There was a convocation to try to keep the peace in the city. [Mayor] Tom Bradley and others spoke.

While we were all sitting in the sanctuary in the church the riots broke out. I parked my car on Adams [Boulevard] about 5 in the evening. By 6:30 the city was in flames.

I was interviewed inside by John North of channel 7. I looked at his monitor and said, 'Why are you guys showing footage of the '65 [Watts] riots?' He said it's a live shot from their helicopter.

I was warned not to go outside alone. A couple deacons escorted me to my car on Adams. My car was totally destroyed. The windows were smashed. I got someone to drive me home.

Contrary to popular belief, there was rioting in points west. Yaroslavsky noted that a strip mall at Pico and La Cienega boulevards, just south of Beverly Hills, was torched, and that a Big 5 (still standing at Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards) two blocks east of Beverly Hills was looted.

There was rioting in Westwood Village.

And a Samy's Camera at Beverly Boulevard and North Detroit Street, near Yaroslavsky's home, went up in flames as his wife directed traffic nearby on the second day of rioting. He says he walked over after a neighbor alerted him to the blaze:

There wasn't a police officer to be seen. It was at least an hour before police showed up. Firefighters showed up, though.

The second day of rioting was met with a City Council session, with LAPD Chief Daryl Gates front-and-center. Yaroslavsky:

Daryl Gates was at the center table and there was a lot of concern about what was going to hapen that night. Finally I just went over to Gates and whispered in his ear: 'Why don't you just establish a dusk-to-dawn curfew tonight and tomorrow until the city comes back under control?'

His initial reaction was that there would be a lot of opposition: Restaurants will be upset. I said, 'Nobody is going to any restaurants tonight.'

He did call for a dusk-to-dawn curfew that night. It did last a few nights. And it did end the night time problem in a hurry.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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