This is our sixth installment in a series of as-told-to stories from Angelenos who witnessed the first 48 hours of the 1992 riots. Jasmyne Cannick, a journalist, political consultant and noted critic of the Los Angeles Police Department, was 15 when the riots struck Harvard Heights. She tells us what she saw.
I lived near Western and Washington — two blocks away, on Westmoreland. We just all watched the verdicts on TV at the [foster] group home I was in. I wasn't political, so I wasn't paying too much attention.
After the verdicts, they let us out. The staff members didn't care we were out there. You could smell the smoke and you could see it. The whole neighborhood was full of smoke. But the place to be was outside. Everybody was outside.
I saw the looting and fires. There was more activity right there at 18th Street, where there's a Food 4 Less now. That's where [J.J.] Newberry's was. That store was heavily looted and on fire. When the fires started, folks were literally running down the street with Pampers and food.
It was a free-for-all. People were getting whatever they could, pulling stuff out. Then they burned that [strip mall] all down. It was weird to see all that.
The following day I remember not having school. I was happy that I didn't have to go to school. The National Guard came in, and the Korean store owners were visibly armed. There were audio warnings about the curfew. We had to be in the house unless we were coming to or from work.
The neighborhood was mostly black back then. [It's predominantly Latino today.] All the neighborhoods have changed. There are places that have never come back from 1992. They're just still empty.
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