Photograph by Michael Witte
Where have you gone, Peter Ueberroth? After the L.A. riots, he headed up Rebuild LA, the blue-ribbon group that was supposed to funnel corporate dollars into South-Central. So what ever became of all those big promises and commitments? Gone with the wind. Last year, Rebuild LA quietly folded its tent with little to show for its years of effort, and today, Ueberroth lives in Newport Beach. Rebuild LA was supposed to be part of the healing process, but it became just another sad chapter in the story of our so-called civil unrest, a story that looks les and less like a brief, sudden explosion and more like some awful slow-motion tragedy unfolding to this day.
Still, as urban riots go, the LA. riots weren’t all bad. Nothing can erase blunt facts like 54 dead, more than 1,000 injured and $1 billion worth of dreams and hard work up in smoke, but there were still a few bright spots.
Thanks to the riots, L.A. finally got rid of Daryl Gates. The Chief and his overhyped LAPD were utterly unprepared for what happened that April 29th, and the riots proved conclusively, even to his defenders, that Gates had outstayed his welcome.
And although most people only remember the monstrous brutality of the riots, also worth recalling are the heroes who surfaced during those three anarchic days. Remember Gregory Alan-Williams and Terri Barnett and Bobby Green? They and other left the safety of their homes and rushed to Florence and Normandie, the bloody flash point, where they risked their lives to save total strangers. That too is a legacy of the riots.