[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
So you were there before it blew?
I spent a lot of time in L.A., although I live in San Francisco.
Did you know it was coming down beforehand?
Oh sure. Of course. The situation had been deteriorating, not just
with the Rodney King thing. You have to realize what was happening. Police chief Gates had
been fired; he was on his way out. Willy Williams was coming in as chief. The situation with
the Korean community had been deteriorating. The Koreans had
bought out the black tavern owners. There were very few Jewish owners of buildings anymore,
since the Watts riots. The Jews got burned out in 1965 and they left. The Koreans came in, and
they had bought up over half the taverns, liquor stores, and little grocery stores.
It took me a while to understand Koreans. Koreans do not fit the Asian stereotype. In many
ways they're aggressive. They're the bottom of the social ladder for some Asians. Korea's
become industrialized in the last fifteen years. Before that it was mainly agricultural. So the
Koreans came into L.A. There are three hundred thousand Koreans in L.A. and about thirty
percent of them have a college education. Some Koreans are very blunt; they're like the Israelis.
They are very direct. They became shopkeepers. They didn't hire blacks because they are family
run institutions. They moved in and bought shops in black areas. To run a liquor shop in a poor
area, black or not, you're going to have protection. You're talking about central L.A. where at
that time there were more murders than anywhere else in the world. You're talking about drugs
and gang warfare; it's a dangerous place. Here is where they have their shops. I don't think
some black customers like them very much, and I don't think some Koreans like the black
customers very much.
It took me five years to get into the Korean community, being very patient. Once you're in,
you're in. They trust you, but it takes a long time. They had a dozen robberies of Korean stores
by blacks. There was an incident that was the turning point, though. A fifteen year old black
girl went in with her girlfriend to a store and she got a couple cans of soda. She got into a fight
with the older Korean shopkeeper, and the shopkeeper killed her. The woman claimed she
wasn't paying. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was a TV camera there. What happened was
that the girl came in, she got cans of soda and she had money in her hand. She came up to pay
and there was a misunderstanding. They started shouting at each other and the girl threw the
cans. She did push the woman, but she wasn't trying to steal the soda. She turned her back and
she started walking out, and the woman took a gun and blew her head off. It went to a jury and
the judicial system assigned the case to a new judge, who was a white woman. This was her first
case. Nobody else wanted the case so they gave it to her. They found the woman guilty of
manslaughter and the judge gave her probation. She never spent a day in jail. They left and
went back to Korea.
There had been a black and Korean merchant group using my problem solving approach.
I don't believe in just dialogue, but the human rights commission set
up a dialogue group. I got the leader of CALPAC (California Association of Taverns and
Package Liquor Stores), a black woman who was a real visionary. My idea was to get together
with KAGRO (Korean American Grocers Association). I got the two groups together and I
wanted them to sponsor a program for training. I got them to co-sponsor a project for two
things. First, we were going to set up a complaint system so black customers could register
complaints and there would be a system to deal with the Korean merchants who were really
doing things wrong. The other thing was that we would train. The woman who headed
CALPAC was running two stores. She knew how to do it and she had a lot to teach the Koreans.
And the Koreans had a lot to learn about how you deal with customers.
I spent over two years trying to do a whole series of meetings and we couldn't pull it off. There
was a lot of resistance from the black community, but this woman really was a leader. She was
pulling her group along. But behind the scenes, she was paying the price for it. There was a lot
of anti-Korean sentiment. The other thing was that the Human Rights Commission was
undercutting the project.
How so? Were they doing something specific?
They had a Korean-black dialogue and the Koreans tend to respond to where they see the
power is, and I couldn't produce the money. If I could have produced the foundation money to
fund this we could have done it, but I could not pull it off; it was too risky. The county, through
the Human Rights Commission had this other thing going, and they saw what I was trying to do.
I could not do it through the county. So I had to set it up as a separate thing and they saw it as
But anyway, this trial had happened a year before which had a tremendous amount of publicity.
We tried to work on that hostility between blacks and Koreans, but when that trial happened,
that killed it. The feeling of the black community was so strong, because much of the Korean
community would not acknowledge that there was anything wrong. They came to the defense of
the merchant. It's true that it was dangerous to be a Korean merchant in a poor black or
Hispanic community. But the woman had no right to kill this girl. They caught her in the lie
and they had it on tape. The Korean community did not write her off; they tended to defend her.
That just killed my effort. So it was the combination of the LAPD actions and the buildup of
tension in the black community after the Rodney King trial, the fluid situation, the Korean-
black thing. When the riot came every Asian store got targeted. It wasn't just Koreans, they
went after. Unlike the later trials, we only had three hours notice. Later we had more notice.
believe the jury let them go. Maybe we should have known better. Also there was a vacuum of
leadership in the LAPD, which became very obvious.
I was on a plane when it started. As we were coming over LAX at about 6:00 pm, the plane was
diverted. Usually they come over direct, but we diverted; we went further South. The pilot
came on and said there were reports of rifle firing. That was the first day; that was April 29. I
got a rental car and drove downtown and I set up a temporary command post at City Hall. I
knew a woman in City Hall and she let us into her offices. By that time at Parker Police Center,
windows were broken, and there were police cars burning; it was out of control. And of course
the next day it got out to the Valley and it wasn't black anymore, it was Hispanic. First day was
black, and there were some white politicos involved, but the second day became Hispanic.
Unlike the Watts riots, within two days it was over a third of the city; it was even out in
Hollywood. Somebody broke the windows of the sex store on Hollywood Blvd. You have to
remember by this time L.A. had 300,000 El Salvadorans and 100,000 Nicaraguans, most of
whom were there illegally. Crimes of opportunity, poor people who didn't have much, saw on
TV that nobody was stopping the looting. It wasn't until the national guard came in the fourth
day that the situation really came under control.
What was CRS doing all this time?
Can't do much; sure as hell can't mediate. It's definitely a police
problem. Also LAPD would not let us in. You don't do anything, really, in a riot. You get the
hell out of the way. You have to wait for things to calm down and then you can mediate. There
was a meeting that first night. at the First Methodist Church. It's the leading black church and
it's minister is a real leader. He's a remarkable person. We had participated in getting a network
of black men who would've gone out on the street and calmed things down, but it was too late.
There wasn't sufficient time to do it and it wasn't sufficiently organized. It happened too fast.
Another month we might have been able to do it, but we learned because we had more trials. As
Willy Williams came in as police chief, I got in for the first time. We became part of the
contingency plan for the city.
In what way?
First of all, we were privy to information. (We weren't undercover, we weren't an
operation.) By the time of the next trial, we had organized including my staff and a national
staff. I had half of the CRS staff under me at that point. CRS had been cut way down, but I had
half the staff. I had 75 people. And I could bring in more people and we worked with the city
gang workers. There is a large group of black and Hispanic gang workers who were pretty
good. We also worked through First Methodist Church primarily, but there were other black
churches, their men's clubs, and their brotherhoods. We set up a way for other groups to get
involved. We set up a kind of coalition of people. By that time, we started identifying problem
areas. We were working in the schools, so we had a whole program with the school system. We
were training not only students, but teachers and principals, on how you respond to tension. We
trained them to improve the information flow so the kids and teachers get factual information
quickly. You look for trouble spots, schools where you know you've had problems before.
Remember that white truck driver who was almost killed? That's a trouble area there for several
reasons. That particular street intersection is a focal point for things happening. I went to the
South Central Police command post. It was the first time anyone who's not law enforcement got
in there. They stuck me way down at the end of the line. They thought I was a spy. By the time
I was there four times, I built up trust.
I had people out on the street. We were getting information, and we had radios. I learned how
to do contingency planning. My staff got trained, and we got radios and so on. CRS hadn't done
that up until then. Not that we were accepted by everybody, but at least we were in.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
With the Rodney King situation, if you remember the disturbances or "civil disobedience" or
"riots" or "revolution" the semantics of what you called it became a very big issue those
events occurred not when Rodney King was beaten, even though you would think that the
beating would have generated anger. But rather, the incidents occurred when the redress system
didn't work. When the police officers were found "not guilty", that is when all hell broke loose.
The anger was about much more than the Rodney King incident, it was about these two fuses that
had been growing. Rodney King was just a triggering incident that set that off.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
During the civil unrest of
1992 we actually went into the schools and did strategic debriefings of high school students to
talk about what options they had in terms of their behaviors, after, say, the O.J. Simpson trials.
We had just faced the 1992 civil unrest and we had to have students aware of other options, more
constructive ways of getting their message across other than going into the streets and causing
conflict. We went into a lot of schools and did that kind of debriefing. We also did an
assessment as we went along and we wrote up an assessment of what the attitudes were in the
different schools and what was the likelihood of students participating in violence, what were the
gangs doing and how destructive they were. We gave a briefing to the LAPD (Los Angeles
Police Department) about our findings and since then the LAPD does a lot of work with the high
school students in terms of assessing community tensions.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
You mentioned Rodney King in L. A?
I ended up spending about 5 months in Los Angeles after the Rodney King event and as part of that lump of things. I was involved in arranging for, and then actually conducting mediation between a group of Korean businessmen and the federal, state, and private agencies and organizations that were in Los Angeles for disaster response. That included FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration), the California version of FEMA, the Red Cross, Administration and others. A lot of that ended up being almost like a cultural training, because a big part of the concern of the Korean business people was that they weren't familiar with American culture. For instance they didn't have a clue as to what to do with the dry beans they were being given for food assistance. If they were going to be getting food assistance, they needed things they were familiar with. So we got the Red Cross to look for more fresh vegetables and rice. In some cases it was just a matter of looking at the physical layout of the disaster relief center it was called the DAC Disaster Application Center. I looked at the layout and considered how that lead to or avoided confrontations between inpatient people who needed help. Sometimes we ended up just playing a role in rearranging the furniture in a way that made it more conducive to having people being served at various sides at the same time, rather than having long lines which made people lose patience.
There was a real sense all along on the part of the Korean victim community that they were not being understood, that the severity of their situation wasn't being dually acknowledged and they could not understand why nobody was taking responsibility for the fact that they, through no fault of their own, had suffered all of these losses. They couldn't figure out why nobody had resigned yet -- you know, out of shame, for having allowed this to happen.
And the other piece which was major, particularly early on, was that they did not believe that they were receiving protection from the police or national guard for their businesses. So they ended up forming their own protection force a young adult team which was heavily armed and spent nights patrolling streets of Korean businesses to make sure that they weren't vandalized, attacked, or destroyed.
As they began to go through the process of applying for assistance at the DAC, and then waiting for a response, and looking for help, there was a lot of impatience. Language was a big problem. They were threatening big demonstrations in front of the DAC at first, and later on they did have demonstrations at City Hall. It took awhile to get mediation going. When we were trying to arrange it, there were one or two Koreans who wanted to speak for everyone. We tried to explain that while it wasn't that we didn't trust them, and we were sure they were honorable people, we couldn't take their word for what the entire Korean community wants. We insisted that we have more participation from the Koreans. There were a couple of business associations we got to participate and we had the leader of this Korean young adult team which was doing the protecting service. There were a couple who were clearly sort of elders within the Korean community, too. The entire process had to be bilingual, so I had to have a translator, because I don't speak any Korean at all. These were all day sessions, and we ended up going on for three days. I could never persuade any translator to come back for a second time because they were so worn out, so totally exhausted after one day. So there was no way I could persuade them to come back again. Part of what happened is that some of the Korean victim party who spoke at least some English, so if the translator didn't get it just right, they would jump in and say "No," so this poor person had a very, very difficult time with it. The other challenging thing was that almost everybody at the table on both sides were men, and here I was, a woman, taking charge of the process. But I did it, and it was fascinating, just because of the dynamics of what was going on, some of the interactions among parties. Never mind the actual negotiations between the parties. I ended up becoming very close to that leader of that adult group. He calls me "Mom." I'm his American mother. So we ended up being a very close link into that particular community. They really they were concerned that they receive protection. They would've much preferred that L.A. police do it, so later on, we managed to arrange for some meetings between some of them and law enforcement on how to coordinate security services in these neighborhoods It didn't become a full time vigilante group working in the community, but it was certainly challenging.
Did you provide technical assistance to both sides?
Yes. I always provide technical assistance to both sides. Now sometimes, the technical assistance required by an establishment side, just for the purpose of kind of grouping them, they require less assistance than the minority community. But I make sure that I offer pre-mediation training and preparation to everybody who's going to be involved. In this case, there was actually relatively little preparation for each. Partly because of the immediacy. I think some people thought they were just coming to a meeting. But I made sure that we kind of put it into a mediation session rather than a free-for-all conversation, because it was the only way to accomplish what we needed to and, well, I'm a mediator, and that's what I do. But I really thought in this particular setting -- we must have had at least thirty people in the room that we needed mediation. We had many response agencies maybe about twenty people, and six, maybe eight Korean representatives. So we had to have some kind of a structured process so this discussion could actually take place.
Part of what came out of that is that, after all the broad issues were addressed, was there were then sort of splinter mediations, if you will, or splinter meetings. And the one that comes particularly to mind was with the Small Business Administration. Besides FEMA, SBA ended up being one of the major sources for financial assistance. They had an excellent director there on-site who really bent over backwards to understand and meet the needs and be flexible. He was one of the least bureaucratic bureaucrats. So that made a big difference. They helped out with business loans, because it was mostly businesses that were destroyed during that time. We helped facilitate the Koreans applications, helping them to apply by giving them technical assistance to make the application process easier.
So the negotiations were basically over what kind of assistance was going to be provided and how and when?
Yes. And what the procedures would be for making that happen. A lot of it was even just how you get access to some of the leadership of some of those agencies if you know there's a particular issue in your community that isn't being responded to. And in some cases, the time line was a problem, because when people apply for a loan they'll get an answer within a month. But these folks were looking for an answer next week. So how do you handle some of those emergency situations? In some cases, it was just a matter of really clarifying what the procedures are and what has to be done to have to go through that.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
During the civil unrest the Korean-American community
demanded a meeting with Mayor Bradley. He was reluctant to meet with the Korean community.
The Koreans decided they were going to stage a series of protests. They announced their
intentions to march around city hall for 30 days, and everything was fine until they decided that
they were going to bring their drums and cymbals and began to march with this banging noise
everyday. The workers in city hall became infuriated and they started throwing stuff at the
demonstrators. Then the Korean leadership decided they weren't going to get any response from
the mayor. Even though CRS was constantly trying to get the mayor to sit down with the Korean
community and to hear them out. That's all they were asking, to hear them out. It wasn't until
the Korean leadership decided they were going into City Hall to have a sit in that we were able to
leverage a meeting. I had to know all the agendas and issues and put them on the table in terms
of who do we select to come to the table because we didn't get permission until the protest
reached that climax. So, in that situation the protests were necessary. There was reluctance
about any concession for even sitting down and meeting and they kept building it up until it
happened. It was just amazing because once we got to the table they charged the mayor with
being at fault and guilty of adding to the riot by his public statements, and that he was a big part
of why they thought he should remedy their financial losses. The meeting did help to clear up
several misunderstandings, redirected their allegation against the Mayor to a civil suit against the
City of Los Angeles, and a willingness to seek FEMA assistance having exhausted the City
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
How soon after the riots began did you come on the scene?
That night when things were still burning. We landed in Burbank
and then proceeded to L.A., and we met at our hotel. We couldn't do anything that
night because we didn't know anything.
Had you met with other people?
No, we just met with our own staff. Then we began to determine what was happening and
how we might
be able to help.
How did you assess what was happening in that case?
We had already had some people down there -- I think a couple of people who were probably
stationed in L.A. at that time. So they knew what was taking place and there was contact with
police department. When we got there, it was a matter of them briefing us on what
was happening and then working out potential assignments for further assessment of the
situation, and making assignments for people to deal with the police department and the sheriff's
department and city folk in general. Then some of us would have to go out into the community
and sort of get a feeling of what was happening.
We stayed on the periphery. We really didn't move into the area of
the problem itself because they had the National Guard there, and there
was a lot of checking and rechecking and concern that we might get fired upon by some of the
people involved in the riot or maybe some trigger-happy guy from law enforcement. So we sort
of stayed on the periphery and talked to adjacent communities about what was happening, what
they saw as happening. These people, even though they were not actually in the problem
area, had a pretty good handle on what was happening. We also spoke to police departments in
How did you decide what was the appropriate time to actually go into the problem area?
That is a good question, because I can remember being told about things that were
but I can't really remember being told, "This is what we're going to do." We were mostly left on
our own and since we worked in small teams, that's exactly what we did. So we decided when
we would go into the problem area and we decided when to deploy ourselves in these situations.
We were just told, "You're out there in that area, and you've got a new job to do. Now, here's the
out there and do it." But we had our experience and we had contacts and that kind of thing, and
we had a general plan about what it was that should happen. In those kinds of cases, you follow
your own instincts. You hear about things occurring at a given area, so you move over there to
see if it really is happening, and to talk to the police in that area, and then decide what you ought
The cops at that point were very good about cooperating with us and at that point also, we could
move into the problem areas pretty freely -- except at night. At night, it wasn't the best thing to
do. Once we'd
done that, and having sort of surveyed the area, then we were able to make some kind of
assessment, and then we decide how to commit ourselves -- "I'll be here and you'll be there. You
me know over the radio what's happening over there, and I'll do the same thing. Then in the
meantime, I'll find out what's happening here, and once I start doing something, I'll let you
know." That sort of gameplan.
I'm picturing what you're doing in the area. You're sort of standing around and sort of
migrating over to a particular person and engaging in conversation, saying, "What's going on
here?" Is that how it happened?
When you go up to these groups and talk to them, how do you
start it? What do you say initially?
While the police and I would banter back and forth, there was
usually at least
one guy that was just standing there watching -- not saying anything, not doing anything. I'd go
him and say, "Hey, what's happening? My name is so-and-so and I'm with the Department of
Justice, and I'm here to watch
that these guys don't overreact on you." He might say, "How are you going to do that?" So then
conversation begins and they say, "Hey, come over here. This guy says..." And then you start
talking. So when we talk to the sergeant, we tell him, "We're going to try to get these
folks from not engaging with you and we're going to go over there and talk with them. It may
sound like we're laughing and having a good time, but what we're really trying to do is
get them to agree that maybe it isn't the best thing to get up in your guys' faces and start
screaming at them."
As an example, that would be one way.
Eventually, the police would usually get impatient with all this bantering back and forth, and the
would want to make some progress. He'd come up and say something like, "Alright men, you're
going to have
to clear out. We're going to have to move you out.
There's no more of this hanging around. We'll give you ten minutes to start moving." So then it
be my turn to use the rapport that I'd developed with the guys to move them out of the area.
get the out of here; we'll go to the next block down and keep talking." We'd start moving and
the police would start advancing their line, but very slowly. They're not going to instigate
anything. They'd start moving
very slowly until they'd advanced a satisfying distance for them, and then they'd stop. You just
had to pay attention
to how far they were advancing.
They were trying to clean out the area? Is that what they were trying to do?
Yeah, little by little.
What were they trying to get people away from?
The center of the city, mostly. In fact, 2nd and Broadway, 1st and Broadway. The problem
for the police is that the farther
they push, the more the crowd wants to get back to where it was.
Did they get it cleared out in the daytime and then it all comes back together at night?
No. At night, people disperse, for the most part. There's no need for them. They did not
continue this at night
because people would probably get hurt. They'd already had how many people killed? So they
didn't see the
need for it. Besides, these are ad hoc groups. They may have one or
two that come in as leaders, but people would just gather and they would become a group and so
they're easy to handle because you can sort of say, "Let's move." They don't have really have a
plan or an agenda,
so they're easy to control. You just keep saying,
"Guys, don't move that close." And the police will let you know. They're here and when you get
too close, they'll let you know and so you have to start all over again. That's the way it was.
Then at night, even in the afternoon, they'd either get bored, or it's time to go see something, or
they'd realize it's time to go do something, time to go to work, and so they'd just disband and the
next day they'd come back. Not necessarily the same people, but the same kinds of people doing
In this particular case, if I remember right, we had pockets of people in the center of the city, so
we had to really start working with them quickly. Not two of us, but several of us doing the
same thing. Not all of us use the same techniques, of course. Others would sit there and
that kind of thing, and other people would sit there and talk about the weather and what happened
in "last night's ball game" and that kind of thing. But the goal was always getting the attention
what they really wanted to do, which would almost certainly cause people to get hurt.
They're not willing to give up that machismo thing.
Where did you feel the danger in that particular situation?
At night coming back from some assignment and having to cross the National Guard lines.
The police, they know how to control themselves. The National Guard, though.....they are just
citizens, and I
just don't trust their trigger-fingers. So when they'd come up and talk to you, you'd just hold your
hands up. Then
they'd let you through -- we had to remind them that our hotel was within the restricted area so
they would let us in. Once we got past them, there was no problem.
Did you wear anything that identified you as CRS?
Yeah, we wore CRS caps. It was a blue cap with a
yellow CRS on it. And they wanted us to wear those silly jackets with CRS emblazoned all over
them but we didn't.
When you say "we"...Washington?
No, "we" is my partner and I. But Washington was insistent on it, not so we could be
identified so the cops didn't shoot us, but to advertise that CRS was involved. So we,
when I say "we," I can only talk for me and my partner, I don't know what the other ones did. I
suspect that most of them didn't want to wear them and didn't. But we refused to wear them.
You know, get the cap so that someone can see that there are some officials involved. I usually
wore a T-
shirt like this and at night I wore a white one, not a black one and during the day, color so that
you're visible. That's all we did as far as special clothing.
Did you witness any violence?
To tell you the truth, no. I never witnessed a single act of violence on either part. Law
enforcement types or the people that were involved or the peripheral types, no violence
whatsoever. A lot of verbal sparring, but no physical violence.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
You know, it's interesting because the media didn't portray it that
way. This is a whole different image than what I'm hearing from you, because it almost sounds
sane, the way you're saying it. But the way the media presented it is that something is out of
control, these are people that you cannot have a conversation with, people who are determined to
I'm getting a different feel from you, that you were able to approach the people, have a
discussion with them -- that they were receptive to what you were saying.
Even that poor guy that got his head bashed in, that truck driver -- even that area wasn't as
bad as they say made it seem. We drove through that very area a few days after that happened,
nobody ever hurt us. Nobody ever threw rocks at us. In fact, they waved at us. At night the
would, if four or five African Americans were gathered on a corner, say "Alright, call the SWAT
people out because we sense a
potential problem." So that kind of activity gave the newspaper people and the people on the
radio a real sense of mayhem. But
nothing was really happening.
I remember one time we responded to a call, and we got there and we couldn't find any
problem at all. A bunch of people, ladies and kids, were running around with sodas in their
hands, laughing. They had the cops sitting up there and they didn't do anything about it.
I would imagine during these discussions with these people
that you got to a lot of the underlying issues. Yeah, of course you had these riots, the fires, and
things like that, but by talking to them you were able to get at some of the underlying issues that
they felt were problems in their community. Did you help them sort of organize their issues
together, say, "Hey, that's a good point, you should do something. Follow up on this"? Or were
you just a sounding board?
During the initial phases, nothing like that happened because we
were more concerned with the prevention aspect of our job. Sometime afterwards was when
to get together, and that included not only African Americans but also Latinos and Koreans. I
mention the Koreans, but a lot of our people had a lot to do with getting together with the Korean
business people and trying to reason with them about things. Their tone was really combative,
and so I wasn't involved in that one, but our people had to talk to them about not only toning
their discussions down, but also getting those people off the roof that had rifles. I doubt if they
would have used them, but it's very intimidating, and it might have caused some person over
here to take a shot at one of those guys. So they agreed to that, but that was probably the biggest
area of concern that anybody had: the clashes -- really mostly verbal clashes, and maybe some
pushing and shoving
between the Korean business people, or between the general Korean group and the African
There's another concern that there was a lot of looting involved and
only the African Americans and Latinos were getting blamed. But, everybody was sticking their
head into it. That's where I think we played the role of not only placating, but starting the
discussion on what ought to be done. At that point, it was getting groups together that wanted to
get together to discuss the issues that we were dealing with and out of that came a get-together,
that was the aftermath of the violence.
[Full Interview] [Topic Top]
Also they were
upset with the Latinos because the Latinos were against the Vietnam war and they were against
the sheriff, and all his shenanigans against the Latino community. Rubin Salazar had written a
really devastating report against law enforcement. The chief of police of L.A. had gone to the
Times and stated to the publisher that, "This reporter, Rubin Salazar is out there agitating the
Mexicans and they're not ready for this kind of activity." It was like the former chief of Police
of L.A. saying, "The Mexicans are just that far from running around from tree to tree with their
tails." He was no longer the chief then. But the law enforcement types went up to him and said
the Mexicans weren't ready to receive this kind of information that Rubin Salazar was
expounding on. So then Salazar responded by writing this huge report about law enforcement
and actually chastising the L.A. Times for even being willing to listen to the cops about the
readiness to get this kind of information.
So the stage was set in the sense that the Latinos were saying, "We're going to have this march,
matter what you say." And the cops were saying, "You'd better behave because we're going to be
out there in large numbers." So L.A. County and probably the CIA were involved. There was a
lot of paranoia about the CIA being involved and taking names down and taking pictures, and
I'm sure they were involved. Also the state law enforcement types and the sheriff's department
were involved too.
In order to get good information, they got all their Latino officers to
infiltrate the park area. I thought, "This is going to be funny." So the situation started and
everybody was really concerned because they knew that if they could just get out of the park,
be okay. And as they went down the street, they knew that if no one misbehaved himself,
including the law enforcement people, it was going to be okay.
So every time you heard a siren, you froze, because at the time they didn't have the wails, they
had the sirens. It just so happens that at the same time, a Latino kid tried to walk out with
something without paying and the shopkeeper called the cops. So that, to them, was the start of
the problem. But they came and everybody behaved themselves and nothing happened. So they
went to the park, but the tension was already really high.
One of your famous people there in Denver, Corky Gonzales, came here. He was doing his thing
on top of the truck bed. He was really going well. Then someone lit a firecracker, and so the
problem started. The police moved in and they started moving people and the Latinos refused to
move. The police also said before that, "You've got five minutes to clear," to make it official
and legal. But they wouldn't move and then the police started moving in.
Well, at that point, when it's declared illegal, you don't stop and talk
to an officer as he's trying to move you out, saying, "This is against my constitutional rights," and
this kind of thing, and so they started moving in. So the problems started and the violence began
and people were scampering all over the place and clubs were swinging. The funny part was,
here were all these undercover officers, on their knees waving their badges. And some of them
So the problem had already begun and they started marching down and the police tried to keep
things in some kind of order. Small scrimmages sprung up all over the place and it wasn't until
Atlantic Blvd., that a sergeant from the sheriff's department suspected that there was some illegal
going on in the Silver Dollar Bar. So the damn fool shot a flair into the bar, and it hit Rubin
Salazar right in the head. Of course it imbedded itself into his head, obviously he died, and that
was it. When people heard that had happened, East L.A. went up in flames.
Most of them moved to East L.A. Park where to this day, we believe that there was a provocateur
from law enforcement that said, "This is what's happened down on Whittier Blvd, let's go after
him. The sheriff's killed Rubin! Let's go after them!"
So there's the sheriff's building there and they began to go there. Nothing really happened to the
department, it's just that people began getting beat. And so we were trying to break things up
and get people to move all over the place.
Also at that time, there was this group called the Brown Berets. They were involved and they
had their bus somewhere. So I was standing here and the leader came up very concerned that
although everybody's getting pushed around and bounced on, that they're going to really catch
hell. So he said, "Our bus is down...Can you guys help us get there?" So I said, "Sure."
So two other guys and I escorted them a mile and a half to their bus. We got them there, got
them in their bus, had them wait there. Then somebody on our staff went and picked up his car,
and I got in the front car and we said, "Let's go." We caravanned them out of East L.A. and
dropped them off on the freeway where we waved goodbye... So that was our contribution to
I don't remember how many days that lasted, but it really lasted overnight and then the next day,
sporadic firing and that kind of thing. A lot of businesses went up in flames. And then came
time to start the thing all over again. So we sat down to see if we couldn't make friends and not
angry and love each other. But that was the moratorium. The thing was that law enforcement
wasn't that sophisticated about what they were supposed to do during these activities. In fact,
although we had experiences in the past, we had only experiences in the civil rights kind of thing
where you march with the group and you do it until the end and then if you're attacked, you're
part of being attacked. In this case, we were observing and we tried beforehand to work into
getting them to accept some things, so that it would move more smoothly, but none of us got
hurt. One worker got put in jail, he was arrested. But no one got hurt.