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Mark Lewis


During the LA Riots my day started early when a younger childhood friend and new LAPD officer arrogantly told me nothing would happen regarding the verdict. I was struck by the fact he was so arrogantly confident that LAPD would handle it no matter what jumped off.

At the time, I lived in Carson, I attended New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles near the corner of Avalon and El Segundo, near my grandfather's house. I was at the church when the verdict was rendered. I was contacted by several family members and my fiancé. My mother wanted me to get my grandmother who lived near Manchester and Western and get her out and bring her to her home in Altadena. As I was driving through the streets of LA, which I knew very well since a few years earlier I worked in those streets as a route sales representative for Wonder Bread delivering bakery products. Because of the news reports, I decided to get my cousin to go with me as I ventured across town. As we slowly and cautiously navigated the streets we witnessed people carrying sofas out of stores with broken glass right past the police. The police literally sat on their cars and did nothing. In some cases, literally eating donuts. I witnessed them laughing and joking as if they were told collectively not to do anything. When I arrived at my grandmothers house, slightly before dark, she was holding on to her trash can as a young Black man was trying to take it so he could steal from Boys Market. My cousin and I ran him off. We noticed the stream of people going into the various stores. What struck me, unlike the news reports, I didn't not see that many other Black people running in and out of the stores. I did see people that I knew didn't live in LA stealing from stores. When my cousin and I finally convinced my grandmother to leave, I noticed traffic was heading into LA was bumper to bumper and getting out of LA to Altadena was relatively easy.

When we got my grandmother safely to my mother's house, my cousin and I left going into heavy traffic going into LA. When I finally reached my fiancé who lived in Torrance, we watched the news and my perspective having driven all over LA, getting my cousin, getting my grandmother to my mothers house and finally ending the day in Torrance at my fiancé's place was dramatically different the news. While watching the scene at Florence and Normandy, it struck me that many things did not make since. When I worked at Wonder Bread I had served that store and knew it well. There were always several people at the liquor store hanging out. Also, having been a truck driver, with a good view of the road in a tractor trailer, you could see great distances driving west on Florence because it's slightly down hill. It was horribly wrong what happened to Reginald Denny but I wonder why he would stay on Florence when, under daylight conditions, you could easily see the road ahead of you. I have avoided traffic on Florence because you can see so far down the road. Later on I discovered the real truth about Florence and Normandy by another friend and young LAPD officer who was on the scene. He was working the area and they were to stay prepared for a tactical alert. They were arresting people at Florence and Normandy "to avoid a problem" since it was a place to always find people to arrest. So, they were arresting them and putting the people into the plastic handcuffs when those arresting officers got the call to go immediately to Parker Center. So, they just left the people, they left the plastic cuffs on, tossed them from their cars and left. When they did this, people cussed them out and threw bottles at the departing officers. From then, other cars got involved as they got hit by the bottles intended for the police. Of course, they responded in kind and the rest as they say is history. This was not the account reported in the media.

The day after the LA Riot, my fiancé and I went to visit her mother in Compton forever changed.

After the riots, I stepped up my community involvement with my church and various organizations and eventually it led to my return to school, first attending El Camino College, transferring to UC Berkeley and eventually a MPA from Harvard University. After my college education, I returned to Los Angeles as a trained policy analyst working for the City of Los Angeles trying to make a difference. First I worked for LAPD Recruitment Division, The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment building the neighborhood council system and then, once again the LAPD Recruitment Division before starting my own company helping young people with college access.

Mark Lewis
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