The tension also spread into schools, such as Wilson High in Long Beach. At least six students were treated for cuts and bruises after a group of black and Latino students reportedly chased white students during lunchtime.
Senior Mauricio Rubio, 19, said that the incident began as "a joke" that got out of hand. Nonetheless, he continued, "The administration should have expected trouble from the beginning. You could feel it in the air."
"A bunch of Hispanics started throwing food at us and said 'You are white,' 14-year-old April Wagner said. "Then they said, 'We're going to hurt you like (police) hurt Rodney King--for no reason.' "
Wagner said she and a friend ran into the library while other white students ran into classrooms or jumped over a fence to get away from blacks and Latinos who had surrounded them in the school's outdoor eating area. She described the incident as "scary" and said a friend suffered a cut lip from a blow to the face.
Administrators called Long Beach police, turned on automatic sprinklers to disperse students and--ironically--took out video cameras to record potential assailants. Principal Larry Burnight said that many black and white students later hugged each other and apologized for what happened.
The district canceled Friday classes, as did neighboring school districts in Lynwood, Compton and Paramount. Most classes resumed Monday. Compton schools resumed Tuesday.
At Wilson High as well as other area schools, students said tensions remained high.
More than a third of some 1,550 students failed to show for class at Clearwater Intermediate School in Paramount last Thursday. Many parents picked up children early, hurriedly, with worried expressions and little to say. Only 10 of 25 students arrived for teacher Lois Booth's sixth-grade class.
"When I let the kids out Thursday, there were plumes of smoke. It looked like three or four blocks away," Booth said. "We were outside encouraging students to go straight home."
Sixth-grader Sokhum Mony said her mother compared the riots to what she had experienced as a refugee in Southeast Asia. "My Mom said this was worse than the war she had seen in Cambodia," Sokhum said.
When 11-year-old Lauvao Ahfook got home, he locked all the doors and windows. Other students said their families started storing and even hiding food supplies.
"My parents told me I can't go out," sixth-grader Chris Rhoades said.
Said Melissa Sullivan, 11: "We're all scared in Paramount. . . . How can you forget something when 50 people are killed and 1,000 injured?"
In the end, little damage occurred in Paramount, a city bordered by riot-torn Compton and North Long Beach.
But fearing the worst last Thursday night, Mayor Elvira Amaro declared a state of emergency, and ordered scores of city employees to work overtime to help maintain calm. Workers hauled giant drain pipes across Rosecrans Avenue, Alondra Boulevard and Somerset Boulevard to act as barricades against potential rioters. Officials estimate the price tag for the special assistance may run into the hundreds of thousand of dollars.
The city of Norwalk taped reassuring messages from city leaders to dispel rumors that rioters were tearing the town apart. The city aired the 30-minute videotape on the local cable television station throughout the weekend.
Despite the increasing calm, some of the fear dissipated more slowly than the smoke from the fires. Late Friday morning in Cerritos, a frustrated customer banged futilely at the door of Roma Shoes, hoping to retrieve shoes he'd left there. The store was boarded up so tight that it looked to be out of business. "Keep knocking," said a merchant from next door. "They're in there; they're just afraid."
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Gerald Faris, Jill Gottesman, Roxana Kopetman, Paul McLeod and Vicki Torres, and community correspondents Sarah M. Brown, Phil Garcia, John Pope, Suzan Schill and Julia Wilson.