I tried to talk to four or five guys. They were so enraged. I told them, "We don't want to relive '65. We can't tear down our own community." I remember what it was like in '65. We couldn't get food or basic services.
But it was too late to stop them, stop what everybody was going to have to experience and the conditions that would follow. I felt tremendously disappointed and filled with anxiety.
Afterward, my feelings shifted from disappointment to wanting to help the people who had survived.
When I see that kind of rage, on news reports, I can feel the danger again. I watch news about the Middle East, and I know what that feels like.
'It was just a madness'
Navraj Singh, 53, owner of India's Oven restaurants in Los Angeles and West L.A., had a restaurant on Pico Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue that was burned down during the riots. He was returning from a visit to India and was on a plane from London to Los Angeles when the captain told the passengers the city was under siege.
Little did I know that when the captain told us what was happening, my restaurant was burning. It was shocking to know there were riots in Los Angeles. I didn't think the area we were in was ripe for destruction. When we landed, we were told that there was a curfew in the city, and we could not go home.
The next morning I went to the site, and there was nothing left. I felt terrible. I was devastated. But it was not the end of the world, you know. I had a very talented, dedicated staff, and I had told them we would pick up the threads from here. I bought another business and moved there a month later.
I was not angry at the people who did this, because I knew that their anger was not directed at me. It was just a madness that was going on in the city, and we became part of the madness. I'm a very peaceful man, and I thought, whatever God has done, it's going to be better for me, and by the grace of God, I'm doing fantastically.
We live in the best country in the world. You can be whatever you want to be. Those people who are unsatisfied have to go out and see what is outside this country and realize what we have here. It's like heaven on earth.
'This is about feeling desperate'
Defense attorney Angela Oh, 47, was socially active 10 years ago but catapulted to prominence after the riots. She still practices law and lectures on race relations to corporations, nonprofits and students. On the day after the verdicts came down, she drove to the office of John Lim, then-president of the Korean-American Bar Assn.
On 8th Street, I saw all of these people, and they weren't African Americans. They were mostly Latinos. Young people. Old people. Men. Women. Pregnant women. Running out of the local grocery store with stuff, and this wasn't electronics and televisions. It was sort of poignant. Because the stuff that people had in their arms were things like dishwashing soap and diapers and cereal and dish racks. I mean, these were the working poor. These were not people looking to get high-end merchandise into their homes. I remember seeing a pregnant woman, with a child in tow, carrying cereal. And then I saw young men picking up bricks and just heaving them at glass-paned windows, and I'm thinking to myself, this is really not about the justice system. This is about people feeling desperate in general.
The fact of this verdict is really just the last piece that people could take. It was different from '65, where the racial injustice was so apparent. Here, it was the economic injustice and desperation. I mean, you didn't see just black against white. It was a multiracial, multicultural, intergenerational mess that occurred. The system broke down.
One thing that we do understand now in 2002 is that when the demographics begin to shift in such a dramatic way, it has other implications for institutions, for policy, for how people are going to conduct themselves in a community.
Yes, the tensions may rise, but opportunities to learn also rise. What is the missing factor? Trust. And so who is responsible for developing that kind of trust in the community? All of us.
'Somebody hit me in the face'
Julia Sandidge, 43, was a TV news reporter in Minneapolis when the riots broke out. While covering the story there, she was struck in the face and kicked in the head. It was two months before she could walk, a year before she could return to work. Sandidge, who is married to Times reporter Duane Noriyuki and lives in Crestline, Calif., is pursuing a teaching career.
We had just seen the riot coverage in Los Angeles [and] were told something similar could happen in Minneapolis because of this angry tension between cops and the black communities.
My initial reaction was that the lead of the story would be that the cops were sitting in their cars and not doing anything to stop the violence. But the next thing I knew, a group of kids had swarmed my colleague [photographer Rod Wermager] and started kicking him.