A Tale of Two Riots

Having lived on the most violent campus in America in 1969–University of Wisconsin, Madison campus–I had the “opportunity” to watch up close and all-too-personal the tactics of two domestic terror groups–the SDS and the Weather Underground. Another Blog will address them. Suffice it to say, I know what “outside agitators” look, act, and sound like. I know planned, repeated vandalism. I recognize carefully orchestrated and perfectly executed fire bombings. And I know mob mentality and hysteria.

In the early 1990s, Los Angeles was besieged with the riots following the Rodney King verdict. With that as the justification, we endured days of rioting, vandalism, violence, looting, and assaults. Though the Media only wanted to focus on the mobs of then African-Americans looting and destroying their own neighborhood businesses, my attention was on something far more sinister–the perfectly time-released fire-bombings. The cameras loved the visual images of buildings in flames, and the looting below, but they ignored the plight of LA Fire Department as they valiantly tried to put out fires. Ultimately, it was hopeless because the bombs were torching buildings a few blocks away from each other, and a precise number of minutes apart. No sooner would one fire crew arrive than they would get another call, and another, and another.

Then, “it” leapt to another segment of the city, quite remote from the first. Always the same pattern. First the fires, then the looting mobs. But, the most interesting part of the story is something I heard anecdotally. The Media never covered what I am about to tell you. But, all you need to do is query some ministers in the areas effected, and you will likely hear the tale. I must have picked it up from some newspaper, or local TV show. The national news had their story. They had accomplished their purpose of fear and chaos. They would not want to cover this.

To calm the streets down, the moms, and ministers in the areas where the rioters were raging went out on the street at night, and patrolled the streets themselves–knowing that their sons would not attack them. It worked.

They further understood, the ministers did, that after a few days, the mind that has been roiled and driven to mindless, insane acts, settles down. And when the individual “comes back to himself” if you will, he has terrible remorse. They knew that would happen here. Soon, the rioters and looters would realize they had destroyed their own neighborhoods, and the businesses of their own friends.

So, the ministers put the word out that if someone felt remorse, they could bring what they had stolen to the churches. They announced an amnesty and said it would be safe. People could simply come and anonymously drop off what they had taken. The ministers informed them to put a note on the item if they remembered where they had stolen it, and if they did not remember, they said, bring it back anyway. We will let the merchants come and figure it out.

Did it work? You skeptics probably think “no way!” If my memory serves me well, approximately 90% of what was stolen was returned. NOW THAT IS A STORY. Likely one you never heard.

Now, contrast that to the riots of this past week. It is almost as if Los Angeles had been a dress rehearsal from 25 years ago. This time, instead of the violence and madness leaping from one neighborhood to another a great distance away, the rage leaped from one major city to another. Then from one state to another. Almost like a diabolical wac-a-mole game, the countries’ law enforcement agencies and fire departments were overwhelmed. Just when they thought they had it quelled, an eruption in another city would ensue.

We are still in the dying throes of the violence, but only after Federal tools became engaged, or were offered. My message though has to do with the fact the Media has had no shortage of “hot spots” to train their cameras on in order to demonstrate to a horrified America the degree of rage, insanity, and hatred that ran our streets. The legal and peaceful protests for the death of George Floyd were disrupted by the violence of another group with another intention. As always, the provocateur will seize upon a legitimate grievance, and use it to ignite the sensational, destructive images we have had to watch.

This time, however, it was so vast in scope, so rapid in its incendiary emotions, so removed from the “neighborhood” that it not only overwhelmed law enforcement and fire departments, I doubt any moms or ministers were able to walk the streets.

That is the tale of the George Floyd riots. In days, minds will calm down, people will restore their emotional stability. Remorse will set in on a national scale, with national proportions.

Alike in tactics, similar in types of devastation, these are the tales of two riots. Do you think you should perhaps speak to every minister in every neighborhood effected, from every religion, and tell them the ending of the first story?

They may have already begun. They may have thought of it, or spoken to counterparts in Los Angeles at that time who may be guiding them on how to restore calm and decency. On the other hand, they may not have thought of it. They, too, may be overwhelmed and afraid. After all, images of churches firebombed and now boarded up are daunting–for all of us to look at. Perhaps the clergy are still in “lockdown.”

I hope not. I am an eternal optimist. What do you say we get 90% of what was stolen returned? What do you say we encourage the looters to begin to make amends? No matter how justified that seemed to them in the heat of “other-generated, destructive passions,” in the end, no one was benefited–except the anarchist. Least of all, the peaceful protesters who wanted to make George Floyd’s death count for something, who wanted to insure accountability, not vengeance for his death.

What do you say? Will you get this to your clergy? I am sure they are creative enough to write their own ending to this tale.

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