They had come into LA late on the 2nd day, and they walked up a dark street, where the mob had looted and burned every building but one, a convalescent home for the aged. The mob was heading in, to ransack and loot the apartments of the terrified old men and women. When the troopers arrived, M-16s at the ready, the mob threatened and cursed, but the mob retreated. It had met the one thing that could stop it: force, rooted in justice, backed by courage.
Greater love than this hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend. Here were 19-year-old boys ready to lay down their lives to stop a mob from molesting old people they did not even know. And as they took back the streets of LA, block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.
|Reginald Denny: The fate of all white Americans?|
In the 1990s, black residents made up roughly half the population in South Central. Today, Latinos account for about two-thirds of the residents in what is now called South Los Angeles — “Central” was officially scrubbed from the neighborhood’s name by the City Council in 2003. In the 20-some square miles that make up the area, stretching southwest of downtown from the Santa Monica Freeway to the Century Freeway and as far west as Inglewood, there are 80,000 fewer blacks than there were in 1990.
“This is a huge, pivotal shift, as important as any other population change or migration we’ve had in the city,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, the executive director at the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles, who has studied racial politics in Los Angeles for decades. “It affects the African-American community’s sense of self as it sees a geographic core that really matters to people erode. It changes the whole sense of the neighborhood.”
Taking a shortcut off the Santa Monica Freeway down Normandie Avenue was nothing out of the ordinary for 33-year-old Reginald Denny. In the late afternoon of April 29, 1992, he had simply loaded up his 18-wheeler and headed down the road, driving for his employer Transit Mixed Concrete. Little did he know that he would drive smack into the middle of an angry mob looking for vengeance.
As his rig crossed Florence, a group of rioters enraged over the Rodney King verdict rushed toward him, pulled him out of the cab and beat him to within an inch of his life. The attack ended when Damian Monroe Williams took a cinderblock and bashed Denny's skull, fracturing it in 91 places and causing severe brain damage.
The only reason he probably did not die that day was because four South Central residents, Bobby Green, Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy and Terri Barnett, who saw the entire incident on television, raced to the scene. Despite the risk to their own lives, they grabbed Denny, put him back into his cab and drove him to a nearby hospital where doctors were able to save his life.
Denny had to undergo years of rehabilitative therapy, but his speech and ability to walk were permanently damaged. After the trial of his assailants, he approached their families in a gesture of forgiveness. He later appeared on the Phil Donahue show to shake hands with one of them, Henry Keith Watson, and finally make peace.