Once around the edges                 April 30, 1992  

After the conference, we're driving
down Mission, looking to make a
right on 9th St or so.  A bright red
car is sitting at an odd angle in
the middle of the road.  Why isn't
this jerk moving?  There's a
flashing red light in the window.
Two cops are sitting in the car,
wearing black helmets, waving night
sticks.  We give up on turning                "Huh.  Some kind of Rodney King 
there.  As we drive away, I catch a           sympathy riot?"                 
glimpse of crowds on Market St.
I meet a friend's housemate.  She     
starts to tell us about what was      
going on at Market St.  I laugh       
and nod about it, and she said:       
"Were you there?"                                                     
I told her about the cops in riot gear          No, I really 
in the unmarked car.                            hadn't been  
She tells us more:  
     "It was really _weird_.  People                          
     would go 'Look, they're coming!'                         
     and close up shop, and lower those                       
     metal gates."                                            
     "But that makes sense!" I said.                            
     "No, but it was really weird, like..."         Like what?
And other things she said:                                            
      There were thousands of people there. 
      There were video cameras all over.    
      She felt safe there, even though she's white. 
      One person said "Thank you for coming."
      But she said that maybe if she'd really known what was 
      happening in LA she wouldn't have felt safe. 
Much too late to do any good or bad,
I saw a magic marker notice in the
window of a closed bookstore on
Haight: a schedule for the
demonstration.  Glide in the
afternoon.  Ellis later on.
Walking up Market St, from Oak to
4th St at 10 PM.  The streets full
of small groups of people cruising
around, like the parking lot scene
after an arena rock concert.  Lots
of cops, and sirens.  I was wearing
wool: pants, sweater, jacket, and
feeling self-conscious.               Am I a target?         I'm wearing wool  
                                                             today in order to 
Broken glass in the street from the                          pass for a Suit.  
windows.  Radio Shack.  Other small                                            
stores.  Newspaper machines pushed                           Can I complain if 
over.                                                        I'm mistaken for  
They're hitting the wrong                                                      
people.  Because the right        Because they               It's easy for     
people are hard to hit.           don't see the              _me_ to pass.
                                  faces behind               I can change     
  Can you blame them?             the windows?               my clothes.     
  What else could they do?                                                  
Striking at the innocent.                                                 
They're not much better than the                                          
cops who beat King.                                                       
             But the system has failed.                             
             It's demonstrated it's unjust.                         
             "Revolutionary right to over-                  
             throw it."  Right?                                      
Who organized this?  What did the                                    
guys at the Glide Memorial Methodist                   Is the looting  
Church tell these people?  What                        and vandalism just
about "_Respect_ the neighborhood!"                    opportunistic?
                              Isn't this war?                        Should 
                                                                     it be 
                              Willingly doing evil in                blamed 
                              hopes that it will                     on the 
                              correct a greater evil.                demon-
                              Waging war means hurting               strators?
                              the innocent.                          
                              Of course things are out 
                              of control.              
            Maybe I should've been out here.                
            Too busy running around after Science
            to have even heard about it. 
But would I really want 
to associate with these 
people?  Look at what 
they've done!         
                              I'm always fence sitting.
                              Looking for a pure Cause.
                              I _believe_ in this one!          For once
                              The acquittal really _is_         they're not
                              an outrage.                       fighting 
                                                                for warmed 
Maybe I could have tried                                        over Marxism. 
to help keep things calmer.

   A couple of girls come             Some guys walking passed yet
   down the street holding            another crew of window 
   signs like:                        repairmen: 
     N O   J U S T I C E.             "And this is just the 
     N O   P E A C E.                  _first_ day!"
     F U C K   T H E   P O L I C E!                 
    Two people on a small motorcycle, 
    both dressed in leather.  He stops            Some woman is     
    the bike at an intersection, while            arguing with a    
    she videotapes some burning debris.           cop.  I hear      
As I get near the Marriott Hotel,                                    
cops keep ordering me to detour.  A                                 
cordon of police guard the windows                             
of Nordstroms.  A trio on motorcycles                          
stop me from going down the alley                              
behind Big Heart City.  The doors                              
of the hotel are "barricaded" with                             
wood blocks.  Someone removes the           Because I'm wearing wool.
block as I approach the door,               Because my skin's the           
to talk to me.  I show him my               right color.                    
conference badge, he lets me in.                                            
Then I hear someone talking about                                      
how the cops have told them not to                                   
let anyone out on the street. 

     "Are you serious?  
     I wouldn't have come                  I should call the FBI 
     in here if I'd know that."            and report them for 
A piece of glass stuck to the bottom 
of my shoe scrapes along the floor.  

I pick up my stuff.  I try to 
concentrate on the poster session.
I wave to an acquaintance, but avoid
talking.  I make eye contact with a
woman I've never met and we smile at
each other, but I keep going.  I            
over hear someone say "Did you see              
some of the action out there?"  Like            An appreciation for 
he's talking about a football game.             chaos?  Yeah, okay. 
                                                But still. 
       I don't belong here.                        

I leave the hotel.  

"Good evening sir.  How are you?"
"I'm fine."                      
"Do you know there's a curfew?"             I hadn't realized there was 
"I know what's going on."                   a "curfew".                       
                                                                  Shades of   
Random vehicles of mostly white             
kids (the motorized analog of               Who has authority to 
the black foot soldiers?  the               declare a curfew?            
counterpart of the police                                        
cars?)  cruise the streets.                 How about the right of 
A voice from one of them, 
heavy with irony: 
"That's anarchy!"                                                      
Is he mocking someone?        Well, it is anarchy all right.           
Or just celebrating the       But unfortunately it's also chaos.
       Three cops are hustling a black girl 
       in a white skirt into the back of a 
       car.  "FUCK. YOU."  she yells into 
       one's face.  He replies sweetly in a 
       high voice "Fuuuck, YooUuu."             Good, they're being cool.
       "I didn't break no window."                                       
       "Well you were robbing someone,                                   
       weren't you?"                                                     
       She spits on their shoes.  He says                                
       "Oh, yeah..." calmly.                    Yeah, they're definitely   
       I walk by another smashed window,        Being Cool.                
       a big stereo speaker just inside.                                   

And you know, it _is_ only day one. 

On day two they broke up a curfew             The amount of liberty 
demonstration by arresting                    we're willing to sacrifice
people two hours *before* the                 for just a little safety... 
curfew went into effect.                                                 
I wasn't there for that one, either. 
         Luckilly, they came up with an 
         excuse to fire that bastard Hongisto
         (the Police Chief) soon afterwards.