The Cavalry

This is what happens when the police show up in two minutes.  Thieves scatter like rats. Want to enjoy warm fuzzy feelings? Witness masculine virtues of honor, in action.

Kent Nishumura, LA Times

Lets back up. There was a canceled then back-on-again protest in downtown Van Nuys yesterday.  Canceled because the organizer was deemed not authentically a person of color, nor BLM endorsed, and as Twitter chat would have it Van Nuys was thought too poor and not white enough to deserve looting anyway. Somehow a small crowd showed up anyway and peaceably assembled for the afternoon to chant and placard at passing drivers.

This didn’t last.  Saturation news coverage summoned the locusts.

They hit the jeweler, the weed shop, then the cell phone store, but by the time they reached Walgreens, LAPD reversed it’s we’re allergic to handcuffs ethos that prevailed over the weekend and rolled up in force.  They stopped them at the entryway, hammers in hand.  A bus was waiting to haul them away en masse to the Pitchess detention center.  The mob fanned out across the neighborhood,  looking for softer prey.

Guess who happened to be walking his dogs on Raymer Street when the looters broke into the side door of Target and started hustling flat screens into waiting cars?

Police response was swift. Four undercover cars, six black and white, and a helicopter.   This is the way the world is supposed to work.  Following the disintegration of order this week, it felt like a movie from the VHS era.

This should have been Saturday.   It should have been last Thursday in Minneapolis.   But it wasn’t and here we are.

White Witch

She appeared without warning Thursday morning, like a grieving mother, standing vigil at the Ghost Bike corner. Six years ago, a man was killed on his bicycle at this intersection. It was unusual for a hit and run as it took place in a residential neighborhood at Christmastime. Due to quirks in the street grid, our little enclave is closed to thru traffic, which meant the driver likely either lived here or knew someone who did, and a local mystery was born.

Signs appeared, urging confession, an appeal to conscience, a whisper to authorities.  None came. After a year, the Ghost Bike was removed, and the baleful accusation went away with it.

We assumed the sudden arrival of the witch after so many years heralded a revival of interest in the case. Why else would she be there?  It turns out she was a harbinger of something altogether different.

Yesterday I went to Lowe’s and was greeted by this sign at the freeway offramp. I did some masonry work for a few hours, then poured a beer and settled in front of the TV for this:

The looters assembled at three historic civil rights locations: The Grove, Rodeo Drive, and Melrose Avenue.  Then they went shopping in full view of the police.  Beverly Hills didn’t let them in.  Nordstrom’s was briefly breached at the mall, but private security asserted order.

Melrose, on the other hand, is the City of Los Angeles.   Which means they could steal with impunity.  They started small, with the shoe stores.  Hand items, like sunglasses.  LAPD set up a block away and didn’t move in.   The local news stations circled overhead, beaming endless footage of mobs stepping across broken thresholds and scurrying out with all they could carry. The disembodied voice of Mayor Garcetti played host, murmuring concern as he called into each station to announce an 8 pm curfew the police had no intention of enforcing.   He didn’t dare show his face on TV, and the news anchors didn’t inconvenience him by asking what he intended to do about the breakdown in public order.

Properly incentivized in real-time, looters brazenly pulled up in cars.  They worked in teams.  They moved up to luxury items.  Finally, the Mac store was cleaned out completely while getaway drivers idled out front, trunks open and ready.  This went on for hours.

I can’t tell you how depressing it is at this point in my life to note nearly all the looters in Fairfax were black and gleeful and to hear the tawdry excuses offered for them by the media, as though pigmentation rendered one incapable of moral agency. The sin of looting was not that stealing was wrong, but that it was a distraction. America’s irredeemable racism is non-negotiable. Theft invites disapproving response from white people, who should not be speaking at all right now, only affirming.

If the goal last night was for no black person to be seen in handcuffs, the police could have done business owners a whole lot of good simply posting a uniform in front of each storefront with a camera recording license plates and faces.  They may have been told not to protect, but the least they could do was serve.

But that’s the point. We have entered a new era, haven’t we?  E Pluribus Unum no longer prevails.    The media chooses which groups must submit to the Law and those which are immune. Homeless encampments were the beginning.  Once we carved out a subset of the population to whom the rules did not apply,  our Portlandization was inevitable.

Tonight the looting is widespread. Santa Monica. Long Beach. The White Witch is here.

Hot Fuzz of 1972

TICKLED WITH THE CHOICE–Gaylean Dunn, center, of LAPD’s Van Nuys division, reacting with delight as she is named “Miss Fuzz of 1972” in a beauty contest with 14 other policewomen.

Go-Go boots.
High crotch shorts.
“Miss Fuzz”.
Van Nuys for the trifecta.

The winner was chosen by male members of the Police Commission. No, really.

Lest we judge harshly, this was still two years before Angie Dickinson as Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman.  In 1972 the LAPD didn’t allow women to serve on street patrol. The department got away with it by establishing a height requirement.

Gaylean appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as a result of her victory.  There was no “Miss Fuzz of 1973”.

Photo credit: Ben Oleander, LA Times

A Ho Story

Daniele Watts, playing the Ho
Daniele Watts, playing a Ho

Media scenario: Up and coming starlet makes out has sex with boyfriend in a Mercedes with the door open on a busy street next to a studio in the entertainment capital of the world.  In the middle of the day.

Workers in adjacent office building suggest the couple get a room.  They don’t.

Someone calls the police to complain.

Police arrive, tell them their performance is interfering with business. Ask for ID’s.

Actress refuses to comply with the request. Police detain her.

I have a publicist, she warns.

The officer has encountered many people with publicists. They show ID when asked, he explains.

Boyfriend begins taping incident for Facebook.

‘I serve freedom and love, you serve detainment.’

Viral marketing ensues:

 The police presumed she was a prostitute because she was black! 

You won’t believe what the LAPD did this time!

They think black women are streetwalkers!

Django Unchained actress  arrested handcuffed in front of her workplace! For kissing while black! Authorities investigating…

From Buenos Aires to London, the pistons begin turning the great cam shaft of public outrage. Ferguson II! Or Trayvon III, if you prefer, but without the chalk outline on the sidewalk.  Even better, a sex angle.  A showbiz angle, too. The trifecta! Get this girl on the set!  We can all be outraged together, without guilt. No one has to take shelter in his ideological bunker.  A freebee. The promise of weeks of good cable TV, sexy B-roll footage, and pop culture Deep Think explaining What It All Means.

Grab your remote. Start clicking those links. Why not? It’s not like there’s an election going on. Or a war.  To be more precise, a resurrection of the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror authorized by a Congressional Resolution denounced by the President before he was President, which will have war-like features but none dare call War.   No wonder we love the tabloids.

Daniele Watts being 'treated like a Ho'. Allegedly.
Daniele Watts, ‘presumed to be a Ho’.  Allegedly.

Here’s the bottom line: LAPD as a matter of departmental policy does not make prostitution stops off a black and white patrol car.   All interdiction is handled through vice, working undercover in unmarked vehicles.  Two overt acts are required to bring departmental action. Consequently, patrol cars roll past working hookers on Sepulveda every day, in full regalia, leaning into car windows…and don’t even give them a glance, much to the consternation of residents of Van Nuys. Which is to say, there is pretty much no chance uniformed LAPD officers rolled up on Ms. Watts in the teeming slum of Studio City, across the street from Trader Joes and Laurel Tavern and just up the block from CBS studios and said to themselves: ‘hmmm, black lady/white man having relations…if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck…cuff that b***h.’

But here’s what’s interesting.  In Django, Daniele works at a brothel called the Cleopatra Club which offers pretty young black women up to wealthy white men who first arouse themselves by watching gladiator-like death matches between black slaves.  At the coup de grace of one of the more brutal scenes of recent American cinema, she coquettishly spills her gumballs across the floor in a kind of sexual release, a moment worthy of an essay of its own.   Back into the pop culture ether went Daniele Watts, and now this sudden reappearance two years later, accusing Los Angeles of treating her like the character which launched her career. Which for the moment, has resurrected it.

Is she acting in one of these photographs or both of them?  I say it’s all performance art.