In South LA, Reflections On The Quiet Amidst The Unrest

Steward Carter Jr. stands at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. (Robert Garrova/LAist)

Santa Monica, the Fairfax District, Downtown L.A. The protests over the past several days have been spread across L.A. County and beyond. But unlike during the unrest in 1992, neighborhoods in South L.A. have so far remained quiet.

Community leaders in Watts on Monday said they welcome any peaceful protests that might come to their area, but they won't tolerate any violence or vandalism.

Steward Carter Jr. was on his way to the dry cleaners with his Sunday best slung across his shoulder. He had just crossed the intersection of Florence and Normandie, the epicenter of the protests and violence that came to be called the Rodney King riots.

Carter is pleased that South L.A. has been calm during the protests.

"Well good, amen," he said. "It's a blessing."

Carter remembers watching the uprising on TV from where he was living then, in Chino. He doesn't see much change between this George Floyd moment and the one he watched on television 28 years ago.

"I don't see nothing different," Carter said. "Trouble's all around you, you know, if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Derald Gaines (R), owner of DAG Riders bicycle shop in South L.A. with his son Dereius A. Gaines. (Robert Garrova/LAist)

About a half mile away at DAG Riders bicycle shop, owner Derald Gaines was helping customers peruse a selection of bikes, lined up on the sidewalk and glinting in the sun. Gaines said he thinks the protests — as well as the police violence and looting — have skipped this area because he and others are working hard to take care of the people here.

"We pray for the people, we feed the people, we take them, buy them lunch, we encourage the kids to do good in school," Gaines said. "And I think that has an influence on the neighborhood to protect what we have here."

Gaines son, Dereius A. Gaines, said he hasn't joined any of the protests, but he has friends who have.

"We have to protest places where other people outside of our community can hear us and understand what's been going on," he said, "because a lot of people aren't in the loop and they just think that it's another day."

"But it's not another day: We've been dealing with these racial issues for hundreds of years."

As for the state of America right now — the unrest, the coronavirus — everything? Dereius said he's 50% hopeful. He doesn't believe police cars should have to be destroyed for people to have their voices heard:

"If you keep being unjust to those who need help when they're crying out and they're trying to be heard, then obviously they're going to take different measures to be heard."

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