I’m not sure anyone that isn’t in Ferguson, Mo., knows exactly what is going on there. With the police arresting and threatening journalists, and the National Guard now entering the picture, it appears a dangerous situation.
I can relate to this in a remote way. I was in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots in 1992. The Jazz were there for the playoffs. Since I was staying in Marina Del Rey, I wasn’t in the middle of things. Police weren’t arresting journalists. But it did give me a sense of thin line between order and chaos.
It’s an uneasy feeling to go to a team practice and have armed guards both inside and outside the gym. Even more uncomfortable is feeling of walking into grocery store and seeing shelves void of food. Panicky residents, expecting a long interruption, had bought up all the inventory.
One of the afternoons, I and a couple of other media types decided to go for a run near Manhattan Beach, nine miles from our hotel. We expected to drive to the beach, park the car, and run along the walkway for a few miles. But as soon as we pulled into the traffic, movement ceased. It was more than normal L.A. traffic. It was get-out-of-town traffic.
After a few minutes, we decided to return to the hotel without running. But it took us nearly two hours to navigate our way back — a distance of maybe four miles round trip.
I also remember restaurants and shop closing in mid-afternoon so the employees could go home during daylight hours. Playoff games were rescheduled, as the teams waited for the NBA’s instructions on how to proceed. A game set for the L.A. Sports Arena was moved to Anaheim.
One Jazz staffer, unnerved by the weird conditions, caught a plane back to Utah.
The illuminating thing in the situation was how quickly conditions can deteriorate. I can’t say I was necessarily in danger, but I wasn’t necessarily safe, either. Order depends largely on voluntary adherence to laws. When either the police or citizenry start taking matters into their own hands, the end result won’t be good.