Friday, April 3, 2009

Lorain, Ohio

I have an anonymous regular reader in Lorain, Ohio. I've been meaning to write about Lorain for a while now. I was only there once, thirty years ago.

I've been in three riots in my life. I'm not the riot type. Crowds make me anxious.

My first riot was in Paterson, New Jersey. The Paterson cops attacked a group of mostly Black high school kids. We were holding a prayer vigil to support their polite requests for improvements in the Paterson schools. The cops went crazy, firing tear gas, clubbing students and arresting one of my teachers and a friend's mom. I was only 14 and I was scared shitless. I have not had much respect for cops since then. The Paterson cops were notoriously lawless. They fire bombed the Paterson office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and beat up a bunch of people. Then they claimed that the building was burnt in a "Negro riot". I also learned that racism is a racket that the rich and powerful use to stay rich and powerful. At least I learned that early and well.

My last riot was in 1981 when IU won the NCAA men's basketball championship. No one called that a riot. It was a celebration. It was a celebration where white college boys smashed storefronts, raped coeds, tore down lamp posts and destroyed a cop car, but it was a celebration because it involved white college boys and sports. It was a manly celebration. About two AM I watched a drunk guy punching a parking meter until his hands were smashed and there was blood all over the parking meter. I decided it was time to go home and go to bed. The next day the papers all agreed that events had been "spirited". Kiss my ass.

In between I was in a little riot at the US Steel Mill in Lorain. I've been trying to write about that one for years. Not today though. Hi Lorain.


mwhybark said...

hey! whaddya know, I have three too! or four depending on how you count it.

IU 1987 NCAA championship celebrations. I had the presence of mind to carry a tape recorder around with me for some of it. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced and cemented my mistrust of sporting activities. I'll be glad to be home when UNC wins this one.

1992, weird spontaneous Rodney King verdict protest outside the Capitol Hill precinct. A couple hundred people all gathered randomly and spontaneously outside the police station to express dissatisfaction with the Rodney King verdict. Some proto-black-bloc masked hoodie kid chucked a molotov cocktail (or maybe just a bottle) at the station. No one even waited for the cops to come out, everybody just ran like hell, leaving the hoodie kids standing near their carts full of rocks and bottles. Then they ran too.

So that one might not count exactly.

Last one or two were two separate nights out in the running battles on Capitol Hill in Seattle during WTO. The first night I was out playing a gig, and no one showed up becasue there were contradictory news reports about curfews and uncontradictory live video of cops using tear gas on large crowds all over Capitol Hill. We waited until it seemed like the fight was at the other end of the Hill to go back to the studio to load out.

The next night there were ten or more choppers circling the neighborhod and beginning at dusk there were loud bangs every few minutes in various directions; these were the cops using percussion grenades on the crowds, who by now were almost all residents of the neighborhood agry about the militarization of the neighborhood. APCs zoomed around with cartoony stormtrooper looking cops clinging to the outside of the tanks.

Anyway, long story short, I got my ass banged up pretty good by something called 'pepperballs' which are effectively lightweight rubber bullets that carry tear gas on them. I was actually listening to a member of the King County Council address a group of concerned residents, me included, when the cops charged the crowd and opened the charge with stun grenades, these pepperball grenades, tear gas, and more.

Pretty sure that's my last one.

mwhybark said...

and oh yeah, that's a pic of the NYC draft riots, ennit?

Jon said...

Yep, New York draft riots. As best as I can figure it, riots are most often what happens when cops get let off the leash. Every once in a while the citizenry gets one in.

I was in a gigantic three way brawl between punk fans, neighborhood gangsters and the Detroit PD. That was when DOA played a big concert called "Rock against Reagan" during the 1980 Republican convention. The cops were fairly restrained. The fight was touched off by a guy who called himself Frank Running Horse. Running Horse was arguing with the gang prez. The president's wife stepped between them. Running Horse punched her and a brawl ensued. I ran into him here ten years later. I always thought he was a cop. Still do. That was pretty scary, but does not qualify, in my mind as a riot.

Jon said...

I wish I'd seen the Rodney King yuppie riots in SF. A few punks broke some windows around Union Square. Well dressed passers by rushed into the windows and started carting off high end merchandise. The papers had pictures of men and women in business suits stripping the mannequins in the window of Brooks Brothers. America. California. San Fran.

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