First Person: Like the Windows, My Heart is Shattered…
Parknews.biz editor Astrid Ambroziak lives a block from the corner of Third street and Fairfax in Los Angeles, the spot where the demonstrations and looting began in June. Here are her observations.
“Sorrow comes in great waves…but rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us, it leaves us. And we know that if it is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain.”
his past Saturday May 30th looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. I started it with a prayer. A prayer of gratitude foremost that the lockdown in Los Angeles and in other cities was coming to an end. That the Covid cases were going down. That the sun was shining. That shops and restaurants were allowed to open again, and not just for curbside pick-up. I was excited that people would be driving more again, have places to go and thus, park cars. I was looking forward to possibly going in the evening to a local restaurant down the street called D’Amore’s Pizza for a slice of PIE, sitting on the sidewalk and watching fairly normal life unfold. For people going back to work and interacting with one another in person and not just on zoom.
Although I planned just to see what was going on, I got caught up in the passion of the protest.
When I left my Fairfax District home around 1:30 pm after doing some work in the morning, I ran into my friend the mailman. Andy said, are you going to the demonstration? I asked “what demonstration?” He said, “the George Floyd demonstration is right down the street on 3rd and Fairfax with ‘millions’ of people.” I said “oh, I didn’t know, but I will check it out.’
I went first to Beverly and Fairfax to the local bank. There were a lot of police there. LAPD was directing traffic and police cars were on every corner, including next to our local gas station and convenience store. The police officers were respectful, and so were the people holding various signs saying Black Lives Matter and I Can’t Breathe! After my bank errand, I walked down Fairfax Avenue to 3rd street. I was surprised that my local restaurant TheTart was boarded.
At 3rd and Fairfax, there was a huge crowd. There was music and chanting. There was a bus with lots of graffiti and people were demonstrating from its roof. Most people were wearing masks, but among thousands of people, social distancing was non-existent. Although I planned just to see what was going on, I got caught up in the passion of the protest. I chanted, laughed and cried and prayed for George Floyd, for every black man, and for every person. I prayed for peace and wisdom. My heart truly was filled with love and hope.
I saw one of the protesters throw something at the police and then the tear gas bomb went off and everyone started running and screaming “tear gas, tear gas.” People were falling all over each other. The back alleys and my street looked like New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Love disappeared from my heart to be replaced by fear. Yet, all of us were helping one another to get up from falling. A young man on the corner was passing water to people and simply helping them to breathe.
Upon getting home, I heard from one neighbor that our corner gas station was on fire. I climbed on my roof seeing black smoke and a police car I noticed earlier, in flames. I was scared that the gas pumps would explode and our whole neighborhood will burn.
The rest of the day I spent on my balcony watching the violent unfolding of the protests. Other cars were burning at the end of the block and the skies were filled with black smoke. My residential neighborhood was packed with people. A couple hours later about 100 police officers showed up in their protective gear. They ran to the end of the street where people were looting shops and burning civilian cars and police cars and eventually brought some order into this heartbreaking situation.
All night, I didn’t sleep. It was impossible with the helicopters above our homes and tons of people still running in the neighborhood, as well as police sirens. Sunday morning, I ventured for several hours down Fairfax towards Melrose where lots of shops and restaurants are. The first thing I noticed were people with brooms and buckets walking up and down the street and a destruction as I have never seen before.
Both young and old people were cleaning broken glass. And every store was being boarded. I asked one shop owner how he was doing and he broke into tears hugging me while sobbing no words. I asked if I could help and held for him some plywood so he could protect his ravaged shop. Boarding was going on, on every store front, restaurant and even apartment buildings. Graffiti and tagging were on every wall. In front of one boarded business, two young men held a sign: Do Not F@#$ with My Favorite Company!
I walked down Melrose Avenue. More of the same: utter devastation. It looked like bombs exploded! Small business and large business were destroyed. People were scrubbing and painting over the vilest graffiti and boarding doors and windows. Shop owners taking out to their cars whatever inventory was not looted. Lots of cars were driving by witnessing the aftermath. Police presence was heavy and I couldn’t stop thanking the them. I saw other people doing the same, hugging the police officers and saying “thank you for protecting” us during the previous night of violence.
On Beverly Blvd, more boarding was going up. Signs saying Black Lives Matter were put on other windows at businesses and private residences. I asked one lady, “you didn’t have this sign last week, why now?” She said “because I am afraid, so I am putting the signs up to protect myself.” I talked to an owner of a mattress store with all windows broken. I asked “did they steal the mattresses?” He said yes, about 30 of them. Even our local Petco store was looted, as was our Whole Foods. The windows of the yoga studio were broken. On 3rd Street, D’Amore’s Pizza was decimated. Yet, every step of the way, more and more people young and old were scrubbing graffiti or painting it with hearts and “we love LA.” By Monday, the only sign of the looting were the windows covered by plywood. The graffiti was gone, the glass and burned cars removed.
Today, a few days after the initial protests that turned violent, there were more demonstrations. We have curfew now in my area from 6 pm until 6 am. The curfew seems to have put a damper on the violence.
As a person who immigrated to the U.S.A. as a kid on political asylum with my parents, I especially appreciate the First Amendment. I respect the rights of every human being and I pray we see hearts first instead of color. I pray that we live from those hearts. I pray that we go back to the commandments and practice “though shall not harm”. And during Covid, when we are supposed to social distance, how much do we harm marching in masses, even peacefully, while getting caught up in the passion and injustice of the moment?
In my Fairfax area, my neighbors showed their First Amendment privilege, by assembling with their brooms and paint brushes to scrub our city. And although my heart is as shattered as the windows of the shops and businesses all over Los Angeles, and in other cities, my sad heart goes on while I am praying: God bless America! God bless all of us! We are here to work! In respect, sincerity, mutuality and kindness!
Astrid Ambroziak is Editor of Parknews.biz and Creative Director, Parking Today. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org