Everyday Life Shattered in Many Ways : Closures: Businesses and services are forced to shut down throughout the city. Schools, mass transit and libraries halt operations. Pro sports events are canceled.
Throughout Los Angeles--from downtown to the Westside, from South Los Angeles to Pasadena--the riots in the aftermath of the Rodney G. King beating trial disrupted the lives of residents in myriad ways.
Bus service was canceled citywide. Many employers told workers to stay home--or go home early. Wells Fargo Bank closed all of its 90 bank branches in Los Angeles County. Mail delivery was halted throughout South Los Angeles. Professional baseball and basketball games were canceled. Schools closed throughout the city--and in Inglewood, Compton and Lynwood, as well--and shopping centers were shuttered early.
Everyday life was shattered. One South Los Angeles woman told county officials that her husband’s kidney dialysis machine wouldn’t work with the power off. The utility company had told her it was too dangerous to send out a repairman. Paramedics provided a portable dialysis unit--but its power ran out.
“Everybody feels like there’s just been a funeral,” said Alma Williams, manager of the Watts post office. “All our lives have been disrupted. People don’t know what’s open or what’s closed. They don’t know whether to go to work or stay home. It’s a very painful and confusing time.”
This state of disruption is likely to continue today. Business leaders and government officials said they have no intention of resuming normal activities until they are persuaded that employees will be safe.
As the violence spread Thursday, Los Angeles Unified School District officials decided to close every school and child-care center in the district today. Officials said a decision on when to resume classes will not be made until Sunday. All but nine of the 261 Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Los Angeles County will remain closed today.
At USC, final examinations were to begin Thursday, but they have been postponed until at least Monday, officials said.
Cal State Los Angeles officials closed the campus Thursday afternoon and planned to remain shut today. Runners announced the closure in every classroom so students could catch buses before the service shut down, a spokesman said.
In Carson, Cal State Dominguez Hills also canceled classes Thursday and Cal State Northridge closed early. UCLA canceled today’s classes; student housing and the medical center will remain open.
The Civic Center suffered significant damage Wednesday night, and on Thursday, firms in nearby parts of downtown Los Angeles were in turmoil. Downtown businesses let thousands of employees leave work early so they could get home before darkness fell.
At Atlantic Richfield Corp., 1,500 workers in three downtown corporate buildings were told they did not have to return to work after lunch.
“This is precautionary . . . just the whole uncertainty of the situation,” said Albert Greenstein, manager of corporate communications for Arco. “Their minds, anyway . . . are not on their work.”
The 800 downtown employees of the Arthur Anderson accounting firm were told by an emergency message system to stay home Thursday morning if they believed their safety was at risk. Those who went to work huddled around radios, took calls from worried relatives and friends, and watched from their offices on the 32nd floor of the First Interstate Tower as smoke rose ominously over the city.
Wells Fargo officials told employees in downtown Los Angeles that they had the option of staying or returning home. By midafternoon, the company decided to close all its branches in Los Angeles County for the rest of the day.
“It’s the conservative, intelligent thing to do, both for employee safety and any customers who want to come to the branches,” said Michael Larkin, a Wells Fargo spokesman. If the rioting continues, he said, “I would expect the branches not to open in the morning.”
Bank of America closed about one-third of its Los Angeles-area branches Thursday.
The fear of violence and looting precipitated the closure of shops and businesses far from the riot zone.
The Beverly Center in the Fairfax District and the nearby Pacific Design Center and Westside Pavilion were among the major Westside businesses that decided to close early Thursday as a precaution. In Pasadena, the Plaza Pasadena mall closed about 1 p.m.
Throughout the county, major Southland companies announced cancellation of their afternoon and evening shifts. Hughes Aircraft closed its facilities countywide, as did Northrop, TRW, Honeywell in El Segundo and Price Pfister in Pacoima. All the major Hollywood studios sent employees home by midafternoon.
Bus service was canceled citywide at 4 p.m. Thursday. But the RTD said it planned to resume bus and Blue Line train service in most areas of the city today, limited only by the orders of Mayor Tom Bradley and the police. If buses roll in the morning, a spokesman added, the RTD is dedicated to keeping them running throughout the day to avoid stranding passengers.
All Los Angeles Superior Court criminal trials downtown and throughout the rest of the county were canceled Thursday. Law enforcement officers, who often are needed to testify, were needed on the streets, said Nadia Wiggins, a county spokeswoman. Aviva Bobb, presiding judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court, urged that criminal proceedings, whenever possible, be continued for one week.
Life throughout the city was disrupted, but South Los Angeles--where most of the looting and fire-setting took place--was hit particularly hard.
Classrooms were closed from the preschool to the university level. A third of the 30 post offices in the area were shut down Thursday, disrupting mail service to about 200,000 people. If conditions don’t improve, mail service will not resume today, said Larry Dozier, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. Pacific Bell said only about half of the phone calls placed to or from the South Los Angeles area were going through Thursday afternoon.
Four major shopping centers in the area, all owned by the Alexander Haagen Co., were closed, idling more than 1,000 employees.
Two of the centers--the Vermont-Slauson Shopping Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. Shopping Center--suffered serious damage as the result of looting, he said.
The temporary Los Angeles Central Library and 24 branches were closed Thursday, as were 15 county health centers. There were widespread power failures. Trash collection in much of the area was halted because of the danger for workers, city officials said.
Brad Pye Jr.--an aide to Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, whose district includes most of the city’s hot spots--was busy all day responding to pleas for help from constituents. He told of a call from a 74-year-old woman, stranded in her home and hungry. A food delivery was arranged.
The impact on inner-city neighborhoods, Pye said, “is indescribable. Many of those stores, especially the franchise stores, they employ people from the community. And they’re out of jobs now.”
Around the city, sporting and cultural activities came to a halt. The Dodger game at Chavez Ravine and the Clipper playoff game at the Sports Arena were postponed. Producers of “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Ahmanson Theater, citing advice from law enforcement authorities, said the play would go dark for the first time in three years.
But the tide of business was overwhelming at companies that board up broken windows.
“We’re going nuts here . . . I’ve never seen it this busy, even after earthquakes,” said Michelle Mello of Quality Board-Up Company in Los Angeles. “All the businesses that had their glass shattered are calling us. We’re even getting a lot of calls from companies that want us to put boards over their glass windows, just as a precaution.”