Chicago natives shocked by violence and looting in L.A.

Shop owners assess the damage after looters and vandals ransack businesses along Melrose Avenue on Saturday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Miles Harrison and his mom, Karen, stood outside their local market on Hayworth and Melrose avenues in disbelief Sunday morning.

Chicago natives, they moved to L.A. last year so Karen could work for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. They loved the idea of walking around under the California sun.

But what they saw Saturday night and what Harrison has experienced as a young black man since arriving in L.A. has them thinking of returning to Illinois.

Harrison is an early bird, he said, and during his 5 a.m. jogs around the neighborhood, he’s been stopped and handcuffed multiple times by police. The officers question why the 25-year-old doesn’t have a California ID and have called his mom each time to verify his identity. Only lately, he said, have police left him alone because they finally recognize him. But he still doesn’t like to go out alone.

When protesters gathered Saturday on nearby 3rd Street, he joined the demonstration.

It was what he saw on his way home, as the 8 p.m. curfew closed in, that shook him.


“It’s going to be like the Watts riots,” one witness said. “I wasn’t really alive for it, but I was alive for this one. I’ll tell my kids and family members what happened.”

Entirely new people — young men and women — who he said were not at the demonstrations were spilling out of cars along Fairfax, dashing into stores to grab items, then diving back into their vehicles and taking off.

A procession of cars, SUVs and pickups pulled up in front of the MelroseMac store at 6614 Melrose Ave. and disgorged drivers and passengers around midnight.

With no police in sight, looters scrambled empty-handed into the store through shattered windows and emerged moments later with what appeared to be boxes of computers.

The scene was broadcast live for at least a half-hour on L.A. news outlets.

“It was like a McDonald’s drive-through outside the Mac store, where cars were pulling up and others were throwing in looted goods and driving off,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz told KTLA-TV Channel 5 Sunday morning.

“They were in a line, one by one,” he said. “It was something the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere.”

Harrison said that the looters were of every race and ethnicity, but in the end, their actions were only going to reinforce negative stereotypes.

“This is going to make people more scared of people that look like me rather than building allies.”