Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

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Foothill Riot: A Parent’s Story

Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at
lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

On June 12, 1975, the Crescenta Valley Ledger printed an interesting story written by one of the “participants” in the Foothill Riots. The anonymous writer was actually the father of a teenager. He was 44 years old, a college professor, and a self-described “law abiding citizen, a champion of our legal system, and a supporter of our police.” He had read in the paper about the trouble on June 2 and, knowing how teens are attracted to excitement, he knew that his son would want to go to the next Foothill Cruise Night on June 8. He decided to adopt a proactive stance and take his son there himself. How much trouble could his son get in with his middle-aged dad in tow?

About 9:30 p.m. they headed down to Foothill, parked on a side street just above, and he and his son walked from there to the boulevard to watch the cruisers. From the writer’s description, it sounds like he was near Lowell, ground zero of the worst of that particular night. They reached Foothill at 10 p.m., just in time to hear the police loudspeakers order the crowd to disperse. Father and son immediately turned back to head to the car, but the police line was sweeping down Foothill, and they were now cut off from the side street where their car was parked. Dad assumed that as an adult and not the target of the sweep, they would let him go to his car and leave. He approached the police line and asked if he could pass through to get to his car. The officer barked at him, “Get your butt home fast or I’ll take you in.” Dad foolishly got a little indignant, and replied, “It’s not necessary to talk that way. We aren’t doing anything wrong.”

Dad and son were immediately handcuffed and zip-tied into a line of about 100 other arrestees. They were quickly herded onto waiting buses for the trip to downtown L.A. The dad relates that he couldn’t believe this was happening to him, that it had an unreal nightmare quality to it. At county jail they were fingerprinted, photographed, jailed, stripped, fingerprinted and photographed again, and put into a large cell with the other arrestees.

Once there, he got a chance to talk to some of his fellow prisoners who ranged in age from 18 to well over 50, from bare-footed and long-haired to well-dressed and conservative. Besides the kids caught in the sweep that were actually there for cruise night, the arrestees included a Foothill business owner who had stationed himself in front of his store to guard it, another business owner who was working late with his son and made the mistake of stepping outside to watch the excitement, and a shopper who had just emerged from a store with a bag of groceries.

Dad and son were bailed out the next morning and at the time of writing were awaiting arraignment for “failure to disperse,” the first trouble with the law for both of them.

Dad had a reflective attitude on the whole mess. He wrote that at first he was furious and planned to sue the LAPD. Being arrested had been a degrading and physically painful experience. But after he cooled down, he came to the realization that he had put himself and his son in harm’s way. Given the buildup to the June 8 event by the police, it was likely there would be trouble. Further, he realized he should not have tried to pass through the police line, but should have gone the opposite way and circled back to his car. The police were on edge and nervous, maybe even fearful. He concluded he should have stayed away from them. It was bad judgment on his part.

In a great “lemons-to-lemonade” wrap-up to his article he states: “It brought my son and I closer together, and at what more appropriate time than just before Father’s Day? I’m proud of my son, juvenile record and all, for he conducted himself like a man.”

Now that was a positive attitude!

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