New York Stock Exchange, New York, NY
On the floor of the New York Stock exchange, Monday morning dawned ominously to match the gloomy, rainy weather outside. Traders had been flooded with sell orders even after the market opened down by over 100 points. The sell-off only accelerated as more and more bad news came in from the Middle East. The news of the oil tanker and oil installation attacks were particularly devastating.. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil, one of the major benchmarks, shot up from $101 per barrel to $287 per barrel over night and continued to climb. By 1:30 pm, the Dow Jones Industrial average had dropped by almost 1100 points, just over 100 points shy of the first threshold for a trading halt. Mercifully, the market rebounded some, to close down just over 800 points.
In over-night trading, the European markets were sharply lower. The Greek and Spanish stock markets in particular plummeted, leading financial analysts the world over to declare those economies in a full-blown collapse with Italy also teetering on the brink. Black Tuesday, the second one in a mind numbing coincidence after the one in 1929, picked up where the previous day left off and spiraled out of control. By 11 am, the Dow was down 2500 points causing a trading halt of 2 hours. After the re-opening at 1:15 pm, the Dow fell another 200 points to close down 2700 points for the day. Maalox, Prozac, and Tylenol packaging littered the trading room floor along with sell orders.
The impact on the global economy was stunning in its speed and scope. Seemingly huge portions of the logistics and transportation infrastructure stopped. Trucking companies cancelled contracts and deliveries. Grocery store shelves began to go bare. After all, the average American supermarket only had three days’ worth of food in-stock once the deliveries stopped.
Desperation began to set in and the people had taken to the streets.
Los Angeles, CA (four days later)
The riots started, as they had in the past, in the Watts section of South-Central L.A. And as before, they began as protests.
“My babies need milk,” one woman shouted. “What are we supposed to do?”
“I bet the rich folks up in the Hills have plenty of food and milk,” yelled another woman.
“Let’s go see what they have. I bet they have all kinds of stuff.”
The day before, the protestors were angry over the skyrocketing price of food and gasoline. Today they were angry that there was no food available to buy and gas stations were starting to ration. This tinderbox situation was partly fueled by the lingering “Occupy Wall Street” anger over the exploitation of the masses by the super-elite 1% which in turn drew on anger over double-digit unemployment rates which reached into the 40% range for minorities, reduction in welfare and food stamp programs due to empty government coffers, and a dozen other problems, depending on whom one spoke to.
A tractor-trailer arrived at the Wal-Mart to replenish the mostly empty shelves, but it still did not open its doors. The manager had been directed to not open in the early evening, but wait until morning due to the large number of restless people gathered. This did not go over well with the thousands of people wanting to fill their nearly empty shelves and refrigerators.
“Let’s go see what the rich folks have. They can spare some,” yelled a gang member who really didn’t care about food, but was looking for an opportunity to loot stores and perhaps his next “ride.”
“Get the 1%, 1%, 1%,” the chant rose up sporadically from the crowd, but then grew louder. And then,
“We are the 99%. Feed the 99%!”
A young man on a bike rode by and screamed “Police in masks are coming,” and sped off, continuing to carry the message, like a modern day Paul Revere. “They’re coming, they’re coming. Police are coming!”
Riot police did indeed arrive at the Wal-Mart, and although it was close to 100 police, they did not immediately move against the protestors, even though it was rapidly becoming a violent mob. The mob was taking on a life of its own and actually flowing away from the Wal-Mart.
A block away, a gang of youths took the “opportunity” to move against a liquor store. Windows shattered as rocks, bottles, a tire iron, and anything else that could be found was thrown at and through the windows. Then, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the 1992 Rodney King – LA riots, the Korean shop owner climbed on his roof and fired a warning shot into the air with his surplus, World War II- vintage, Russian-made Mosin-Nagant M44 rifle. The noise was deafening and the flash readily visible in the failing light. Two gang members pulled out handguns, both Glocks, and fired at the roof. They missed their target, but the large .40 caliber slugs impacted the parapet and showered the shop keeper with fragments, cutting his face and eye. Enraged, he aimed and fired at one of his two assailants. The young African-American youth flew back, a gaping, sucking hole in his chest, blood spewing up and out.
A moment later, the first, warning, shot fired into the air by the shop keeper in defense of his livelihood, began its descent. It impacted on a woman swept up in the now violent mob, shattering the top of her skull with its tremendous terminal velocity as it fell. It was the same woman that minutes earlier had been asking for milk for her babies. The people in her immediate vicinity screamed for help.
“They shot her, they shot her,” screamed a middle aged, out-of-work trucker.
“They’re shooting at us,” cried a teen-age mother who had also come out in search of formula.
Back in front of the store, several gang members were now seeking to avenge their fallen friend and had taken cover behind cars, firing their handguns at the shop owner, still on the roof. The shop owner’s fourteen year-old son, tasked with keeping watch inside the store, heard the barrage of gunfire followed by screams and feared for his father’s life. He grabbed the Mossberg Cruzer 12 gauge shotgun his father kept behind the counter and raced upstairs. His fear of finding his father shot proved true, he racked the slide, crept to the near corner of the parapet, raised the muzzle above the edge, pointed down, and fired. The roar of the shotty added to the firing Glocks and further convinced the mob that they were being fired upon by the shield-welding riot police.
Protestors-cum-rioters started yelling, “Fight back! We’ll never be defeated. We’ll never be defeated,” as they surged toward the helmeted police.
“The people united can never be defeated! The people united can never be defeated” rose from the now-fully-enraged mob. Bottles and rocks were now being thrown at the police and the police were firing back with bean bag and tear gas cartridges.
The mob took on a life of its own, growing at a mind-numbing rate. People smashed the front doors of the Wal-Mart, even as others surged around the rear of the store and engulfed the laden tractor-trailer.
Another “protestor,” a young black member of one of the Crips gangs, was struck in the head and began spewing blood. His older brother, the leader of that particular gang, ordered his “soldiers” to “take it to these damn pig cops for hurting our people, like my little bro.” Within minutes, the riot police were being fired upon by dozens of rifles, shotguns, and handguns fired from side alleys, roofs, and from behind cars. Running gun battles between law enforcement, criminal gangs, opportunistic looters, and concerned citizens trying to defend themselves, erupted.
Similar scenes were being replayed in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles, Compton, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Oakland. By the early morning, the food and gasoline riots were spreading throughout the urban areas of Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, often fanned by Facebook posts and Tweets, in addition to late night news reports.
By 3 am, Pacific Time, 3 police officers and 27 civilians lay dead in the Greater Los Angeles area alone. Many more of both were hurt. Dozens of cars and buildings were burning. Tens of dozens of business had been looted or simply vandalized. Many of the civilians had been killed by other civilians, but this did not matter to a population that was already in despair, angry, and, increasingly, running rapidly out of food and gasoline.
There was a brief lull as people returned to their homes to sleep, but the news of the riots flashed around the world on the 24 hour news cycle. And also via social media. People “Facebooked” and “Tweeted” their own experiences in the riots and millions could immediately sympathize. Millions of other people around the United States woke to see the awful images of people dying on the streets of Los Angeles as the city burned around them. The people in countless towns and cities saw the desperation in California and realized that their lot was not much better. These people went to their local supermarkets and gas stations and found nothing but long lines or signs that read “Closed – No Gas.” Throngs of people which had been relatively peaceful the last 2 days became unruly and then violent, just as had happened in some of the biggest cities.
By 9 am on the West Coast, angry and desperate people were beginning to flow back out into the streets. Fights broke out at gas stations. Looting began almost immediately, wherever there was food. People were stabbed for milk and bread. Roaming parties of heavily armed citizens and gangs began to defy police ordering them back to their homes, wherever they were encountered. Police were being fired at from side alleys, upper floor windows, and from behind cars, and the dozens of other places which the urban landscape offered as cover. As the Russians had learned in Chechnya, the built up city was a nightmare for any law enforcement or military force fighting against determined foes with countless places to hide and snipe and ambush and escape.
Soon the sheer numbers of armed and violent people on the streets of Los Angeles and Oakland overwhelmed the ability of local law enforcement and they were forced to abandon whole neighborhoods.
Within hours, mayors began calling for the Governor to declare martial law. Throughout the state, militia groups began to mobilize.