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Downtown Van Nuys, morning of June 2, 2020.

My City was Looted Yesterday

Everything my community taught me about inclusion, healing, and recovery

Van Nuys is a special community. For lack of a better word, I call it my first home. In my later teenage years, when I was a homeless kid with nowhere to live, I found the first landlord willing to take a chance on a kid with very little to offer. That was almost thirteen years ago.

My landlord is an older Russian man. Like most of the community, he’s extremely hardworking, does more work than he needs, and chooses to take care of things himself.

In his free time, he’s heavily involved with the community and is friends with most of the smaller business owners that span the length of Van Nuys Boulevard.

Stores were looted a block away from where I live.

A Boost Mobile store, a 7–11, mostly mom-and-pop shops.

Shattered glass, tagged walls, trashed floors.

Shelves were emptied and destroyed.

When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I’d go down the street to check up on the aftermath of the looting. The previous afternoon, everyone in Los Angeles County had received this Public Safety Alert:

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Public Safety Alert, June 1, 2020.

It was sent at 3:30 p.m. Approximately 3 minutes later, the curfew had been set back one hour, from 6 to 5p.m.

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Revised Public Safety Alert, approximately 3 minutes later.

This came at a time when protesters were barely beginning to organize the streets of Van Nuys.

Some time at the peak of the gathering, looters began using the large crowds to their advantage. Some stores had all their windows shattered, allowing swarms of people to run in and out with handfuls of useless gadgets.

I have spent almost all my life in a community that doesn’t have much in the way of material wealth. Van Nuys is a humble little town in the heart of the San Fernando Valley; what we don’t have in physical wealth we replace with the love of community. This is a city loved equally by the homeless and business owners. Passing by the streets, it’s likely you’ll see propped up tents on abandoned construction grounds where the homeless create their own little communities, nestling themselves wherever Van Nuys allows.

When I woke up this morning, I thought some of that vibrant spirit might have been broken.

These business owners that span downtown Van Nuys are not wealthy people. The greatest irony in the destruction of business property is the transference of goods from have-nots to have-nots.

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Downtown Van Nuys, the morning after the looting.

Van Nuys is a place that accepts anybody. The streets here have seen some of the worst times, both with the people who reside in it and the damage done to the stores.

The community forgives and forgets and moves on. This is a town that recovers from anything. If one day these looters decided to join, the community would welcome them in. It molds any walk of life into a hard worker.

It’s a community that took a chance on a homeless kid looking for a home over a decade ago.

When I woke up today to take supplies to the volunteers, I found that they had already been there since six in the morning ready to fix what had been broken. It felt oddly familiar.

No time to complain.

No time to wait for official help.

Everybody is always ready to get to work.

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More volunteers, June 2, 2020.

And there is a lot to do.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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