CamNet, episode 702

A cable program produced by Nancy Cain, Judith Binder, and friends in L.A. in the mid-90s. This episode focuses primarily on a protest in Washington, D.C. over the Rodney King verdict, as well as a short segment about the aftermath of the riots in L.A.

1:39Copy video clip URL Title screen. The program opens on a shot of protestors in Washington D.C. The protest sign reads, “Black People Wake Up and Unite!” One of the protestors approaches a police officer who is carrying a camcorder and asks for his name and badge number. The videomaker for CamNet, Eddie Becker, asks the protestor what he plans to do, and he responds that he plans to contact the ACLU about the legality, as he feels like a government identity keeping a record of this event infringes the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

3:00Copy video clip URL Becker continues to record the officer carrying the camcorder, at one point joking, “This city is only big enough for one of us.” The officer doesn’t respond, although some of the other police officers around laugh.

4:17Copy video clip URL In an interview with another reporter, Police Chief Fulwood says he supports the protestors, and that he agrees that there need to be changes or else riots will continue, and describes Los Angeles as “symptomatic” of larger national issues. He also talks about his opinion that arresting protestors “doesn’t make sense”—they will be out on the street soon and nothing changes, and the arrests might even incite more anger. “Arrests never solved any kind of problem in America—it won’t! … When you make arrests, you ought to accomplish something, but you won’t in this kind of environment.”

7:52Copy video clip URL Some men in suits who seem to be wealthier owners or businessmen speculate on how many protestors there are, and joke about how the number will vary depending on what you’re going to use it for. “If it’s for enhancement of the security budget for next year, it’s about 5000!” When Becker jokes he got that on tape, the men joke with Becker about security budgets.

9:00Copy video clip URL The crowd of protestors marches along the road, chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” Becker chats with some of the onlookers about what they think of the Rodney King verdict and the reaction to it. Carl Willock, an older man in a suit who says he’s from Arkansas, says he doesn’t know enough about the trial, but he understands why people are upset and “it’s alright” although he “deplore[s] the violence.” He also comments briefly about Clinton and his chances of winning. A man from (possibly French) Canada declines to comment. A younger man in a suit and sunglasses says that the reaction to the verdict has been justified, “at least in DC, I don’t know about LA.”

12:40Copy video clip URL Commercial break: An ad for SoloFlex exercise equipment.

14:40Copy video clip URL Return to the program. Becker records officers on motorcycles as the protestors continue to march. One officer tersely tells him to move away from them. At the protest, a young black man yells into a megaphone about needing to organize. “We’ve got to build institutions of ourselves. We need to build institutions that identify with us… that meet our needs… We’ve got to prepare for war.”

16:24Copy video clip URL Becker talks to another onlooker, who says he’s a financial analyst. He says the trial was a “travesty of justice,” and that the reaction was “built-up rage.” He says he thinks the people of Los Angeles did what they thought was right in response. “Unless I’ve walked a mile in the shoes of all those people, I can’t second guess them or why why did something. They felt, at that time and that place, that it was necessary.” He also talks about his hope that something good will come out of all this, comparing it to the protests in the ’60s.

18:06Copy video clip URL A young black woman speaks on the megaphone, stressing the importance of organizing into a movement beyond just this event.

19:39Copy video clip URL Police officers line up in front of the gate outside the White House. A small handful of protestors yell in anger and frustration at the police, who continue to stand stoically in front of the gate. All the news cameras are focused on the angriest and loudest yellers. Meanwhile, a protestors talk to Becker about their fear that news media is just going to report on “one joker [who] jumps up in a police officer’s face… The whole peaceful rally is going to be negated because of this [violent outburst].” He says the media should go see what the actual peaceful protestors and speakers have to say.

22:54Copy video clip URL Becker records more of the speakers. The man talks about their plans to block the 14th Street bridge at 4 o’clock.

23:54Copy video clip URL Commercial break: Two ads, one for Greenpeace and another encouraging viewers to support organic farming.

25:24Copy video clip URL The bump back to the main program features a political performance art piece included a man in a George Bush(?) mask, a woman in prisoner garb with a ball-and-chain that she pretends to beat the masked man with, and another man wearing the Statue of Liberty’s crown and a sign that says, “Woman’s Uterus = U.S. State Property.”

25:55Copy video clip URL Shaky footage of police at the protest with a time stamp of “May 4 1992.” Becker records footage of the marching crowd on their way to shut down the bridge. They chant “No Justice, No Peace!” The police officers form their own blockade. Becker talks to Ashley, a young black woman from DC, who says there’s hope that at least young people are organizing, “because I don’t see that many older people and that really upsets me.” Becker gathers more footage of the protest, which is now sitting with arms linked and doing a number of chants like “What do we want? Justice!” and “Shut ’em down!” and “Too Black, Too Strong!”

29:59Copy video clip URL The police officers begin suiting up with gas masks, batons, and riot guns. Some of the leaders of the protest come to try to negotiate with the officers, saying that because the police is suiting up, they are beginning to agitate crowd and are going to make things worse. They talk about setting up a space in the middle so that they can avoid confrontations. The protest leader says, “We want to keep this as peaceful as possible.” One of the officers asks, “Why do you think that [having police officers come into the crowd] is an opposing interest, sir? Don’t you think we want to keep it as peaceful as possible?” to which the protest leader retorts, “Well, sir, y’all have big shotguns with canisters of tear gas.” Becker continues to gather shots of the officers in their riot gear.

33:50Copy video clip URL Back at the protest, the leaders talk about the negotiations, including the agreement that as long as the protestors don’t initiate confrontation against the police, the police won’t initiate confrontation against the protestors. Becker tries to record more of the negotiations between the protest leader and the officers, but the police tell him he cannot record the “private negotiations” as they are “privileged communications.”

36:15Copy video clip URL Becker talks to a black woman in the protest about what blocking the bridge symbolizes. She says it will make everyone who it conveniences have to think about what’s going on. They stop a black man in a jeep from passing through.

28:18Copy video clip URL Commercial break: A frenetically edited ad about the destruction of the rainforests, plus an ad in support of interracial love—”Love Knows No Color.”

40:17Copy video clip URL Back to the program: More shots from the protest, including an officer recording the protest and a news cameraman recording the officers. The protest chants continue. Alternating shots between the protestors and the police officers.

44:07Copy video clip URL One of the protest leaders talks into the megaphone. She says that it’ll be hard to organize on the street and they are surrounded by police, but as they leave peacefully, they should continue to plan how to organize and come together in the future. Becker tries to record as she meets with the police, but one of the officers shouts, “Get the press out of here!” This is the end of Becker’s footage.

46:05Copy video clip URL Commercial break: SoloFlex exercise equipment. Also a CamNet ad for “CamNet Confidential Vol. 1 The Nude Handyman. $29.95. All the stuff we can’t show you on TV,” including a brief clip of the nude man fixing a sink while the videomakers chat with him.

48:05Copy video clip URL The program returns with footage from Los Angeles. Beth Lapides drives the videomaker around the city talking about the aftermath of what Lapides calls “the revolution.” She talks about her feelings regarding people buying guns now for protection, “I just feel, the more guns there are, the more violence there will be.” She also jokes about a detour, “This is because of the civil unrest! [laughs] At least we have something to blame things on.” She talks about how disconnected it was watching the riots on TV while it’s literally happening right outside your door, including fears of being labelled the enemy.

53:39Copy video clip URL Lapides says, “I think the main thing I would say about the ‘lookylooing’ [i.e. driving around to look at the aftermath] … is that [you can’t see] the main effects of the revolution… I mean, yes, there’s burnt out buildings, especially in South Central of course, but the main effect is the psychological effect that we’re all walking around scared.” She says so many people are filled with love and want to help and do what it takes to change. She says this isn’t really about the laws, this is an economic revolution, and she talks about the “1 percent” that owns 90% of the wealth and doesn’t want to give it up. She also says that all of this is nothing compared to “the ecological disaster that is completely destroying any hope for the future.” End credits, with Lapides talking about how the jacaranda blooms each year will forever be the blooms of the revolution for her.



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