A scene I semi-witnessed in passing Saturday night proves, unfortunately, that in some ways Echo Park is not so special. At least it wasn't so special at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday when I drove past Chicken Corner, and saw a young man handcuffed, some police and some onlookers, including a guy, Jason, from whom I had bought a chair earlier in the day. Jason looked very glum, sitting alone on something that looked like a flower pot. The person in handcuffs probably looked unhappy, too, but I couldn't see his face. I kept driving.
Then, on Sunday I started to hear reports from different people of the police action I'd glimpsed. Seems the handcuffed person had been some kind of mad U-turner. According to what I was hearing first-, second- and third-hand was: A young man of color had made a U-turn at Chicken Corner. The police pulled him over, and then handcuffed him and held him there for well over an hour, searched his pockets and asked lots of personal, repetitive questions in a disrespectful manner before deciding to let him go with a ticket. The young man, whose nickname is Toks, lives across from the Del Mor Apartments. And the reason everyone's talking about what looks like an instance of racial profiling is that he happened to be pulled over in a place where he had friends. He asked his friends to stay with him while he was handcuffed because he wanted witnesses in case anything went awry. His mission that night: to bring chicken soup and Gatorade to his sick girlfriend. Toks wrote in a long email to me that he had made a 3-point turn, and one of his tail lights had a burned out bulb. In any case, Toks is an upstanding arts person in the neighborhood. He is the one who commissioned the lovely hummingbird murals and the skull mural on the garage door across from Chango. He's a DJ and, recently, a curator for Han Cholo's art shows on Chicken Corner row. He's also brown and, even in Echo Park, on an ordinary Saturday night that made him a suspect.
In his own defense, our U-turner described himself:
I might be annoying, attention hungry, loud what have you but I am also quick to lend a helping hand or an ear....and am really into community building and music.
That is, when he's not making U-turns....