A Childe’s History of Los Angeles

Appendix #3: Rise of the Gangs (1950s-1990s)

The Status Perfectus manifesto quickly circulated among anarch communities, and even down to the modern nights, it has continued to serve as an idealistic goal for anarch struggles everywhere. Its allure lies in being an innovative blueprint for a way of life hitherto unknown to the Kindred. Perhaps too innovative.

Aware that there would still be a tendency to look to the Revolutionary Council for answers to all of L.A.’s problems, and perhaps leery of being offered the Princedom again, Jeremy MacNeil convinced the body to dissolve itself upon publication of the Status, leaving the Los Angeles with no nominal leadership at all. Although MacNeil and Salvador Garcia had expected an unavoidable period of confusion and adjustment, they would be deeply disillusioned by the chaos that followed.

It would soon become apparent that Kindred society, even more than Nature, abhors a vacuum. One of the first things that the newly liberated anarchs of the Free States discovered about not having a Prince, was that there was no longer anyone to lay out hunting grounds, or to protect one Kindred’s domain from another. Both duties which Don Sebastian had carried out, however arbitrarily. This resulted in a wild free-for-all, in which individual vampires staked out huge territories for themselves and forbade other Kindred to hunt in them.

One particularly audacious (yet sadly all too representative) example was an ambitious Gangrel who claimed the entire San Fernando Valley as his private demesne! Needless to say, it wasn’t long until the ‘Prince of the Valley’ ended his reign in small pieces along the dry bed of the Los Angeles River.

It soon became clear that the only way to safely claim a hunting ground was to form a coterie of trusted Kindred and claim the area for the group. The area had to be large enough to support the entire coterie yet remain small enough to be defended. These ‘gangs,’ as they became known in Los Angeles, soon became the dominant political model in the Free States – a far cry from MacNeil and Garcia’s original ideals.

In time, the most successful gangs grew to a surprising size, such as to lay claim to whole swathes of the Southlands. One of the characteristics which set them apart was the almost complete breakdown of the ‘Clan system’ that so dominates the Camarilla. It was not uncommon for the average gang to include members from several different Clans, including Caitiff, although the Brujah were always the most numerous. When you add the fact that most of the Kindred of Los Angeles are those who have either rejected their Clan’s traditional leadership or been rejected by it, the gang came to serve the functions traditionally fulfilled by Clan membership.

While coteries also exist in Camarilla-controlled areas, they have the stigma of being temporary alliances of fledglings, riven by conflicting loyalties to Prince and Primogen (often far older creatures of greater power). In Los Angeles, there were no such social controls – and it proved to be a lasting reason why Camarilla agents (often vainly seeking to appeal to Clan loyalties) would have so much difficult infiltrating the Anarch gangs in the decades that followed.

Caitiffs & Barons (1956)

As soon as the Anarch Free States came into existence, even more Kindred of all kinds poured into Southern California. While most were anarchs from various Clans, many were Caitiff looking for a place to belong and something in which to believe. The widely shared Status Perfectus, as published by the founding mothers and fathers of the Free States had given these freedom-seekers hope of discovering a society of vampires living harmoniously together, with each caring equally for himself and his brethren.

Instead they found an increasingly overpopulated urban sprawl, mainly controlled by dangerously territorial gangs that didn’t care for newcomers invading their ‘turf’. Many of these new arrivals perished at the hands of their supposed ‘brethren’, yet most soon banded together to form their own coteries for protection, which often evolved into fully fledged gangs bent on seizing territory of their own.

As competition for the available kine heated up, clashes between the larger gangs increased in frequency and brutality to rival the nights of the Revolt itself, threatening the continued survival of the Anarch Free States. Finally, in 1956, Jeremy MacNeil was forced to concede that his dream of a ‘Perfect State’ was not to be. Having kept aloof from the struggles and politics of the last decade, he grimly resolved to step in and call a meeting of the gangs. Under his guarantee of safety, the gang lords came together and drew up a map of L.A. to designate the boundaries of each gang’s hunting grounds, which became known as ‘baronies‘.

Jeremy reserved the San Fernando Valley and much of Central L.A. for his own formidable coterie (including his lover, Marguerite Foccart and her childe, Crispus Attucks), declaring his barony a gang-free territory where any vampire could make her haven without permission from anyone. The gangs carved up the rest of the Southlands like a medieval kingdom. This agreement did not entirely eliminate the gang wars, and many baronies have violently changed hands multiple times since, but it created a certain amount of stability at the center. Some baronies, such as those of South Los Angeles, Torrance and Long Beach would prove remarkably resilient, persisting even beyond the collapse of the Anarch Free States in the late 90s.

Salvador Garcia would personally carve out one of the most famous and lasting territories, later known as ‘El Hermandad’ or ‘The Brotherhood’, which eventually grew to dominate East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, numbering more than two dozen zealous anarchs. He disdained the title of ‘Baron’, though the devotion of his followers was never in doubt.

Isaac Abrams retained Hollywood as he ever had. Meanwhile, Louis Fortier made himself the Baron of West Los Angeles. Unlike Salvador Garcia, Fortier’s adherents never numbered more than three or four at any given time (mostly his own Childer). For several decades, the Westside remained the private hunting ground of Louis and his Childer, from which he nursed a personal rivalry with Isaac Abrams.

It didn’t surprise anyone when Tara Kearney declared herself the Baron of San Diego. She had already been ruling there with Prince-like authority for the better part of a decade. Although, this was partly explained by the fact that the anarchs of San Diego had to be especially organized and vigilant to guard against the depredations of the Sabbat lead by Bishop Cicatriz of Tijuana. The cities of San Jose, Fresno and Bakersfield soon gained their own Barons as well.

The First Siege of L.A. (1965)

Initially, the Sabbat of Mexico had been thrilled by tales of Don Sebastian’s overthrow, delighting in the reports of anarch fledglings hunting down their elders and bringing down one of the strongest cities in the Camarilla! It was initially assumed that it would be child’s play to bring in the War Parties and lead the City of the Angels to the glory of the Sabbat creed.

It could very easily have played out that way, given how rapidly the Kindred of the newly formed Anarch Free States descended into territorial skirmishes as a prelude to outright gang warfare. That this didn’t happen has everything to do with Tara Kearney’s effective leadership of San Diego, and the nearly two dozen, combat-hardened anarchs (several of them ancilla Brujah from Texas like herself) that she commanded. It wasn’t long before Bishop Cicatriz of Tijuana realized the Sword of Caine had little hope of quickly overrunning San Diego’s experienced street fighters. Bishop Cicatriz and Baron Tara would remain locked in conflict, each working to undermine the other for the next half century.

Meanwhile, the Sabbat would instead play the long game of slowly infiltrating the Southlands and steadily building up their strength north of San Diego. It would take them nearly fifteen years to lay the groundwork for the surprise attack on Los Angeles, after which it was assumed that a surrounded San Diego would fall to them by default. Finally, in 1965, the Sabbat decided that waiting any longer served no purpose. Its spies reported that the city had no internal structure in place to defend itself, and that the gangs hated each other too much to combine forces to resist a takeover. The scouts and shakari went in to prepare the way for the assembling War Parties.

They discovered a city that was deeply divided among racial and socio-economic lines. As in many American cities a vast majority of the African-American population had been forced into a relatively small area by institutional racism, housing restrictions and economic deprivation. In areas like South Central and Watts, the LAPD had made a habit of subjecting the residents to often brutal treatment. When the tension finally exploded, it took very little imagination for Sabbat strategists to seize advantage of the Watts Uprising.

Chaos reigned in the streets of South L.A. as rioters set businesses ablaze, and sniper shots drove back the firemen who came to douse the flames. Looting was rampant, and the police reduced to traveling in convoys. No one would notice a few more charred bodies among the wreckage. The War Parties of the Sword of Caine roared into town. Most had designated targets, but many came just to watch the city burn.

The suddenness and viciousness of the attack initially stunned L.A.’s anarchs into diving for cover. Hiding in darkness, they listened and watched as the Sabbat forces roared through the streets and the fires consumed the heart of Los Angeles. The War Parties even slew the popular co-writer of the Status Perfectus, Jaqueline Fairmonte outside her haven near Venice Beach.

Gradually, however, the survivors began to organize. Brujah runners spread the word among the scattered anarchs, and the gangs began to rally – realizing in the process that far fewer of them had been destroyed than feared. Nosferatu scouts started to return with priceless information on the exact position and strength of the Sabbat enemy. Quietly, like shadows at dusk, the anarchs began to gather.

As the third night fell, a tremor of uncertainty shook the Sabbat forces in Los Angeles. Suddenly it seemed like the portals of Hell had opened: huge gangs of snarling Kindred poured out of the Hollywood Hills, storming out of sewers, tunnels and abandoned warehouses. Lead by Salvador, Marguerite and especially Jeremy (who wielded a two-handed greatsword), the anarchs launched a ferocious counterattack upon the Sword of Caine. The fighting was even more intense than that of the Revolt.

The battle raged for four nights as Los Angeles burned around the combatants. From the surrounding countryside, more anarchs began to arrive in seemingly endless numbers, and some from even across state lines after three or four nights of ceaseless travel by caravan. The Sabbat leadership were forced to concede that they had little hope of holding Los Angeles, and so ordered the retreat. To the ragged cheers of the defenders, the remnants of the Sabbat War Parties snarled and slunk out of L.A., promising to return someday and utterly destroy the city.

Jeremy hoped that the horror of the attack would bring the vampires of L.A. together, but it was not to be. Almost as soon as the Sabbat pulled up stakes and left, the bickering started again and things in L.A. went back to normal.

The Return of Set (1966-1978)

No one, mortal or immortal, has succeeded in explaining why Los Angeles has always been a haven for the morally suspected. Ever since its founding, those condemned as deviant or depraved by the rest of the country have flocked to the City of the Angels. This is as true for Kindred as it is for mortals.

Some condescending Kindred from the East Coast assert that it has to do with the climate, which is said to breed indolence and sloth. Others blame Los Angeles’ location, since it is the most westerly stop for those forced from their havens by one intolerant Prince after another. Whatever the reason, Los Angeles had acquired a sordid reputation for debauchery by the standards of middle America.

This reputation made Los Angeles irresistible to the Followers of Set. Though werewolves had razed the original Temple of Set in 1944, in 1966, Dawn Cavanaugh returned and founded a new temple in the Hollywood Hills, not far from Griffith Park. Located in a bomb shelter under an abandoned mansion deep in the Hills. She was greatly aided in this by the chaos in the wake of the First Sabbat Siege of Los Angeles.

The new temple soon began to weave its tendrils deep into Los Angeles society, especially Hollywood. It proved particularly successful with the budding porn industry, whose ‘members’ flocked to the wildly licentious parties for which the beautiful Dawn soon became famous. In less than decade, it became the most influential Temple in all of North America, espousing a new philosophy of Ecstasy and claiming that Set would return not in the the Egypt of the Old World, but in the sunset lands of the New.

Eventually, Dawn’s success became her undoing. In 1979, Isaac Abrams began to notice the familiar signs of rot as had once corrupted Don Sebastian’s courtiers. He directed the notorious Ventrue fixer and enforcer known as Arnie Costa to contract with a coterie of Nosferatu agents to scour Hollywood of the insidious snakes. The Nosferatu eventually caught one of Dawn’s acolytes, and using information wrung from him, they managed to track down both Dawn and the temple. Isaac naturally informed Jeremy MacNeil, who immediately summoned his allies and attacked.

Somehow, Dawn got wind of the attack and managed to escape (yet again), but Jeremy’s forces destroyed most of her acolytes and cultists. Jeremy was never able to discover how Dawn found out about the attack, but he suspects the Serpent had corrupted at least one vampire near him.

Unfortunately, the second temple’s destruction did not mean the end of Setite influence in the area. The Followers of Set would return again (if they ever truly left), and would soon have not one but two established temples in L.A. by the early 90s, more numerous and dangerous than ever. If it were not for the Cathayan Invasion, the Setites might even have eventually succeeded in their long-term plan of taking Los Angeles for themselves.

The Sons of the Crypt (1979-1991)

One of the heroes of the 1965 Sabbat siege of L.A. was a previously unknown African-American vampire named Mohammed al-Muthlim (Mohammed of the Darkness). His valiant efforts on behalf of the city quickly earned him a reputation among the younger Kindred, and a gang developed around this charismatic figure.

Mohammed, for reasons known only to himself, slept in a crypt in an Inglewood cemetery. His followers therefore began to call themselves ‘The Sons of the Crypt’, or the ‘Crypt’s Sons.’ This name would become shortened even further after a version of it was was adopted by mortal gangbangers who looked to Mohammed’s fearsome crew for inspiration. There was nothing inherently strange about this, as Kindred have been setting (or adopting so quickly as to blur the difference) fashionable trends for centuries.

At first the Crypt’s Sons was a Kindred gang just like any other in Los Angeles, mostly concerned with protecting its turf against other vampiric poachers and coteries. Mohammed, however, had much bigger plans. Without violating the Masquerade, he began to attract mortals into his followers. These new members were typically young black males, dispossessed by the system: They wanted something bigger to give their loyalty to, and Mohammed gave them an example they could emulate to get exactly what they were looking for. Aided by their greater numbers, the Crypt’s Sons rapidly took over the area surrounding their Inglewood base and continued to expand until they controlled huge swathes of the Southlands.

By the 1980s, Mohammed had succeeded at building one of the largest, most efficient and dangerous gangs in the world. The gang was divided many times over into different neighborhoods, with some groups even occasionally going to war with each other, but all of whom ultimately answered (whether they knew it or not) to Mohammed and his chosen Kindred and Ghoul lieutenants. The Crypt’s Sons would make many enemies as they grew more ambitious, clashing with both the feds and the Mexican Mafia as they moved heavily into gunrunning and the drug trade. There would eventually be a Crypts chapter in most major cities in the United States.

The most important consequence of Mohammed’s success was the army of imitators, both rivals (who the Crypts initially referred to derisively as ‘Bloods‘), and disciples, that it spawned. The decentralized leadership of the Crypts themselves meant that by 1990 barely a fraction of its descendent gangs had even the most tenuous connection to Mohammed’s original followers. Meanwhile, the Ventrue, Giovanni, as well as werewolves and other Brujah have long since followed Mohammed’s example over the last few decades. It is not uncommon in Los Angeles for different gangs in various parts of the city to be secretly influenced by a number of subtle, supernatural actors.

The only one of Jeremy MacNeil’s allies to initially recognize the threat posed by the Crypt’s Sons was Salvador Garcia. He was already considered the de facto ‘Baron’ of East Los Angeles, an area long considered one of the poorest sections of the County, overrun with vicious gangs. Mostly populated by immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, it remains as true today as back then, that billboards are more likely to be written in Spanish, and any given citizen on the street is likely to speak English poorly if at all. Although Salvador Garcia would have preferred to uplift the Eastside, he saw the potential in using it to counter Mohammed’s Crypts in Inglewood and South Central. To this end, Salvador formed El Hermandad, or “the Brotherhood”, eventually recruiting a dozen Vampires (including several Embraced gang leaders) to take the fight to the Sons of the Crypt. Salvador was greatly assisted by his top lieutenant and protégé Armando ‘Nines’ Rodriguez, a rising star among the Anarchs and a favorite son of East L.A.

The Rodney King Riots (1992)

By the early 1990s, Mohammed al-Muthlim and the Sons of the Crypt felt they were powerful enough to wrest total control of Los Angeles away from Jeremy MacNeil, Salvador Garcia and their allies. Mohammed had already Dominated the Chief of Police into leaving his gang’s operations alone, but he couldn’t control all the rank and file. This meant that it was impossible for Mohammed to put any kind of large force into the streets and take advantage of his greater numbers in forcing the issue. He knew that when the time came, as many as three dozen Kindred would put themselves and their mortal followers at his command.

Mohammed finally got his chance in the spring of 1992, with the trial of the police officers accused of beating Rodney King. King, an African-American, had (unlike many past incidents) been captured on videotape being viciously beaten by four white officers, shocking news audiences across the city and country. Subsequently, when the jury found all of the accused innocent, the community erupted. Once again, businesses burned, rioters looted stores and snipers shot at police.

This was what the Crypt’s Sons had been waiting for. They moved into the streets of L.A., attacking both Jeremy MacNeil’s followers, El Hermandad and other rival gangs wherever they could. This battle differed from the previous Kindred conflicts that had rocked L.A. For one thing, it went on around the clock. By day, the mortal gangbangers (often lead by Ghoul lieutenants) would hunt for the closely guarded havens of the rival Kindred leaders and their inner circles. By night, these same fearsome Vampires who survived the daytime raids would emerge from their urban lairs to wreck terrible vengeance on mortal and immortal foes alike.

Another difference between this battle and others was the reaction of the civil authorities. In the Watts Uprising the police response, although inadequate, had been immediate. In the ’92 riots the police stayed away from the fighting for the few couple nights under orders from their heavily Dominated superiors, which initially allowed the Crypt’s Sons to do as they pleased. By the third night, Jeremy had managed to clear away some of the bureaucratic haze caused by Mohammed’s (and others) Dominations, and along with his allies, had helped restore the balance of power. Regardless, the battle continued for most of the next week and even spread into other cities.

The fight did not go as either side hoped. While both groups suffered numerous casualties, neither could destroy the other’s core powerbase. With the exception of South Central L.A, where the Crypts were actually pushed out by a coalition of rival gangs styling themselves ‘Blood’s, very little was lost or gained territorially. Meanwhile, entire decades of carefully curated mortal influence and resources was spent in a handful of nights. The Dominated, blood-bound and Ghoul lieutenants of the various gangs suffered especially heavy losses. In the end, an uneasy truce settled over the city while the former combatants retreated to rebuild their much-depleted war machines.

Neither Jeremy MacNeil nor Salvador Garcia had originally wanted to mix mortal and vampire politics, but they resolved to never allow another Kindred like Mohammed to manipulate the authorities like that against them again. What they didn’t realize was that the Kindred of the Anarch Free States had already fatally weakened themselves with infighting and would not recover before an unexpected threat from the East coupled with a resurgent Camarilla threatened to end the Status Perfecti forever.