The story

Los Angeles Riots


The Los Angeles riots sprung from years of rising tensions between the LAPD and the city’s African Americans, highlighted by the 1991 videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King. On April 29, 1992, anger boiled over after four LAPD officers were found not guilty of assaulting King, leading to several days of widespread violence, looting and arson throughout L.A. By May 3, thousands of National Guardsmen and federal troops had largely curbed the uprising, which left more than 60 people dead and produced about $1 billion in damage.

Racial Tensions Rise in Los Angeles

The 1980s brought rising unemployment, gang activity, drugs and violent crime to the poorer neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Aggressive efforts to exert control by the Los Angeles Police Department fostered a belief among minority communities that its officers were not held liable for abusive police actions.

In August 1988, as part of LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’s “Operation Hammer” drug sweeps, more than 80 officers tore apart a pair of apartment buildings on Dalton Street in South L.A., leaving dozens homeless.

In January 1990, a skirmish between the LAPD and Nation of Islam members following a traffic stop resulted in the death of 27-year-old Air Force veteran Oliver Beasley.

The Rodney King Beating

Early on March 3, 1991, an intoxicated parolee named Rodney King led police on a high-speed car chase before stopping in Lakeview Terrace.

His subsequent beating, which left him with a fractured skull and cheekbone, was caught on video by Lakeview resident George Holliday, who forwarded it to local station KTLA. Within days, the footage of police repeatedly hitting a Black man with batons was airing on all major networks, drumming up nationwide outrage against the officers involved.

On March 15, LAPD Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were indicted for assault in the King beating, with Koon and Powell also charged with filing false police reports. The African American community endured another blow the following day, when 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by Korean grocer Soon Ja Du over a disputed shoplifting.

Shortly afterward, L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley formed the independent Christopher Commission, named for co-chair Warren Christopher, to investigate operations within the LAPD. In July, the commission published a report that detailed repetitive use of excessive force and recommended a new system of accountability, though Gates staunchly defended his practices.

On November 15, Du drew a sentence that included community service and suspended jail time, a decision that outraged Harlins’ family and supporters. Eleven days later, it was announced the trial for the four officers in the King beating would be moved from Los Angeles County to predominantly white Ventura County. In February 1992, the trial commenced with a 12-member jury that included one Latino, one Asian American and one half-African American.

The L.A. Riots

At about 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, the jury released their verdict: All four officers were acquitted of charges in the King case, save for a mistrial on one charge against Powell of excessive force.

The response was immediate, as protesters took to the streets. Hundreds of people gathered at the Los Angeles County Courthouse to protest the verdict. By 5:30 p.m., the unrest had grown violent near the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South L.A., where locals attacked passing motorists and forced overwhelmed LAPD officers to retreat.

A news helicopter captured footage of white truck driver Reginald Denny being pulled from his rig and beaten nearly to death, with no signs of police assistance. Minutes later, a Latino driver named Fidel Lopez endured a similar attack.

Violence Spreads Rapidly

In a matter of hours, neighborhoods across South and Central Los Angeles were in flames as rioters firebombed thousands of buildings, smashed windows, looted stores and attacked the Parker Center police headquarters in downtown L.A. By the end of the day, California Governor Pete Wilson had declared a state of emergency and ordered the activation of reserve National Guard soldiers.

The citywide unrest showed little signs of abating on April 30, prompting the suspension of rapid transit, mail service, schools and professional sports games. Many businesses closed, leaving residents to wait in long lines for food and gas, while other store owners, like bands of armed Korean merchants, chose to engage the looters.

Although some 2,000 National Guardsmen had reached the city by 8:00 that morning, a lack of proper communication and equipment prevented effective deployment until later in the afternoon.

May 1, the third day of continued rioting, was marked by the televised appearance of King, who asked for the mayhem to stop, quietly pleading, “Can we all get along?”

That evening, President George H.W. Bush also took to the airwaves to denounce both the “senseless deaths” of the riots and the police brutality that inspired them, and to announce the dispatch of thousands of federal officers to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Begins to Recover

By May 2, with 6,000 National Guardsmen bolstered by the addition of another 4,000 federal troops and Marines, the disorder had largely quelled. An estimated 30,000 people marched at a peaceful rally for Korean merchants, and volunteers began cleaning up the streets. Meanwhile, arraignments began for some 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists.

Highway exits reopened and police began recovering stolen merchandise the following day, the only significant trouble coming when National Guardsmen shot a driver who attempted to run them over.

On May 4, Mayor Bradley lifted the citywide curfew, and residents attempted to resume day-to-day activities with schools, businesses and rapid transit resuming operations. Federal troops stood down on May 9 and the National Guard soon followed, though some soldiers remained until the end of the month.

Aftermath of the L.A. Riots

The final tally for the L.A. riots included 2,000 injuries, 12,000 arrests and 63 deaths attributed to the uprising. Upwards of 3,000 buildings were burned or destroyed and 3,000 businesses were affected as part of the $1 billion in damages sustained by the city, leaving an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people out of work.

At the conclusion of the riots, elected officials set about putting the city back together through a combination of federal grants, collaborations with financial institutions and tax proposals.

Governor Wilson and Mayor Bradley tapped Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to lead the “Rebuild L.A.” effort, which attracted nearly $400 million in corporate investments and set in motion a series of grassroots movements to foster job training and community involvement.

LAPD Slowly Reforms

Attention was also focused on the culpability of the city’s law enforcement. On May 11, former FBI Director William H. Webster was named to head an investigation into the LAPD response during the riots, and in late June embattled Chief Daryl Gates stepped down.

In October, the commission issued a report that criticized both the LAPD and City Hall for being unprepared and slow to handle the response to the riots. It issued a list of recommendations, including redeploying desk officers into community patrols and upgrading the city’s communications and information systems.

Critics of the LAPD earned some vindication in 1993 when officers Koon and Powell were sentenced to 30 months apiece for violating King’s civil rights. In April 1994, King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil lawsuit against the city.

Although the LAPD demonstrated improvements with community-based programs, it resisted implementing most of the recommendations of the 1991 Christopher Commission. It wasn’t until the Rampart Scandal of the late 1990s, which exposed widespread corruption within an LAPD anti-gang unit, that serious change was enacted.

In 2000, the city of Los Angeles entered a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that allowed an independent monitor to oversee reforms. After taking over as LAPD chief in 2002, William Bratton was credited with significantly overhauling and improving the perception of the department. He used information technology to track misconduct and use of force, promoted diversity and disciplined officers instead of adhering to a code of silence.

Toward the end of Bratton’s tenure, in 2009, a Harvard study found that 83 percent of Los Angeles residents believed the LAPD to be doing a good or excellent job, and a federal judge approved a transition plan that placed oversight in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Commission. In 2013, Department of Justice oversight of the LAPD was fully lifted.

WATCH: Fight the Power: The Movements that Changed America, premieres Saturday, June 19 at 8/7c on The HISTORY® Channel.


L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later

25 years later, the conditions that led to the outrage are easy to see. But are we paying enough attention to the issues unfolding now?

The ancient T-shirt bears a faded image of a black fist rising from a mass of orange flames. In giant letters it declares "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE."

I bought it 25 years ago on a South Los Angeles corner, flanked by the smoldering ruins of burned-out shops and surrounded by rifle-toting National Guard troops.

I was a reporter covering what would become one of the deadliest riots in American history. I was shocked by the carnage. But I had to admit, at least to myself, that part of my heart was with the people throwing rocks.

That shirt spoke to generations of pain and anger, no longer pent up. Los Angeles' neglected black community had finally suffered enough.

Three days earlier, a suburban jury had acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of assaulting Rodney King, a black man who'd led police on an 8-mile freeway chase. King's brutal beating by officers had been videotaped by a witness and watched by millions around the world.

Within hours of those not guilty verdicts, a stunned Los Angeles began to unravel, then exploded.

Crowds pelted the city's police headquarters with rocks and tore through downtown breaking windows and setting fires. Angry mobs blocked intersections in South Los Angeles, yanking motorists from their cars and beating them bloody. Liquor stores were looted and gas stations set on fire.

The Los Angeles Police Department &mdash astoundingly disorganized and inexplicably caught off guard &mdash retreated and let the mobs rule and the city fall. Schools closed, buses stopped running, businesses shut down. Over the next five days, almost 60 people were killed, more than 2,000 injured, and 8,000 arrested. More than $1 billion in property destroyed.

The devastation was heartbreaking, but I understood the rage behind it. Los Angeles had been building to this moment, with years of protests, meetings, and marches that got little attention outside a black community deemed too wretched and too poor to care about.

Twenty-five years later, as we reflect on that awful week, its roots are clear.

I'd like to think the riot was an inflection point that changed our city and nation in fundamental ways. But I hear echoes of "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE" in Black Lives Matter today.

"PEOPLE SUFFERED QUIETLY"

The verdict shocked the city, the nation, the world. How could 12 jurors &mdash none of them black &mdash watch a man kicked, stomped, and whacked with batons by a crowd of cops and decree that police had done nothing wrong?

The explosion that resulted cracked the facade of what had been considered a progressive multicultural city. It laid bare decades of racial injustice and rank inequality.

"The King verdict was not the cause of the riots," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, head of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "It was the final straw for the hurt, suffering, and frustration that had been building in South L.A. for years."

Indeed, by the early 1990s, the black community seemed to be collapsing in on itself.

The unemployment rate in South Los Angeles hovered near 50 percent among black men. The crack cocaine epidemic was ripping families apart and fueling deadly gang feuds. Violent crime was at record highs more than 1,000 people were killed in Los Angeles in 1992, compared to fewer than 300 in 2016.

Police attacked those issues like an occupying force, routinely harassing young black men and using military tanks to bust into residents' homes in search of drugs and guns.

"People suffered quietly," recalled filmmaker John Singleton, whose documentary on the riots, "L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later," which premiered on A&E in April. "They felt they did not have a voice."

In that swath of the city, police brutality had become the norm. A study the summer before the riots confirmed that the LAPD was riddled with racism and bias, poisoned by an outlook skewed against residents and a siege mentality among officers.

The department's disdain for the community was so profound and ingrained that the shorthand code among officers for crimes involving blacks was NHI.

AN UNFORGETTABLE SHOOTING, AN UNFORGIVABLE VERDICT.

To understand the outrage that gripped the city, you have to understand what "justice" looked like to black Los Angeles in April 1992.

If the King verdict represented the death of hope, the Latasha Harlins case from the previous summer was the noose around its neck. There could be no clearer signal that black lives didn't matter. But that injustice was met with vigils, not a riot.

Latasha, 15, had been shot to death the year before in South Los Angeles by a Korean liquor store owner who accused the girl of trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. A video of the encounter showed the teenager trying to pay for the drink just before the shopkeeper pulled a gun.

The merchant, Soon Ja Du, was convicted of manslaughter and could have been sentenced to 16 years in prison. Instead, a white judge let her off with probation and a $500 fine. "It should be a time of healing, not revenge," the judge told Latisha's anguished family as she handed the sentence down.

The light sentence heightened tensions with Korean immigrants, who had long been accused of treating black customers poorly in the liquor stores they owned.

Five months later when the riots erupted, revenge won. More than 2,000 Korean-owned businesses were damaged or destroyed and $400 million in commerce and property lost.

To the local Korean community the damage went beyond the physical and financial it was the collapse of their American Dream.

But others saw it as the sort of collateral damage that warfare exacts. To the soldiers in the streets, setting fires, looting stores, and busting heads was justifiable payback for generations of indignities.

"It was our day," declared Henry "KeeKee" Watson, one of the men convicted in the beating of a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandie, an intersection considered the flashpoint of the riots. "We shut that city up!"

In Watson's view, things haven't changed much in 25 years. "I was pissed then and I'm still pissed," he said. "And if you're black and you don't feel that, you've got an identity problem yourself."

TODAY: OLD PROBLEMS, BUT NEW DISCUSSIONS

The physical recovery from the riots has been slow in South Los Angeles. A quarter-century later, there are still too few resources and too many vacant lots. After a burst of civic attention, promises of investment evaporated and enthusiasm waned.

But for a nation watching, the uprising was a valuable wake-up call: A signal that the problems of inner cities could not be solved with firepower and battering rams. A reminder that "justice for all" was still a long way off.

"There was a whole set of lessons we learned, but the overarching theme was everybody counts," said Los Angeles Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who grew up in and now represents the area hardest hit by the riots.

The rebuilding process engaged the entire community &mdash from gang members who initiated a truce that helped quell street violence to senior citizens demanding secure and comfortable housing.


A Very Brief History of Los Angeles Riots

Here is a brief history of Los Angeles protests and riots through the lens of Hispanics and African Americans:

June 4, 1943: During a period of rising racial tension following the Sleepy Lagoon murder case, servicemen on the West Coast periodically begin getting into clashes with Mexican American men wearing zoot suits, which the servicemen consider unpatriotic. After a series of minor incidents in Los Angeles, a group of 200 sailors hires a brigade of taxis on June 4th and heads to East LA, where they periodically stop and beat up anyone they can find wearing zoot suits. The LAPD does nothing to stop the taxi brigade, nor do they do anything the next night as sailors and marines parade through downtown LA stopping anyone wearing “drapes.” However, 27 Hispanic boys were arrested on “suspicion” of various infractions. This was the start of the Zoot Suit Riots.

August 11, 1965: During a period of rising racial tension following persistent charges of police brutality against African Americans and others, a California Highway Patrol officer pulls over Marquette Frye for reckless driving. Shortly thereafter, reports spread that police had roughed up Frye and kicked a pregnant woman. This was the start of the Watts Riots, aka the Watts Rebellion.

April 29, 1992: During a period of rising racial tension following the Rodney King beating, a jury with no Black members acquits four LAPD officers of assault despite videotape evidence which showed them beating King dozens of times while he lay on the ground a year earlier. This was the start of the 1992 LA Riots.

May 25, 2020: During a period of rising racial tension following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd is arrested in Minneapolis after allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. A Minneapolis police officer keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, including four minutes after he had stopped moving. Floyd was declared dead on arrival at the hospital, and protests immediately broke out across the country. This was the start of the LA George Floyd Riots.

Each of these incidents has two things in common. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what they are.

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THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please consider joining your fellow readers with a donation to help make it all possible . Whether you can pitch in $5 or $500, it all matters.

If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones&rsquo bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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Riots

Policemen holding back rioters as a police car explodes

Riots broke out in the neighborhoods of central and southern Los Angeles, with the wealthy neighborhoods being tranquil. In South-Central L.A., there was anarchy as civilians used fists, knives, and pistols to attack policemen and each other, with people brawling on sidewalks. Police cars were favorite targets for the civilians, and many of them were bombed or attacked by people in the streets. Some policemen were even fired upon, and they had to shoot back at rioters. People stole television sets from houses, which they proceeded to burn down. The riots were too dangerous for the police to deal with, so the US Marine Corps, California National Guard, and US Army were called in by President George H.W. Bush to put down the unrest on Saturday, 2 May 1992. Tenpenny died in a firetruck crash on Grove Street on 4 May 1992, and the Grove Street Families gang killed drug lord Big Smoke and destroyed his crack palace during the riots. Tenpenny's body was stripped and mutilated, and his death led to the end of the riots. By 27 May 1992, the last government troops had left the city, and the riots came to an end.


'It's Not Your Grandfather's LAPD' — And That's A Good Thing

A demonstrator protests the verdict in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on April 29, 1992. Riots broke out in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted the four police officers accused of beating King. Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

A demonstrator protests the verdict in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on April 29, 1992. Riots broke out in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted the four police officers accused of beating King.

Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

Be honest: You're looking at this story thinking what else is there to add to reports on the 1992 riots that rocked LA, right? NPR has done anniversary retrospectives before, including a huge look-back on the 20th. But in the past five years, the issue of policing — how it's done, whether it's equitable, what happens when deadly confrontations occur — has become more urgent than ever. And what happened in Los Angeles that April night 25 years ago is a critical part of the current national conversation on policing and race. For the LAPD, there have been huge changes.

This week, NPR is taking a look at the legacy of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, 25 years later. Follow our coverage here.

"I can honestly say the LAPD of 2017 is not your grandfather's LAPD, and it's not the LAPD of Daryl Gates, that 25 years ago, plunged this city into the biggest riot in (modern) American history," says civil rights lawyer Connie Rice. Rice spent a lot of time from the late 1980s through the mid-90s challenging police aggression in the city's communities of color, especially people in poor parts of the city where policing was designed less to protect and serve, more to contain and suppress.

Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, along with Mayor Tom Bradley, answers questions about the violence that broke out on April 30, 1992. Doug Pizac/AP hide caption

The police department in 1992 was largely white and overwhelmingly male. It was led by Chief Daryl Gates, an authoritarian who ruled from the top down, and brooked no opposition from those lower on the organizational chart. Gates was career LAPD, and he'd learned policing from Chief William Parker, the man who'd taken the department from a notoriously corrupt, racist machine to a sleek, paramilitary network of officers. Parker ran the LAPD before there were term limits, and was the longest-tenured chief in department history (1950-1966). Gates served as his driver and protégé before eventually ascending to the top spot himself in 1978.

Like Parker's LAPD, the organization under Daryl Gates was especially hard on communities of color.

For years before the '92 riots, Rice says, cops felt comfortable denigrating black and brown people over their radios. When the transcripts of those conversations were introduced in court cases, Rice says, "they raised the veil on the subterranean culture that LAPD exposed to the black community and the poor Latino community and any community that they decided wasn't on the right side of the thin blue line."

Being brown or black automatically made one suspect to beat officers, says writer Joe Domanick, who has spent much of his career reporting on the LAPD, as well as chronicling its evolution in his book Blue. "The LAPD was doing stop and frisk long before it was ever labeled stop and frisk," Domanick insists. This meant the department's infamous arbitrary stops — where police would roll up on a subject, jump out and make him "assume the position" (on their knees, hands behind the head, or "proned out" on the ground, face down) — often targeted law-abiding black and brown citizens. Workers. Teachers. Ministers. Anyone they felt merited a closer look. Several decades of these stops, and the brutality that often accompanied them if the person stopped asked why he was being stopped, contributed to a deep well of resentment in many of the city's black and brown neighborhoods.

Los Angeles police officers in riot gear stand guard at a grocery store that had been burned down near downtown Los Angeles on April 30, 1992. Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Los Angeles police officers in riot gear stand guard at a grocery store that had been burned down near downtown Los Angeles on April 30, 1992.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

So when the verdict from a mostly white jury came back, the fury wasn't just at the apparent miscarriage of justice. There was plenty of that — the videotape of King's beating had circulated globally many felt a conviction was a slam-dunk. The rage was in opposition to decades of police mistreatment suffered by people who weren't named Rodney King.

In June, after the ashes cooled and Gates was forced to resign, the city got a new chief. An African-American one. Willie Williams arrived from Philadelphia and served one term. Most of the rank and file didn't want a black chief, and were offended that an outsider had been chosen to lead them. Williams did get some of his cops out of their cars and on the streets, and introduced the idea of community policing. But it wasn't enough. He was seen as a weak, ineffective leader and was gone in one term.

New LAPD Chief Bernard Parks returns the salute of his fellow officers during the change of command ceremonies at the Los Angeles police academy on Aug. 22, 1997. Kevork Djansezian/AP hide caption

New LAPD Chief Bernard Parks returns the salute of his fellow officers during the change of command ceremonies at the Los Angeles police academy on Aug. 22, 1997.

The next chief was harder to dismiss. Bernard Parks was, like Gates, an LAPD lifer. Like Williams, he was also African-American. Unlike Williams, Parks was tall and trim and looked every inch the LAPD cop. (He was even named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful in 1998.) And like Gates, Parks was an authoritarian. His handling of the worst police scandal in modern LAPD history eventually cost him his job.

Jody David Armour, who teaches and writes about the nexus of race and the criminal justice system at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law, says it's hard to conceive exactly how devastating the Rampart scandal was to the LAPD. "Try to imagine taking LA Confidential, Serpico and Training Day and rolling them all into one," Armour says, "and you still don't have the magnitude of the Rampart scandal."

In the Rampart scandal, several cops from an elite, anti-gang unit were supposed to infiltrate the criminal element that was preying on the mostly-immigrant communities Rampart served. Instead of tracking the bad guys though, some of the Rampart cops became the bad guys: They tortured suspects and sold cocaine they'd stolen from police evidence rooms. Parks oversaw an investigation into the scandal, and some police were prosecuted. But despite those convictions, many felt the investigation didn't go far enough. The LAPD was forced to accept federal oversight while it overhauled itself and Parks was denied a second term. It was time for another outsider.

The Los Angeles Riots, 25 Years On

When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots

Enter Chief William Bratton, who'd policed New York City until his good press got under the thin skin of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. "Broadway Bill" — a cheeky reference to the chief's love of publicity — had lowered crime using data-based policing, which analyzed information about where crimes occurred, and then dispatched adequate numbers of police to those areas to suppress it. Quality of life issues improved: a lot of homeless were hustled off the streets, the "squeegee men" who accosted drivers near tunnels and bridges demanding to clean their windshields, disappeared, the subways were safer. But vast numbers of minority New Yorkers, especially blacks and Latinos, were unfairly targeted by Bratton's stop-and-frisk tactics. Bratton brought his data-based policing to Los Angeles, but LA wasn't New York — for one thing, there was way more real estate to cover by a relatively small police force.

Armour says Bratton had to adjust his methods to his new city: "He had to develop a more community-oriented policing model, and found that actually improving those community-police relationships was consistent with good law enforcement practices, cause crime went down." Bratton also engaged the LAPD's nemesis, Connie Rice, to help him change the department's culture. At Bratton's behest, Rice got carte blanche to interview hundreds of working police officers, who told her what the challenges and potential rewards could be to changing how the LAPD operates.

There was an active effort to recruit beyond the previous white male standard. "And as more cops of color came in, you had more progressive ideas," Rice believes. "They also stopped simply taking military people. They looked for teachers, they looked for social workers, they looked for artists. So it was a different mix of recruitment."

Bratton stayed for seven years, and left, having pointed to a hand-picked successor, Charlie Beck.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck addresses police recruits at their graduation ceremony on July 8, 2016 in Los Angeles. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck addresses police recruits at their graduation ceremony on July 8, 2016 in Los Angeles.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Beck is the son of an LAPD officer and husband of another. Two of his children and a son-in-law are also LAPD. Beck, who oversaw and rebuilt Rampart post-scandal, wanted his officers to have the flexibility to handle things out in the field as each situation demanded. No more calling back to HQ for permission to deviate. He wanted them policing in ways that they didn't themselves become the news. (Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't.) He also approved of several pilot projects in the city's sprawling housing projects, engaging lead residents with police officers to form community police partnerships to fight crime and reduce conflict both within and between different projects. "They serve the poor community instead of terrorizing it," Rice says.

Beck doesn't do this from Parker Center. No shrine to any past chief, the new LAPD is run from a new building with a plain-wrap name: The Police Administration Building. And because crime is significantly lower than it was in the 90s, Beck says, his people have more latitude to try different ways to police. "Rather than just chase the symptoms that are crime all day long, we can work on the root causes. So I think that's why you see us being able to emphasize trust at a greater rate than our predecessors did."

Some of that trust has been dented in the past few years, because of a number of police shootings of unarmed people of color. "There are relatively fewer than there used to be," says Joe Domanick, "but there are still questionable shootings." Even after police training and shooting policy were changed.

It may not change fully for another few years. If Charlie Beck stays till the end of his second term that, combined with Bill Bratton's previous tenure will have given LA 17 years of reform. Maybe still not enough time — but far different from the LA that blew up under Daryl Gates. LA's black and brown communities, says Rice, "have had a hundred years of abuse. They don't get erased because you've been decent for five years."

Even with the setbacks, Domanick sees overall progress. "How do I know?" he asks. "You don't have an instinctive dislike or reaction to LAPD officers." Not at the 1992 levels, anyway.

NPR's Anjuli Sastry produced and Melissa Gray edited All Things Considered's series of reports on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots.


Contents

Police–community relations Edit

Before the release of the Rodney King tape, minority community leaders in Los Angeles had repeatedly complained about harassment and use of excessive force against their residents by LAPD officers. [9] Daryl Gates, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from 1978 to 1992, has been attributed with much of the blame for the riots. [10] [11] According to one study, "scandalous racist violence. marked the LAPD under Gates’s tempestuous leadership." [12] Under Gates, the LAPD had begun Operation Hammer in April 1987, which was a large-scale attempt to crack down on gang violence in Los Angeles.

The origin of Operation Hammer can be traced to the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. Under Gates's direction, the LAPD expanded gang sweeps for the duration of the Olympics. These were implemented across wide areas of the city but especially in South Central and East Los Angeles, areas of predominately minority residents. After the games were over, the city began to revive the use of earlier anti-syndicalist laws in order to maintain the security policy started for the Olympic games. The police more frequently conducted mass arrests of African American youth, although the overwhelming number of them were never charged. Citizen complaints against police brutality increased 33 percent in the period 1984 to 1989. [13]

By 1990 more than 50,000 people, mostly minority males, had been arrested in such raids. [14] During this period, the LAPD arrested more young black men and women than at any period of time since the Watts riots of 1965. Critics have alleged that the operation was racist because it used racial profiling, targeting African-American and Mexican American youths. [15] The perception that police had targeted non-White citizens likely contributed to the anger that erupted in the 1992 riots. [16]

The Christopher Commission later concluded that a "significant number" of LAPD officers "repetitively use excessive force against the public and persistently ignore the written guidelines of the department regarding force." The biases related to race, gender, and sexual orientation were found to have regularly contributed to excessive force use. [17] The commission's report called for the replacement of both Chief Daryl Gates and the civilian Police Commission. [17]

Ethnic tensions Edit

In the year before the riots, 1991, there was growing resentment and violence between the African-American and Korean-American communities. [18] Racial tensions had been simmering for years between these groups. In 1989, the release of Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing highlighted urban tensions between White Americans, Black Americans and Korean Americans over racism and economic inequality. [19] Many Korean shopkeepers were upset because they suspected shoplifting from their black customers and neighbors. Many black customers were angry because they routinely felt disrespected and humiliated by Korean store owners. Neither group fully understood the extent or sheer enormity of the cultural differences and language barriers, which further fueled tensions. [20]

On March 16, 1991, a year before the Los Angeles riots, storekeeper Soon Ja Du shot and killed Latasha Harlins, a black ninth-grader after a physical altercation. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and the jury recommended the maximum sentence of 16 years, but the judge, Joyce Karlin, decided against prison time and sentenced Du to five years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine instead. [21] Relations between the Black- and Korean-American communities significantly worsened after this, and the former became increasingly mistrustful of the criminal justice system. [22] A state appeals court later unanimously upheld Judge Karlin's sentencing decision in April 1992, a week before the riots. [23]

The Los Angeles Times reported on several other significant incidents of violence between the communities at the time:

Other recent incidents include the May 25, [1991] shooting of two employees in a liquor store near 35th Street and Central Avenue. The victims, both recent emigrants from Korea, were killed after complying with robbery demands made by an assailant described by police as an African-American. Last Thursday, an African-American man suspected of committing a robbery in an auto parts store on Manchester Avenue was fatally wounded by his accomplice, who accidentally fired a shotgun round during a struggle with the shop's Korean-American owner. "This violence is disturbing, too," store owner Park said. "But who cries for these victims? [24]

Rodney King incident Edit

On the evening of March 3, 1991, Rodney King and two passengers were driving west on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) through the Sunland-Tujunga neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. [25] The California Highway Patrol (CHP) attempted to initiate a traffic stop and a high-speed pursuit ensued with speeds estimated at up to 115 mph (185 km/h), before King eventually exited the freeway at Foothill Boulevard. The pursuit continued through residential neighborhoods of Lake View Terrace in San Fernando Valley before King stopped in front of the Hanson Dam recreation center. When King finally stopped, LAPD and CHP officers surrounded King's vehicle and married CHP officers Timothy and Melanie Singer arrested him and two other car occupants. [26]

After the two passengers were placed in the patrol car, five Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers – Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano – surrounded King, who came out of the car last. The officers involved were all White American, although Briseno and Solano were of Hispanic origin. [27] They tasered him, struck him dozens of times with side-handled batons, kick stomped him in his back and tackled him to the ground before handcuffing him and hogtying his legs. Sergeant Koon later testified at trial that King resisted arrest and believed King was under the influence of PCP at the time of the arrest caused him to be very aggressive and violent toward the officers. [28] Video footage of the arrest showed that King attempted to get up each time he was struck and that the police made no attempt to cuff him until he lay still. [29] A subsequent test of King for the presence of PCP in his body at the time of the arrest was negative. [30]

Unbeknownst to the police and King, the incident was captured on a camcorder by local civilian George Holliday from his nearby apartment across from Hansen Dam. The tape was roughly 12 minutes long. While the tape was presented during the trial, some clips of the incident were not released to the public. [31] In a later interview, King, who was on parole for a robbery conviction and had past convictions for assault, battery and robbery, [32] [33] said that he had not surrendered earlier because he was driving while intoxicated under the influence of alcohol, which he knew violated the terms of his parole.

The footage of King being beaten by police became an instant focus of media attention and a rallying point for activists in Los Angeles and around the United States. Coverage was extensive during the first two weeks after the incident: the Los Angeles Times published 43 articles about it, [34] The New York Times published 17 articles, [35] and the Chicago Tribune published 11 articles. [36] Eight stories appeared on ABC News, including a sixty-minute special on Primetime Live. [37]

Upon watching the tape of the beating, LAPD chief of police Daryl Gates said:

I stared at the screen in disbelief. I played the one-minute-50-second tape again. Then again and again, until I had viewed it 25 times. And still I could not believe what I was looking at. To see my officers engage in what appeared to be excessive use of force, possibly criminally excessive, to see them beat a man with their batons 56 times, to see a sergeant on the scene who did nothing to seize control, was something I never dreamed I would witness. [38]

Charges and trial Edit

The Los Angeles County District Attorney subsequently charged four police officers, including one sergeant, with assault and use of excessive force. [39] Due to the extensive media coverage of the arrest, the trial received a change of venue from Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in neighboring Ventura County. [40] The jury had no members who were entirely African-American. [41] The jury was composed of nine white Americans (three women, six men), one bi-racial man, [42] one Latin American woman, and one Asian-American woman. [43] The prosecutor, Terry White, was African-American. [44] [45]

On April 29, 1992, the seventh day of jury deliberations, the jury acquitted all four officers of assault and acquitted three of the four of using excessive force. The jury could not agree on a verdict for the fourth officer charged with using excessive force. [43] The verdicts were based in part on the first three seconds of a blurry, 13-second segment of the videotape that, according to journalist Lou Cannon, had not been aired by television news stations in their broadcasts. [46] [47]

The first two seconds of videotape, [48] contrary to the claims made by the accused officers, show King attempting to flee past Laurence Powell. During the next one minute and 19 seconds, King is beaten continuously by the officers. The officers testified that they tried to restrain King before the videotape's starting point physically, but King could throw them off physically. [49]

Afterward, the prosecution suggested that the jurors may have acquitted the officers because of becoming desensitized to the beating's violence, as the defense played the videotape repeatedly in slow motion, breaking it down until its emotional impact was lost. [50]

Outside the Simi Valley courthouse where the acquittals were delivered, county sheriff's deputies protected Stacey Koon from angry protesters on the way to his car. Movie director John Singleton, who was in the crowd at the courthouse, predicted, "By having this verdict, what these people done, they lit the fuse to a bomb." [51]

The riots began the day the verdicts were announced and peaked in intensity over the next two days. A dusk-to-dawn curfew and deployment by California National Guardsmen, U.S. troops, and Federal law enforcement personnel eventually controlled the situation. [52]

A total of 64 people died during the riots, including nine shot by law enforcement personnel and one by National Guardsmen. [53] Of those killed during the riots, 2 were Asian, 28 were Black, 19 were Latino, and 15 were White. No law enforcement officials died during the riots. [54] As many as 2,383 people were reported injured. [55] Estimates of the material losses vary between about $800 million and $1 billion. [56] Approximately 3,600 fires were set, destroying 1,100 buildings, with fire calls coming once every minute at some points. Widespread looting also occurred. Rioters targeted stores owned by Koreans and other ethnic Asians, reflecting tensions between them and the African-American communities. [57]

Many of the disturbances were concentrated in South Central Los Angeles, where the population was majority African-American and Hispanic. Fewer than half of all the riot arrests and a third of those killed during the violence were Hispanic. [58] [59]

Day 1 – Wednesday, April 29 Edit

Prior to the verdicts Edit

In the week before the Rodney King verdicts were reached, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates set aside $1 million for possible police overtime. Even so, on the last day of the trial, two-thirds of the LAPD's patrol captains were out of town in Ventura, California, on the first day of a three-day training seminar. [60]

At 1 p.m. on April 29, Judge Stanley Weisberg announced that the jury had reached its verdict, which would be read in two hours' time. This was done to allow reporters and police and other emergency responders to prepare for the outcome, as unrest was feared if the officers were acquitted. [60] The LAPD had activated its Emergency Operations Center, which the Webster Commission described as "the doors were opened, the lights turned on and the coffee pot plugged in", but taken no other preparatory action. Specifically, the people intended to staff that Center were not gathered until 4:45 p.m. In addition, no action was taken to retain extra personnel at the LAPD's shift change at 3 p.m., as the risk of trouble was deemed low. [60]

Verdicts announced Edit

The acquittals of the four accused Los Angeles Police Department officers came at 3:15 p.m. local time. By 3:45 p.m., a crowd of more than 300 people had appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse protesting the verdicts.

Meanwhile, at approximately 4:15–4:20 p.m., a group of people approached the Pay-Less Liquor and Deli on Florence Avenue just west of Normandie in South Central. In an interview, a member of the group said that the group "just decided they weren't going to pay for what they were getting." The store owner's son was hit with a bottle of beer, and two other youths smashed the store's glass front door. Two officers from the 77th Street Division of the LAPD responded to this incident and, finding that the instigators had already left, completed a report. [61] [62]

Mayor Bradley speaks Edit

At 4:58 p.m., [63] Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley held a news conference to discuss the verdicts. He both expressed anger about the verdicts and appealed for calm. [50]

"Today, this jury told the world that what we all saw with our own eyes wasn't a crime. Today, that jury asked us to accept the senseless and brutal beating of a helpless man. Today, that jury said we should tolerate such conduct by those sworn to protect and serve. My friends, I am here to tell this jury, "No. No, our eyes did not deceive us. We saw what we saw what we saw was a crime. We must not endanger the reforms we have achieved by resorting to mindless acts. We must not push back progress by striking back blindly."

Assistant Los Angeles police chief Bob Vernon later said he believed Bradley's remarks incited a riot and were perhaps taken as a signal by some citizens. Vernon said that the number of police incidents rose in the hour after the mayor's press conference. [50]

Police intervention at 71st and Normandie Edit

At Florence and Halldale, two officers issued a plea for assistance in apprehending a young suspect who had thrown an object at their car and whom they were pursuing on foot. [64] Approximately two dozen officers, commanded by 77th Street Division LAPD officer Lieutenant Michael Moulin, arrived and arrested the youth, 16-year old Seandel Daniels, forcing him into the back of a car. The rough handling of the young man, a well known minor in the community, further agitated an uneasy and growing crowd, who began taunting and berating the police. [65] Among the crowd were Bart Bartholomew, a white freelance photographer for The New York Times, and Timothy Goldman, a black U.S. Air Force veteran in visit to his family, [66] [67] who began to record the events with his personal camcorder. [68] [66]

The police formed a perimeter around the arresting officers as the crowd grew more hostile, leading to further altercations and arrests (including that of Damian Williams' older brother, Mark Jackson). One member of the crowd stole the flashlight of an LAPD officer. Fearing police would resort to deadly force to repel the growing crowd, Lieutenant Moulin ordered officers out of the area altogether. Moulin later said that officers on the scene were outnumbered and unprepared to handle the situation because their riot equipment was stored at the police academy. [ citation needed ]

Hey, forget the flashlight, it's not worth it. It ain't worth it. It's not worth it. Forget the flashlight. Not worth it. Let's go.

Moulin made the call for reporting officers to retreat from the 71st and Normandie area entirely at approximately 5:50 p.m. [8] [61] They were sent to an RTD bus depot at 54th and Arlington [70] and told to await further instructions. The command post formed at this location was set up at approximately 6 p.m., but had no cell phones or computers other than those in squad cars. It had insufficient numbers of telephone lines and handheld police radios to assess and respond to the situation. [70] Finally, the site had no televisions, which meant that as live broadcasts of unrest began, command post officers could not see any of the coverage. [71]

Unrest moves at Florence and Normandie Edit

After the retreat of officers at 71st and Normandie, many proceeded one block south to the intersection of Florence and Normandie. [72] As the crowd began to turn physically dangerous, Bartholomew managed to flee the scene with the help of Goldman. Someone hit Bartholomew with a wood plank, shattering his jaw, while others pounded him and grabbed his camera. [66] Just after 6 p.m., a group of young men broke the padlock and windows to Tom's Liquor, allowing a group of more than 100 people to raid the store and loot it. [73] Concurrently, the growing number of rioters in the street began attacking civilians of non-black appearance, throwing debris at their cars, pulling them from their vehicles when they stopped, smashing window shops, or assaulting them while they walked on the sidewalks. As Goldman continued to film the scene on the ground with his camcorder, the Los Angeles News Service team of Marika Gerrard and Zoey Tur arrived in a news helicopter, broadcasting from the air. The LANS feed appeared live on numerous Los Angeles television venues. [74]

At approximately 6:15 p.m., as reports of vandalism, looting, and physical attacks continued to come in, Moulin elected to "take the information" but not respond personnel to restore order or rescue people in the area. [64] Moulin was relieved by a captain, ordered only to assess the Florence and Normandie area, and, again, not to attempt to deploy officers there. [75] Meanwhile, Tur continued to cover the events in progress live at the intersection. From overhead, Tur described the police presence at the scene around 6:30 p.m. as "none". [76]

Attack on Larry Tarvin Edit

At 6:43 p.m., a white truck driver, Larry Tarvin, drove down Florence and stopped at a red light at Normandie in a large white delivery truck. With no radio in his truck, he did not know that he was driving into a riot. [77] Tarvin was pulled from the vehicle by a group of men including Henry Watson, who proceeded to kick and beat him, before striking him unconscious with a fire extinguisher taken from his own vehicle. [78] He lay unconscious for more than a minute [79] as his truck was looted, before getting up and staggering back to his vehicle. With the help of an unknown African-American, Tarvin drove his truck out of further harm's way. [77] [71] Just before he did so, another truck, driven by Reginald Denny, entered the intersection. [77] United Press International Radio Network reporter Bob Brill, who was filming the attack on Tarvin, was hit in the head with a bottle and stomped on. [80]

Attack on Reginald Denny Edit

Reginald Denny, a white construction truck driver, was pulled from his truck and severely beaten by a group of black men who came to be known as the "L.A. Four". The attack was recorded on video from Tur's and Gerrard's news helicopter, and broadcast live on U.S. national television. Goldman captured the end of the attack and a close-up of Denny's bloody face. [81]

Four other L.A. residents came to Denny's aid, placing him back in his truck, in which one of the rescuers drove him to the hospital. Denny suffered a fractured skull and impairment of his speech and ability to walk, for which he underwent years of rehabilitative therapy. After unsuccessfully suing the City of Los Angeles, Denny moved to Arizona, where he worked as an independent boat mechanic and has mostly avoided media contact.

Attack on Fidel Lopez Edit

Around 7:40 p.m., almost an hour after Denny was rescued, another beating was filmed on videotape in that location. Fidel Lopez, a self-employed construction worker and Guatemalan immigrant mistaken by the crowd to be White American, was pulled from his GMC pickup truck and robbed of nearly $2,000. Rioters, including Damian Williams, smashed his forehead open with a car stereo [82] and one tried to slice his ear off. [83] After Lopez lost consciousness, the crowd spray-painted his chest, torso, and genitals black. [84] He was eventually rescued by black Reverend Bennie Newton, who told the rioters: "Kill him, and you have to kill me too." [83] [85] Lopez survived the attack, but it took him years to fully recover and re-establish his business. Newton and Lopez became close friends. [86]

Sunset on the first evening of the riots was at 7:36 p.m. [87] The first call reporting a fire came in soon after, at approximately 7:45 p.m. [88] Police did not return in force to Florence and Normandie until 8:30 p.m., [62] by which time the intersection was in ruins and most rioters had left to other nearby intersections and shopping centers in the area, [ citation needed ] with rioting and looting spreading across the rest of South Central Los Angeles once word spread of the situation at Florence and Normandie, as by nightfall the neighborhoods of Crenshaw, Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, West Adams, Westmont, Green Meadows, Historic South Central, Florence, Willowbrook, Florence-Graham and Watts were being looted, vandalized and set ablaze by rioters.

Numerous factors were later blamed for the severity of rioting in the 77th Street Division on the evening of April 29. These included: [71]

  • No effort made to close the busy intersection of Florence and Normandie to traffic.
  • Failure to secure gun stores in the Division (one in particular lost 1,150 guns to looting on April 29).
  • The failure to issue a citywide Tactical Alert until 6:43 p.m., which delayed the arrival of other divisions to assist the 77th.
  • The lack of any response – and in particular, a riot response – to the intersection, which emboldened rioters. Since attacks, looting, and arson were broadcast live, viewers could see that none of these actions were being stopped by police.

Parker Center Edit

As noted, after the verdicts were announced, a crowd of protesters formed at the Los Angeles police headquarters at Parker Center in Downtown Los Angeles. The crowd grew as the afternoon passed, and became violent. The police formed a skirmish line to protect the building, sometimes moving back in the headquarters as protesters advanced, attempting to set the Parker Center ablaze. [89] In the midst of this, before 6:30 p.m., police chief Daryl Gates left Parker Center, on his way to the neighborhood of Brentwood. There, as the situation in Los Angeles deteriorated, Gates attended a political fundraiser against Los Angeles City Charter Amendment F, [89] intended to "give City Hall more power over the police chief and provide more civilian review of officer misconduct". [90] The amendment would limit the power and term length of his office. [91]

The Parker Center crowd grew riotous at approximately 9 p.m., [88] eventually making their way through the Civic Center, attacking law enforcement, overturning vehicles, setting objects ablaze, vandalizing government buildings and blocking traffic on U.S. Route 101 going through other nearby districts in downtown Los Angeles looting and burning stores. Nearby Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) firefighters were shot at while trying to put out a blaze set by looters. The mayor had requested the California Army National Guard from Governor Pete Wilson the first of these units, the 670th Military Police Company, had traveled almost 300 miles (480 km) from its main armory and arrived in the afternoon to assist local police. [92] They were first deployed to a police command center, where they began handing out bulletproof vests to the firefighters after encountering the unit whose member had been shot. Later, after receiving ammunition from the L.A. Police Academy and a local gun store, the MPs deployed to hold the Martin Luther King Shopping Mall in Watts. [93]

Lake View Terrace Edit

In the Lake View Terrace district of Los Angeles, 200 [88] –400 [71] protesters gathered about 9:15 p.m. at the site where Rodney King was beaten in 1991, near the Hansen Dam Recreation Area. The group marched south on Osborne Street to the LAPD Foothill Division headquarters. [88] There they began rock throwing, shooting into the air, and setting fires. The Foothill division police used riot-breaking techniques to disperse the crowd and arrest those responsible for rock throwing and the fires [71] eventually leading to rioting and looting in the neighboring area of Pacoima and its surrounding neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley.

Day 2 – Thursday, April 30 Edit

Mayor Bradley signed an order for a dusk-to-dawn curfew at 12:15 a.m. for the core area affected by the riots, as well as declaring a state of emergency for city of Los Angeles. At 10:15 a.m., he expanded the area under curfew. [88] By mid-morning, violence appeared widespread and unchecked as extensive looting and arson were witnessed across Los Angeles County. Rioting moved from South Central Los Angeles, going north through Central Los Angeles decimating the neighborhoods of Koreatown, Westlake, Pico-Union, Echo Park, Hancock Park, Fairfax, Mid-City and Mid-Wilshire before reaching Hollywood. The looting and fires engulfed Hollywood Boulevard, and simultaneously rioting moved West and South into the neighboring independent cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, Compton, Carson and Long Beach, as well as moving East from South Central Los Angeles into the cities of Huntington Park, Walnut Park, South Gate and Lynwood and Paramount. Looting and vandalism had also gone as far South as Los Angeles regions of the Harbor Area in the neighborhoods of San Pedro, Wilmington, and Harbor City.

Destruction of Koreatown Edit

Koreatown is a roughly 2.7 square-mile (7 square kilometre) neighborhood between Hoover Street and Western Avenue, and 3rd Street and Olympic Boulevard, west of MacArthur Park and east of Hancock Park/Windsor Square. [94] Korean immigrants had begun settling in the Mid-Wilshire area in the 1960s after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. It was here that many opened successful businesses. [95]

As the riots spread, roads between Koreatown and wealthy white neighborhoods were blocked off by police and official defense lines were set up around the independent cities such as Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, as well as middle-upper class white neighborhoods West of Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles. [96] A Korean-American resident later told reporters: "It was containment. The police cut off Koreatown traffic, while we were trapped on the other side without help. Those roads are a gateway to a richer neighborhood. It can't be denied." [97] Some Koreans later said they did not expect law enforcement to come to their aid. [98]

The lack of law enforcement forced Koreatown civilians to organize their own armed security teams, mainly composed of store owners, to defend their businesses from rioters. [99] Many had military experience from serving in the Republic of Korea Armed Forces before emigrating to the United States. [100] Open gun battles were televised, including an incident in which Korean shopkeepers armed with M1 carbines, Ruger Mini-14s, pump-action shotguns, and handguns exchanged gunfire with a group of armed looters, and forced their retreat. [101] But there were casualties, such as 18-year-old Edward Song Lee, whose body can be seen lying in the street in images taken by photojournalist Hyungwon Kang. [98]

After events in Koreatown, the 670th MP Company from National City, California were redeployed to reinforce police patrols guarding the Korean Cultural Center and the Consulate-General of South Korea in Los Angeles.

Out of the $850 million worth of damage done in L.A., half of it was on Korean-owned businesses because most of Koreatown was looted and destroyed. [102] The effects of the riots, which displaced Korean Americans and destroyed their sources of income, and the little aid given to those who suffered, still affected LA-based Koreans in 2017, as they struggled with economic hardship created by the riots. [98]

Mid-town containment Edit

The LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) organized response began to come together by mid-day. The LAFD and Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) began to respond backed by police escort California Highway Patrol reinforcements were airlifted to the city. U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke out against the rioting, stating that "anarchy" would not be tolerated. The California Army National Guard, which had been advised not to expect civil disturbance and had, as a result, loaned its riot equipment out to other law enforcement agencies, responded quickly by calling up about 2,000 soldiers, but could not get them to the city until nearly 24 hours had passed. They lacked equipment and had to pick it up from the JFTB (Joint Forces Training Base), Los Alamitos, California, which at the time was mainly a mothballed former airbase. [103]

Air traffic control procedures at Los Angeles International Airport were modified, with all departures and arrivals routed to and from the west, over the Pacific Ocean, avoiding overflights of neighborhoods affected by the rioting.

Bill Cosby spoke on the local television station KNBC and asked people to stop the rioting and watch the final episode of his The Cosby Show. [104] [105] [106] The U.S. Justice Department announced it would resume federal investigation of the Rodney King beating as a violation of federal civil rights law. [88]

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who criticized rioters for burning down their own neighborhoods, received death threats and was taken to the Los Angeles Police Academy for protection.

Day 3 – Friday, May 1 Edit

In the early morning hours of Friday, May 1, the major rioting was stopped. [107] Rodney King gave an impromptu news conference in front of his lawyer's office, tearfully saying, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" [108] [109] That morning, at 1:00 am, Governor Wilson had requested federal assistance. Upon request, Bush invoked the Insurrection Act with Executive Order 12804, federalizing the California Army National Guard and authorizing federal troops and federal law enforcement officers to help restore law and order. [110] With Bush's authority, the Pentagon activated Operation Garden Plot, placing the California Army National Guard and federal troops under the newly formed Joint Task Force Los Angeles (JTF-LA). The deployment of federal troops was not ready until Saturday, by which time the rioting and looting were under control.

Meanwhile, the 40th Infantry Division (doubled to 4,000 troops) of the California Army National Guard continued to move into the city in Humvees eventually 10,000 Army National Guard troops were activated. That same day, 1,000 federal tactical officers from different agencies across California were dispatched to L.A. to protect federal facilities and assist local police. This was the first federal law enforcement response to a civil disorder in any U.S. city since the Ole Miss riot of 1962. Later that evening, Bush addressed the country, denouncing "random terror and lawlessness". He summarized his discussions with Mayor Bradley and Governor Wilson, and outlined the federal assistance he was making available to local authorities. Citing the "urgent need to restore order", he warned that the "brutality of a mob" would not be tolerated, and he would "use whatever force is necessary". He referred to the Rodney King case, describing talking to his own grandchildren and noting the actions of "good and decent policemen" as well as civil rights leaders. He said he had directed the Justice Department to investigate the King case, and that "grand jury action is underway today", and justice would prevail. The Post Office announced that it was unsafe for their couriers to deliver mail. The public were instructed to pick up their mail at the main Post Office. The lines were approximately 40 blocks long, and the California National Guard were diverted to that location to ensure peace. [111]

By this point, many entertainment and sports events were postponed or canceled. The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers in an NBA playoff basketball game on the night the rioting started. The following game was still postponed until Sunday and moved to Las Vegas. The Los Angeles Clippers moved a playoff game against the Utah Jazz to nearby Anaheim. In baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers postponed games for four straight days from Thursday to Sunday, including a whole three-game series against the Montreal Expos all were made up as part of doubleheaders in July. In San Francisco, a city curfew due to unrest forced the postponement of a May 1, San Francisco Giants home game against the Philadelphia Phillies. [112]

The horse racing venues Hollywood Park Racetrack and Los Alamitos Race Course were also shut down. L.A. Fiesta Broadway, a major event in the Latino community, was canceled. In music, Van Halen canceled two concert shows in Inglewood on Saturday and Sunday. Metallica and Guns N' Roses were forced to postpone and relocate their concert to the Rose Bowl as the LA Coliseum and its surrounding neighborhood were still damaged. Michael Bolton canceled his scheduled performance at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday. The World Wrestling Federation canceled events on Friday and Saturday in the cities of Long Beach and Fresno. [113] By the end of Friday night, the riots were completely quelled. [107]

Day 4 – Saturday, May 2 Edit

On the fourth day, 3,500 federal troops — 2,000 soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord and 1,500 Marines of the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton — arrived to reinforce the National Guardsmen already in the city. The Marine Corps contingent included the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, commanded by John F. Kelly. It was the first significant military occupation of Los Angeles by federal troops since the 1894 Pullman Strike, [114] and also the first federal military intervention in an American city to quell a civil disorder since the 1968 King assassination riots, and the first deadliest modern unrest since the 1980 Miami riots at the time, only 12 years earlier.

These federal military forces took 24 hours to deploy to Huntington Park, about the same time it took for the National Guardsmen. [ citation needed ] This brought total troop strength to 13,500, making L.A. the largest military occupation of any U.S. city since the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots. Federal troops joined National Guardsmen to support local police in restoring order directly the combined force contributed significantly to preventing violence. [110] With most of the violence under control, 30,000 people attended an 11 a.m. peace rally in Koreatown to support local merchants and racial healing. [88]

Day 5 – Sunday, May 3 Edit

Mayor Bradley assured the public that the crisis was, more or less, under control as areas became quiet. [115] Later that night, Army National Guardsmen shot and killed a motorist who tried to run them over at a barrier. [116]

In another incident, the LAPD and Marines intervened in a domestic dispute in Compton, in which the suspect held his wife and children hostage. As the officers approached, the suspect fired two shotgun rounds through the door, injuring some of the officers. One of the officers yelled to the Marines, "Cover me," as per law enforcement training to be prepared to fire if necessary. However, per their military training, the Marines interpreted the wording as providing cover by establishing a base of firepower, resulting in a total of 200 rounds being sprayed into the house. Remarkably, neither the suspect nor the woman and children inside the house were harmed. [117]

Aftermath Edit

Although Mayor Bradley lifted the curfew, signaling the riots' official end, sporadic violence and crime continued for a few days afterward. Schools, banks, and businesses reopened. Federal troops did not stand down until May 9. The Army National Guard remained until May 14. Some National Guardsmen remained as late as May 27. [118]

Korean Americans Edit

Many Korean Americans in Los Angeles refer to the event as 'Sa-I-Gu', meaning "four-two-nine" in the Korean language (4.29), in reference to April 29, 1992, which was the day the riots started. Over 2,300 mom-and-pop shops run by Korean business owners were damaged through ransacking and looting during the riots, sustaining close to $400 million in damages. [119]

During the riots, Korean Americans received very little aid or protection from police authorities, due to their low social status and language barriers. [120] Many Koreans rushed to Koreatown after Korean-language radio stations called for volunteers to guard against rioters. Many were armed, with a variety of improvised weapons, handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles. [121]

David Joo, a gun store manager, said, "I want to make it clear that we didn't open fire first. At that time, four police cars were there. Somebody started to shoot at us. The LAPD ran away in half a second. I never saw such a fast escape. I was pretty disappointed." Carl Rhyu, also a participant in the Koreans' armed response, said, "If it was your own business and your own property, would you be willing to trust it to someone else? We are glad the National Guard is here. They're good backup. But when our shops were burning we called the police every five minutes no response." [122] At a shopping center several miles north of Koreatown, Jay Rhee, who said he and others fired five hundred shots into the ground and air, said, "We have lost our faith in the police. Where were you when we needed you?" Koreatown was isolated from South Central Los Angeles, yet it was the most severely damaged in the riots despite this. [120]

Television coverage of two Korean merchants firing pistols repeatedly at roving looters was widely seen and controversial. The New York Times said: "that the image seemed to speak of race war, and of vigilantes taking the law into their own hands." [122] The merchants were reacting to the shooting of Mr. Park's wife and her sister by looters who had converged on the shopping center where the shops were located. [122]

The riots have been considered a major turning point in the development of a distinct Korean American identity and community. Korean Americans responded in various ways, including the development of new ethnic agendas and organization and increased political activism.

Preparations Edit

One of the largest armed camps in Los Angeles's Koreatown was at the California Market. On the first night after the officers' verdicts were returned, Richard Rhee, the market owner, set up camp in the parking lot with about 20 armed employees. [123] One year after the riots, fewer than one in four damaged or destroyed businesses had reopened, according to the survey conducted by the Korean-American Inter-Agency Council. [124] According to a Los Angeles Times survey conducted eleven months after the riots, almost 40 percent of Korean Americans said they were thinking of leaving Los Angeles. [125]

Before a verdict was issued in the new 1993 Rodney King federal civil rights trial against the four officers, Korean shop owners prepared for the worst. Gun sales went up, many to people of Korean descent some merchants at flea markets removed merchandise from shelves, and they fortified storefronts with extra Plexiglas and bars. Throughout the region, merchants readied to defend themselves. [124] College student Elizabeth Hwang spoke of the attacks on her parents' convenience store in 1992. She said at the time of the 1993 trial, they had been armed with a Glock 17 pistol, a Beretta, and a shotgun, and they planned to barricade themselves in their store to fight off looters. [124]

Some Koreans formed armed militia groups following the 1992 riots. Speaking just prior to the 1993 verdict, Yong Kim, leader of the Korea Young Adult Team of Los Angeles, which purchased five AK-47s, said "We made a mistake last year. This time we won't. I don't know why Koreans are always a special target for African-Americans, but if they are going to attack our community, then we are going to pay them back." [124]

Aftermath Edit

Korean Americans not only faced physical damage to their stores and community surroundings, but they also suffered emotional, psychological, and economic despair. About 2,300 Korean-owned stores in southern California were looted or burned, making up 45 percent of all damages caused by the riot. According to the Asian and Pacific American Counseling and Prevention Center, 730 Koreans were treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, which included insomnia and a sense of helplessness and muscle pain. In reaction, many Korean Americans worked to create political and social empowerment. [120]

As a result of the L.A. riots, Korean Americans formed activist organizations such as the Association of Korean-American Victims. They built collaborative links with other ethnic groups through groups like the Korean American Coalition. [126] A week after the riots, in the largest Asian-American protest ever held in a city, about 30,000 mostly-Korean and Korean-American marchers walked the streets of L.A. Koreatown, calling for peace and denouncing police violence. This cultural movement was devoted to the protection of Koreans' political rights, ethnic heritage, and political representation. New leaders arose within the community, and second-generation children spoke on behalf of the community. Korean Americans began to have different occupation goals, from storeowners to political leaders. Korean Americans worked to gain governmental aid to rebuild their damaged neighborhoods. Countless community and advocacy groups have been established to further fuel Korean political representation and understanding. After suffering from isolation, they worked to gain new understanding and connections. The representative voice that was created remains present in South Central Los Angeles. The riots contributed to the shaping of identities, perceptions and political and social representation. [120]

Edward Taehan Chang, a professor of ethnic studies and founding director of the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at the University of California, Riverside, has identified the LA riots as a turning point for the development of a Korean American identity separate from that of Korean immigrants and that was more politically active. "What was an immigrant Korean identity began to shift. The Korean-American identity was born . They learned a valuable lesson that we have to become much more engaged and politically involved and that political empowerment is very much part of the Korean-American future." [ citation needed ]

According to Edward Park, the 1992 violence stimulated a new wave of political activism among Korean-Americans, but it also split them into two camps. [127] [128] The liberals sought to unite with other minorities in Los Angeles to fight against racial oppression and scapegoating. The conservatives emphasized law and order and generally favored the economic and social policies of the Republican Party. The conservatives tended to emphasize the differences between Koreans and other minorities, specifically African Americans. [129] [130]

Latinos Edit

According to a report prepared in 1993 by the Latinos Futures Research Group for the Latino Coalition for a New Los Angeles, one third of those who were killed and one half of those who were arrested in the riots were Latino moreover, between 20% and 40% of the businesses that were looted were owned by Latino individuals. [131] Hispanics were considered a minority despite their increasing numbers, and thus lacked political support and were poorly represented. Their lack of representation, both socially and politically, silenced their acknowledgment of participation within the area. Many of the individuals of the area were new immigrants they often did not speak English. [132]

Gloria Alvarez claims the riots did not create social distance between Hispanics and black people but rather united them. Although the riots were perceived in different aspects, Alvarez argues it brought a greater sense of understanding between Hispanics and blacks. Even though Hispanics now heavily populate the once predominantly black area, such transition has improved over time. Building a stronger and more understanding community could help prevent social chaos arising between the two groups. [133] Although hate crimes and widespread violence between the two groups continue to be a problem in the L.A. area. [134] However only minor rioting, vandalism and incidents occurred in Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and the heavily populated Hispanic neighborhoods of Northeast Los Angeles.

Almost as soon as the disturbances broke out in South Central, local television news cameras were on the scene to record the events as they happened. [135] Television coverage of the riots was near-continuous, starting with the beating of motorists at the intersection of Florence and Normandie broadcast live by television news pilot and reporter Zoey Tur and her camera operator Marika Gerrard. [136] [137]

In part because of extensive media coverage of the Los Angeles riots, smaller but similar riots and other anti-police actions took place in other cities throughout the United States. [138] [139] The Emergency Broadcast System was also utilized during the rioting. [140]

Coverage came from the American media, which gave an extensive portrayal of the riots, Korean-American media, and Korea itself. One of the most prominent sources for news about the coverage came from the Korea Times, a Korean-American newspaper run entirely independently from American newspapers, such as The New York Times.

Korean-American newspapers Edit

Articles presented from the Korean-American side stated that "Looters apparently targeted Korean American merchants during the LA. Riots, according to the FBI official who directed federal law enforcement efforts during the disturbance." [141] The Korean American newspaper focused on the 1992 riots with Korean Americans being the center of the violence. Initial articles from late April and early May were about the stories depicting victims' lives and the LA Korean Community's damage. Interviews with Koreatown merchants, such as Chung Lee, drew sympathy from its readers. Lee, the example of a model merchant, watched, helplessly, as his store was burned down. "I worked hard for that store. Now I have nothing," said Lee. [141]

Mainstream media Edit

While several articles included the minorities involved when citing damages or naming victims, few actually incorporated them as a significant part of the struggle. One story framed the race riots as occurring at a "time when the wrath of blacks was focused on whites." [142] They acknowledged the fact that racism and stereotyped views contributed to the riots articles in American newspapers portrayed the LA riots as an incident that erupted between black and white people who were struggling to coexist with each other, rather than include all of the minority groups that were involved in the riots. [143]

On Nightline, Ted Koppel initially only interviewed Black leaders about the Black/Korean conflict, [144] and they shared detrimental opinions about Korean-Americans. [145]

Activist Guy Aoki became frustrated with early coverage using Black/White framing, both vilifying the Korean-American community and ignoring their suffering. [145]

Some felt too much emphasis was placed on Korean-American suffering. As filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, who created the 1993 documentary "Sa-I-Gu", described, "black-Korean conflict was one symptom, but it was certainly not the cause of that riot. The cause of that riot was black-white conflict that existed in this country from the establishment of this country." [146]

After the riots subsided, an inquiry was commissioned by the city Police Commission, led by William H. Webster (special advisor), and Hubert Williams (deputy special advisor, president of the Police Foundation). [147] The findings of the inquiry, The City in Crisis: A Report by the Special Advisor to the Board of Police Commissioners on the Civil Disorder in Los Angeles, also colloquially known as the Webster Report or Webster Commission, was released on October 21, 1992. [148] [ relevant? ]

LAPD chief of police Daryl Gates, who had seen his successor Willie L. Williams named by the Police Commission days before the riots, [149] was forced to resign on June 28, 1992. [150] Some areas of the city saw temporary truces between the rival Crips and Bloods gangs, as well as between rival Latino gangs, which fueled speculation among LAPD officers that the truce was going to be used to unite them against the department. [151]

Post-riot commentary Edit

Scholars and writers Edit

In addition to the catalyst of the verdicts in the excessive force trial, various other factors have been cited as causes of the unrest. In the years preceding the riots, several other highly controversial incidents involving police brutality or other perceived injustices against minorities had been criticized by activists and investigated by media. Thirteen days after the beating of King was widely broadcast, blacks were outraged when Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl, was mortally shot in the back of the head by a Korean-American shopkeeper, Soon Ja Du, in the course of an assumed shoplifting incident and brief physical altercation. Though the jury recommended a sentence of 16 years, Judge Joyce Karlin changed the sentence to just five years of probation and 400 hours of community service–and no jail time. [152]

Rioters targeted Korean-American shops in their areas, as there had been considerable tension between the two communities. Such sources as Newsweek and Time suggested that blacks thought Korean-American merchants were "taking money out of their community", that they were racist as they refused to hire blacks, and often treated them without respect. There were cultural and language differences, as some shop owners were immigrants. [153] [154]

There were other factors for social tensions: high rates of poverty and unemployment among the residents of South Central Los Angeles, which had been deeply affected by the nationwide recession. [155] [156] Articles in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times linked the economic deterioration of South Central to the declining living conditions of the residents, and reported that local resentments about these conditions helped to fuel the riots. [157] [158] [159] [160] [161] Other scholars compare these riots to those in Detroit in the 1920s, when whites rioted against blacks. [ citation needed ] But instead of African-Americans as victims, the race riots "represent backlash violence in response to recent Latino and Asian immigration into African-American neighborhoods." [162]

Social commentator Mike Davis points to the growing economic disparity in Los Angeles, caused by corporate restructuring and government deregulation, with inner city residents bearing the brunt of such changes such conditions engendered a widespread feeling of frustration and powerlessness in the urban populace, who reacted to the King verdicts with a violent expression of collective public protest. [163] [164] To Davis and other writers, the tensions between African-Americans and Korean-Americans had as much to do with the economic competition between the two groups caused by wider market forces as with cultural misunderstandings and black anger about the killing of Latasha Harlins. [59]

Davis writes that the 1992 Los Angeles Riots are still remembered over 20 years later, and that not many changes have yet occurred conditions of economic inequality, lack of jobs available for black and Latino youth, and civil liberty violations by law enforcement have remained largely unaddressed years later. Davis describes this as a "conspiracy of silence", especially in view of statements made by the Los Angeles Police Department that they would make reforms coming to little fruition. Davis argues that the rioting was different than in the 1965 Watts Riots, which had been more unified among all minorities living in Watts and South Central the 1992 riots, on the other hand, were characterized by divided uproars that defied description of a simple uprising of black against white, and involved the destruction and looting of many businesses owned by racial minorities. [165]

A Special Committee of the California Legislature also studied the riots, producing a report entitled To Rebuild is Not Enough. [166] The Committee concluded that the inner city conditions of poverty, racial segregation, lack of educational and employment opportunities, police abuse and unequal consumer services created the underlying causes of the riots. It also noted that the decline of industrial jobs in the American economy and the growing ethnic diversity of Los Angeles had contributed to urban problems. Another official report, The City in Crisis, was initiated by the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners it made many of the same observations as the Assembly Special Committee about the growth of popular urban dissatisfaction. [167] In their study, Farrell and Johnson found similar factors, including the diversification of the L.A. population, tension between the successful Korean businesses and other minorities, and excessive force on minorities by LAPD and the effect of laissez-faire business on urban employment opportunities. [168]

Rioters were believed to have been motivated by racial tensions but these are considered one of numerous factors. [169] Urban sociologist Joel Kotkin said, "This wasn't a race riot, it was a class riot." [153] Many ethnic groups participated in rioting, not only African Americans. Newsweek reported that "Hispanics and even some whites men, women and children mingled with African-Americans." [153] "When residents who lived near Florence and Normandie were asked why they believed riots had occurred in their neighborhoods, they responded of the perceived racist attitudes they had felt throughout their lifetime and empathized with the bitterness the rioters felt. [170] Residents who had respectable jobs, homes, and material items still felt like second class citizens. [170] A poll by Newsweek asked whether black people charged with crimes were treated more harshly or more leniently than other ethnicities 75% of black people responded "more harshly", versus 46% of white people. [153]

In his public statements during the riots, Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader, sympathized with African-Americans' anger about the verdicts in the King trial and noted root causes of the disturbances. He repeatedly emphasized the continuing patterns of racism, police brutality, and economic despair suffered by inner-city residents. [171] [172]

Several prominent writers expressed a similar "culture of poverty" argument. Writers in Newsweek, for example, drew a distinction between the actions of the rioters in 1992 with those of the urban upheavals in the 1960s, arguing that "[w]here the looting at Watts had been desperate, angry, mean, the mood this time was closer to a manic fiesta, a TV game show with every looter a winner." [153]

According to a 2019 study in the American Political Science Review found that the riots caused a liberal shift, both in the short-term and long-term, politically. [173]

Politicians Edit

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton said that the violence resulted from the breakdown of economic opportunities and social institutions in the inner city. He also berated both major political parties for failing to address urban issues, especially the Republican Administration for its presiding over "more than a decade of urban decay" generated by their spending cuts. [174] He also maintained that the King verdicts could not be avenged by the "savage behavior" of "lawless vandals" and stated that people "are looting because . [t]hey do not share our values, and their children are growing up in a culture alien from ours, without family, without neighborhood, without church, without support." [174] While Los Angeles was mostly unaffected by the urban decay the other metropolitan areas of the nation faced since the 1960s, racial tensions had been present since the late 1970s, becoming increasingly violent as the 1980s progressed. [ citation needed ]

Democrat Maxine Waters, the African-American Congressional representative of South Central Los Angeles, said that the events in Los Angeles constituted a "rebellion" or "insurrection," caused by the underlying reality of poverty and despair existing in the inner city. This state of affairs, she asserted, was brought about by a government that had all but abandoned the poor and failed to help compensate for the loss of local jobs and the institutional discrimination encountered by racial minorities, especially at the police's hands and financial institutions. [175] [176]

Conversely, President Bush argued that the unrest was "purely criminal." Though he acknowledged that the King verdicts were plainly unjust, he said that "we simply cannot condone violence as a way of changing the system . Mob brutality, the total loss of respect for human life was sickeningly sad . What we saw last night and the night before in Los Angeles is not about civil rights. It's not about the great cause of equality that all Americans must uphold. It's not a message of protest. It's been the brutality of a mob, pure and simple." [177]

Vice President Dan Quayle blamed the violence on a "Poverty of Values" – "I believe the lawless social anarchy which we saw is directly related to the breakdown of family structure, personal responsibility and social order in too many areas of our society" [178] Similarly, the White House Press Secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, alleged that "many of the root problems that have resulted in inner-city difficulties were started in the 1960s and 1970s and . they have failed . [N]ow we are paying the price." [179]

Writers for former Congressman Ron Paul framed the riots in similar terms in the June 1992 edition of the Ron Paul Political Newsletter, billed as a special issue focusing on "racial terrorism." [180] "Order was only restored in LA", the newsletter read, "when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began . What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt, the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off, and the violence subsided." [181]

Rodney King Edit

In the aftermath of the riots, public pressure mounted for a retrial of the officers. Federal charges of civil rights violations were brought against them. As the first anniversary of the acquittal neared, the city tensely awaited the federal jury's decision.

The decision was read in a court session on Saturday, April 17, 1993 at 7 a.m. Officer Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon were found guilty, while officers Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind were acquitted. Mindful of criticism of sensationalist reporting after the first trial and during the riots, media outlets opted for more sober coverage. [182] Police were fully mobilized with officers on 12 hour shifts, convoy patrols, scout helicopters, street barricades, tactical command centers, and support from the Army National Guard, the active duty Army and the Marines. [183] [184]

All four of the officers left or were fired from the LAPD. Briseno left the LAPD after being acquitted on both state and federal charges. Wind, who was also twice acquitted, was fired after the appointment of Willie L. Williams as Chief of Police. The Los Angeles Police Commission declined to renew Williams's contract, citing failure to fulfill his mandate to create meaningful change in the department. [185]

Susan Clemmer, an officer who gave crucial testimony for the defense during the officers' first trial, committed suicide in July 2009 in the lobby of a Los Angeles Sheriff's Station. She had ridden in the ambulance with King and testified that he was laughing and spat blood on her uniform. She had remained in law enforcement and was a Sheriff's Detective at the time of her death. [186] [187]

Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million in damages from the City of Los Angeles. He invested most of this money in founding a hip-hop record label, "Straight Alta-Pazz Records." The venture was unable to garner success and soon folded. King was later arrested at least eleven times on a variety of charges, including domestic abuse and hit and run. [56] [188] King and his family moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino County's Rialto suburb in an attempt to escape the fame and notoriety and begin a new life.

King and his family later returned to Los Angeles, where they ran a family-owned construction company. Until his death on June 17, 2012, King rarely discussed the night of his beating by police or its aftermath, preferring to remain out of the spotlight. King died of an accidental drowning authorities said that he had alcohol and drugs in his body. Renee Campbell, his most recent attorney, described King as " . simply a very nice man caught in a very unfortunate situation." [189]

Arrests Edit

On May 3, 1992, in view large number of persons arrested during the riots, the California Supreme Court extended the deadline to charge defendants from 48 hours to 96 hours. That day, 6,345 people were arrested. [17] Nearly one third of the rioters arrested were released because police officers were unable to identify individuals in the sheer volume of the crowd. In one case, officers arrested around 40 people stealing from one store while they were identifying them, a group of another 12 looters were brought in. With the groups mingled, charges could not be brought against individuals for stealing from specific stores, and the police had to release them all. [190]

In the weeks after the rioting, more than 11,000 people were arrested. [191] Many of the looters in black communities were turned in by their neighbors, who were angry about the destruction of businesses who employed locals and provided basic needs such as groceries. Many of the looters, fearful of prosecution by law enforcement and condemnation from their neighbors, ended up placing looted items curbside in other neighborhoods to get rid of them.

Rebuilding Los Angeles Edit

After three days of arson and looting some 3,767 buildings were affected and damaged. [192] [193] and property damage was estimated at more than $1 billion. [52] [194] [195] Donations were given to help with food and medicine. The office of State Senator Diane E. Watson provided shovels and brooms to volunteers from all over the community who helped clean. Thirteen thousand police and military personnel were on patrol, protecting intact gas stations and food stores they reopened along with other businesses areas such as the Universal Studios tour, dance halls, and bars. Many organizations stepped forward to rebuild Los Angeles South Central's Operation Hope and Koreatown's Saigu and KCCD (Korean Churches for Community Development), all raised millions to repair destruction and improve economic development. [196] Singer Michael Jackson "donated $1.25 million to start a health counseling service for inner-city kids". [197] President George H.W. Bush signed a declaration of disaster it activated Federal relief efforts for the victims of looting and arson, which included grants and low-cost loans to cover their property losses. [192] The Rebuild LA program promised $6 billion in private investment to create 74,000 jobs. [195] [198]

The majority of the local stores were never rebuilt. [199] Store owners had difficulty getting loans myths about the city or at least certain neighborhoods of it arose discouraging investment and preventing growth of employment. [200] Few of the rebuilding plans were implemented, and business investors and some community members rejected South L.A. [195] [199] [201]

Residential life Edit

Many Los Angeles residents bought weapons for self-defense against further violence. The 10-day waiting period in California law stymied those who wanted to purchase firearms while the riot was going on. [202]

In a survey of local residents in 2010, 77 percent felt that the economic situation in Los Angeles had significantly worsened since 1992. [196] From 1992 to 2007, the black population dropped by 123,000, while the Latino population grew more than 450,000. [199] According to the Los Angeles police statistics, violent crime fell by 76 percent between 1992 and 2010, which was a period of declining crime across the country. It was accompanied by lessening tensions between racial groups. [203] In 2012, sixty percent of residents reported racial tension had improved in the past 20 years, and the majority said gang activity had also decreased. [204]


11 of history’s biggest riots and why they happened

WIKIPEDIA TRIES TO BOX riots into different categories: police riots, prison riots, student riots, Quiet Riot. It’s true that riots take their origins from a great variety of incidents and reasons, and like most violent confrontations, the original problem never seems to get solved.

Yet no matter what the reason for the uprising, when the smoke clears and human beings have become reduced to statistics, it’s clear that the cause of a riot almost never justifies the cost of senseless brutality.

11. Chicago, April 5, 1968


Injured: 48
Dead: 11
Damages:

$10,000,000
Why?: At 6:01 PM on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in his hotel room in Memphis. Throughout the United States, black Americans took to the streets in protest and anger, bringing riots to Baltimore, DC, and Chicago, which experienced the worst of the three cities. By the following afternoon more than 30 blocks had become consumed by the riot, transformed into a burning sprawl. In the weeks that followed, Chicago experienced one of the worst food shortages in recent history.

10. Los Angeles, April 29, 1992


Injured: Thousands
Dead: 53
Damages: $1,000,000,000+
Why?: It’s 1992, and there’s a video that’s been going around of two police officers clearly beating a defenseless black man while a few other officers stand by like they’re watching Sportscenter re-runs. About two months later, the verdict is being read to the offending officers: clearly, they must be guilty. It happened in plain sight!

But then it comes. All of them walk. And within a half an hour you and a few hundred others are outside the LA county courthouse. Three hours later, stores are looted and the car behind you is on fire. It’s snowballed from outcry to outrage to all-out anarchy.

9. Hong Kong, May 1967


Injured: 800
Dead: 51
Damages: Millions
Why?: After pro-communist demonstrations and clashes against the British-ruled Hong Kong began, the ensuing riots set off a wave of bombs and violent skirmishes that included a seven-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother killed by a bomb wrapped like a birthday present. While the leftists’ called the original actions by the government as “facist atrocities,” their own tactics, such as killing reporters of dissenting opinions, did nothing but create chaos and belittle their initial calls for free speech.

8. Tulsa, May 31, 1921

Injured: 800+
Dead: 39
Damages: $21,000,000, and 10,000 left homeless
Why?: In a story that seems taken from a book or movie, an alleged sexual assault of a white female elevator operator by a young black man escalated from a lone manhunt into a 16-hour warzone that left more than 10,000 people homeless and set fire to over 35 city blocks. How did things get so out of control?

Well, once a great number of racists and enraged white men formed a lynch mob outside the courthouse, members of the black community took to supporting the alleged sexual assailant and the two groups found themselves staring across the same pavement. It doesn’t take an eye witness to imagine what happened next. No one could imagine, though, how far the carnage would go, which included aerial bombings from retired war planes.

7. Detroit, July 23, 1967


Injured: 1,189
Dead: 43
Damages: More than 2,000 buildings destroyed
Why?: As Saturday night passed into Sunday morning in Detroit on July 23, all the bars closed their doors and windows–except for “blind pigs,” those unlicensed, after-hours operations. A few police units rolled up onto 12th street, one of the harder areas of town, expecting to bust up the bar and a few patrons. Instead, they found almost 100 people holding a homecoming party for two Vietnam veterans. Understaffed, they decided to call for backup and book them all anyway.

Drunk, confused, and upset, those who weren’t immediately arrested began protesting, and as police numbers dithered, a few began smashing clothing store windows. It was at this moment that things spiraled out of control.

It’s hard to understand how the angry mob mentality- the collective hue of red vision–spreads so ferociously. The pastor of a nearby church reported seeing a “gleefulness in throwing stuff and getting stuff out of buildings,” and rioters wouldn’t even listen to a Detroit Tigers player calling for calm on top of a demolished car in the middle of the street.

In less than 48 hours, the National Guard came to assist, along with military troops and more police, but it would take five full days to put out the force of the riot, arresting over 7,000 people.

6. Sao Paulo, October 2, 1992


Injured: Hundreds
Dead: 111
Why?: About 20 years ago, the Sao Paulo House of Detentions–known as Carandiru and built in the 1950s–was originally designed to house up to 3,500 inmates. At the time of the riot, it held more than 8,000.

The video above comes from a VBS news documentary about a former employee at Carandiru who witnessed the riot firsthand. There had been many riots before, but on this occasion the guards seemed either especially unable or unwilling to negotiate with the prisoners. After the start of a revolt, which had killed nine from stab wounds, the military police came in and killed 102 inmates with automatic rifles. In the case of the Carandiru Massacre, the tables of the riot turned–the rioters didn’t cause even a tenth of the damage as the police, all of whom survived uninjured.

5. Bombay, December 1992


Injured: Thousands
Dead: 900
Why?: As you’ll see in the video above, the Babri Mosque was destroyed when a political rally turned into a destructive mob 150,000 strong. But this wasn’t just any mosque–it was the largest mosque in Uttar Pradesh, a state of more than 31 million Muslims. Before the damage, the Indian Supreme Court had promised and assured the people that the mosque wouldn’t be harmed. Clearly things were not going according to plan.

What followed was a back-and-forth war of riots and killings between Hindus and Muslims, leaving nearly 1,000 dead in Bombay alone over the course of less than a month. It would also lead to a massive bomb blast in March of 1993, where over 250 were killed and more than 700 injured.

4. Kenya, December 1992


Injured: Thousands
Dead: 800-1,500
Damages: Billions
Why?: It’s difficult to imagine: everyone in your country is carefully watching the presidential election results, it’s gonna be a close one. But at the same time, everyone has a feeling that it’s rigged.

The results come in, and sure enough, the incumbent Kibaki is still president. All hell breaks loose. Over 120 are dead in less than two days. Obviously, this is not a problem with a quick solution–elections are rarely re-tried, and red tape abounds goverment procedures. This gives more riots time to materialize, and by the end of the month more than 800 are dead and over 600,000 displaced from their homes.

3. Gujarat, February 27, 2002


Injured: Thousands
Dead: 1,495
Why?: In 2002, a train full of 58 Hindus returning from a pilgrimage was set on fire by a Muslim mob. If you’ve been reading this whole article, you know the two groups have some history.

Yet lingering bad blood can’t be called the only culprit. The media played a large role in sensationalizing many of the riots and attacks, showing bloody and violent images with bias for whichever group comprised the local majority. The resulting trials and court cases became similarly publicized. The flames of a riot aren’t fanned merely by the rioters themselves.

2. New York Draft Riots, July 13, 1863

Injured: 2,000-8,000
Dead: 120-2,000
Damages: $185,000,000
Why?: Imagine you’re fresh off the boat from Ireland to America, a country that’s not even seen its 100th birthday. You’re broke, starving, and need a job. To make matters worse, you might get drafted to fight in a civil war that everyone seems to think is about freeing slaves, and there are already a number of freed slaves picking up work in your city.

This pisses you and the rest of your thousands of fellow expatriates off. Why fight in a civil war for a country you barely belong to for the cause of helping those who may eventually take your jobs? This was the collective mentality of those in New York in 1863, who ended up killing more than 120 in the United States’ most destructive civil uprising in history.

1. Nika Riots, Constantinople, 532


Dead: 30,000+
Damages: Over half the city lay in burnt ruins.
Why?: The video above, a History Channel re-enactment, tells the story quite well. Back in the days before Yankees-Sox rivalries and football stadium stampedes, chariot racing was the sport that attracted the greatest amount of Hooliganism in the Roman empire. Even the athletes themselves took part in the post-game frenzies, and on one occasion several were arrested and hanged in connection with some murders. However, two escaped, taking refuge in a nearby church and attracting a large mob.

All of this commotion was too much for the emperor, Justinian, who had just raised taxes quite a bit and was dealing with negotiating peace with the neighboring Persians to the east. So, he did the worst possible thing he could: postpone the next chariot race.

By the time the race came, the crowd was pissed and bloodthirsty, and began chanting “Nika!” meaning “Conquer!” and rose to an angry mob, besieging Justinian near the point of exile. In the end, though, the emperor’s retaliation would claim more than 30,000 lives and see more than half of Constantinople reduced to rubble, including major damages to the Hagia Sophia.


Empowerment Zones

The concept of empowerment zones, in which employers receive government incentives to operate in impoverished areas, predates the 󈨠 riots. But like liquor store abatement, this concept too gained currency as a result of the violence Bill Clinton made enactment of the Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Act, of 1993, a hallmark of his young administration’s urban policy. Using this federal program, as well as California’s own Enterprise Zone program and the Los Angeles Revitalization Zone (also created in response to the riots), employers could receive federal tax credits, wage credits, capital gains deductions, city business tax waivers and Department of Water and Power subsidies. Given this menu of incentives, one might have anticipated an employment revival in South Los Angeles. But research on the impact of the enterprise zones, both nationally and in Los Angeles, suggests that they were not effective at luring employers to impoverished areas.

A frank assessment of the federal empowerment zone in Los Angeles, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, found no appreciable growth or reduction in unemployment in the target area and in the L.A. Revitalization Zone, investment seems to have been limited to permit applications to repair buildings lightly damaged by rioting, with little positive effect on larger-scale investment. 7 Explanations for the failure of the empowerment zone concept abound: too many homeless people were included in target areas large businesses could not find sufficiently large parcels businesses that took advantage of low-interest loans often defaulted. But there is also that great unreported variable: perception. Probably no combination of tax incentives and favorable loan terms would have spurred investment in an area perceived to be rife with crime and prone to riots.


Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots, 1943

Armed U.S. servicemen on Los Angeles streets during Zoot Suit Riots. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

By the beginning of 1943, America was deeply engaged with World War II. In Los Angeles, the city had already been emptied of its residents of Japanese ancestry. Young Latinos, unlike their elders, were not content to stay within their barrios, but were spilling into downtown dance halls, movie houses, pool halls and clubs. As young men are prone to do, many young Latino males distinguished themselves with distinctive hairdos ("duck tails") and apparel ("drape shapes" or "zoot suits" - wide-brimmed hats, broad-shouldered long coats, high-waisted peg-legged trousers and long dangling chains). They called themselves pachucos. They came into contact with swarms of other young men who wore another type of uniform . military men. The war had caused Los Angeles to swell with military personnel at local bases, many of them from other parts of the country with no prior experience with Latinos and Latino culture. At first, serviceman merely derided the young Latino males attired in "zoot suits." The derision turned to resentment, however, because the young Latino "zoot suiters" were not in military uniform. In fact, many Mexican American men were already in military uniform, disproportionately so for their numbers. Yet this was not what bored, restless young white servicemen saw when rubbing shoulders with strutting, brown-skinned "zoot suiters" in downtown Los Angeles. The local press had been beating a drum of fear that a "Mexican crime wave" had hit the city and "zoot suiters" and "gangsters" were one and the same.


Zoot suit in 2016 "Reigning Men" exhibit, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

On June 3, 1943, a number of sailors claimed to have been beaten and robbed by Mexican pachucos. The following evening, a mob of about 200 sailors, tired of boredom and fired up with bigotry, hired a fleet of cabs and rolled into East Los Angeles to beat up and strip the clothing off any young Latino male they could find. The authorities seemed to approve. Police made a few initial token arrests of sailors, but they were quickly released. This emboldened the sailors. For several subsequent nights, the swelling mobs of sailors were joined by soldiers and some civilians as they invaded the barrio, marching abreast down streets, invading bars and movie houses, assaulting and humiliating any and all young Latino males, many not attired in "zoot suits." Young Black and Filipino males unfortunate enough to be in the area were also assaulted. Mobs of servicemen in search of "zoot suiters" also prowled the Pike in Long Beach. Although police accompanied the caravans of rioting servicemen, police orders were to let the shore patrol and military police deal with military men. Instead, after several days of rioting and assaults by servicemen, more than 150 had been injured and police had arrested and charged more than 500 Latino youths for "rioting" or "vagrancy," many themselves the victims. The local press lauded the military rioters for confronting the menace of the "Mexican crime wave." "Zoot Suiters Learn Lesson in Fight with Servicemen," declared the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles City Council issued an ordinance banning the wearing of "zoot suits." "The zoot suit has become a badge of hoodlumism," explained Councilman Norris Nelson. "We prohibit nudism by an ordinance and if we can arrest people for being under-dressed, we can do so for being over-dressed."


Zoot suiters lined up outside Los Angeles jail en route to court after feud with sailors. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Finally, on June 7, U.S. military authorities did what civil authorities would not. Navy and Army commanders sought to get control of their men by ordering that the City of Los Angeles be declared off-limits to military personnel. Nonetheless, the official Navy position was that their sailors were acting in "self-defense against the rowdy element."

Nationwide condemnation of the actions of the military rioters and civil authorities followed. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt commented, "The question goes deeper than just [zoot] suits. It is a racial protest. I have been worried for a long time about the Mexican racial situation. It is a problem with roots going a long way back, and we do not always face these problems as we should." The Los Angeles Times responded with a June 18 headline, "Mrs. Roosevelt Blindly Stirs Race Discord." The editorial page accused her of communist leanings.

Although the County Board of Supervisors launched an investigation and human relations committees were appointed and the police department was instructed to train its officers to treat all citizens equally, the only ones to suffer any real consequence were the Latino victims arrested during the riots. Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron, reflecting prevailing local opinion, responded to protests by the Mexican Embassy by downplaying the racial character of the incidents and blaming local Mexican youth gangs for inciting the riot.


Crenshaw

The Black Dahlia
The most famous unsolved murder in city history is that of 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short, whose face was mutilated and whose body was found cut in half and drained of blood.
Year: 1947
Location: Norton Avenue, south of Coliseum Street
Read about it: In Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times Black Dahlia archives, and Los Angeles magazine
Book: Black Dahlia Avenger, and The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (fiction)
Watch: 48 Hours

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