Los Angeles Riots: 17th Anniversary

Image from Understanding the Riots: Los Angeles Before and After the Rodney King Case, Los Angeles Times.

The events of April 1992 still remain fresh in my mind and it’s during the last few days of April that I pause and reflect on the state of our city. What’s changed? What remains the same? Being a fourth generation Angelena, this city is in my blood and my history is rooted in the streets, the asphalt and palm trees. I am part of this place for better or worse.

Last year’s post.


Los Angeles Times readers share their experiences here.

10 thoughts on “Los Angeles Riots: 17th Anniversary

  1. I remember being in my backyard watching ashes floating down. Being 10 I did not absolutely understand why it was happening but I already understood the desperation of why people were looting. I did not think, “why are they doing,” but how did the bogus decision made by the jury even happen.

    But then again I knew then already that the whole thing was suspect & corrupt. Beyond the verdict I knew that my neighborhood and those I saw on TV were fundamentally of what I found to the West.

  2. Did anyone see the episode of Sober House where Rodney King and Dr. Drew go to the spot of the beating? Eerie. As they’re getting to the exit, 210 around Tijunga, I think, King’s telling Drew that at that point, he’d thought he lost them because they were on the other side of that giant hill, and he couldn’t see their lights. Then as he exited the freeway, he just saw nothing but lights coming over that hill, and then to the exit, catching up with him. He shows Drew the apartment across the street where the guy taped it. Just your typical SF Valley apartment (it’s daylight, when they’re there), perfect view of the entire street from upstairs. King went there with Drew to forgive the officers, as part of his alcohol recovery. What a man of him. More than you can say for the officers who beat him, aside from the one who did show remorse shortly after the riots. One of them said to Time magazine, I think it was, in their 15th anniversary story, that the media’s at fault for the riots, for making a mountain out of a mole hill. He also said that the Rampart scandal only happened because the LAPD was in a rush to hire minorities after Rodney King. I wish I were joking. Never mind that Rafael Perez, the kingpin of that Rampart outfit, had been with the force since the early ’80s. Unreal. That Darryl Gates era left a stain on the LAPD that will never be removed.

  3. I was also about 10 years old at the time and I did not understand the degree of the situation. Where I lived not much happend we just watched it on T.V,but it was pretty crazy seeing that I remember. I was reading a pretty cool follow up on Rodney King here
    To be honest since I was so young back then It was not until I was an adult that I actually went back and read articles on what happend and what triggerd it. It was history I learned all over again even though I lived during the time. It is very sereal now if I think about it shit was crazy during that time.

  4. I was in high school, in Sacramento. Remember my first class, the first full day of the riots, history class, ironically enough. The teacher just left the t.v. on the entire period. Didn’t say a word. No better history lesson than watching it as it happens.

  5. Someone should do a post about the Rampart scandel, I know it was coverd by media quite a bit, but I really never paid that much attention during that time. It would be interesting to know more of what happend and who got framed etc.
    I now wonder what happend to the guy who filmed the Rodney beating, I looked him up and found a few things.
    George Holliday
    interview of him a few years ago

  6. I had been home from the Marine Corps for less than a year when LA blew up. I was having some adjustment issues after a six year stint (including being “involuntarily extended” for Gulf War 1 – thanks Bush Sr.) and didn’t pick up on the vibe that was in the air over Rodeny King and the expectation that his attackers would be found not guilty.

    My mother lived in Watts in 1965 when the riots happened then – she told me, “There’s going to be a riot, you wait and see.” I was suprised at how sure she was of this. She was right, and never let me forget it.

    My aunt and uncle owned a liquor store at the time, and they took turns keeping armed watch from the roof of the store with “Black Owned Business” spray painted across the roll down door. They weren’t touched, but the Korean mini-market just south of them was gutted. I remember talking with the late owner of 5th Street Dicks Coffee House in Leimert Park as he was sitting out in front of his place with a shotgun, ready to defend his place. There was a lot of that going on because the cops were nowhere to be seen. A lot of Black owned businesses though were destroyed – at a certain point people weren’t bothering to spare anything. My heart broke when the Aquarian Book Shop was lost over on MLK and Western.

    I drove around the city as the rioting started. I remember watching a crew of guys rip an ATM machine out of a wall at Crenshaw and Slauson and throw it in the back of a truck. Lots of bandanna masked guys with molotov cocktails were on missions to take out business they felt were less than respectful to the citizens they served. Lots of references in the street to Latasha Harlins that day as Asian owned stores were torched. But it wasn’t all political or social. Some of the grimy cats I grew up with used the mayhem to go “shopping” and were still selling stuff they copped duirng the riots a year after the fact.

    It was so surreal – I’d park and watch groups of people rioting, looting, burning, fighting like I was watching it on CNN or the BBC. When LAPD and LASD finally came out of hiding and started shooting, that’s when I called it quits and holed up in the house. I had to drive down to Orange County to get gas – stations in LA weren’t selling any because of the molotov cocktails being thrown all over the place.

    After a couple of days of burning and looting, Marines arrived from Camp Pendleton and set up headquarters in the Crenshaw mall on Crenshaw and King Blvd. My cousin worked in a salon at the mall and was giving jarheads free haircuts (and trying to snag a husband). I came out of my apartment in Inglewood and drove around to survey the damage. I still had my Marine Corps ID and that allowed me to get around a bit easier than most. I bumped into a lot guys I knew who were pulling checkpoint duty – tripping that they were guarding a US city after a riot. There are still gutted buildings and empty lots in South LA that have never been rebuilt from the ’92 riots.

    I never was able to call it an “uprising” though. That never ring true to me.

  7. I was a student at the very safe and very Asian University of California Irvine. When the verdict came down, I remember saying that there was going to be a riot. I wasn’t surprised when it kicked off.

    The second day, I was sitting in the university coffee shop and I overheard some white frat guys bragging about how they’d gone into town to loot and about all the electronics they’d stolen. They got several VCRs and were taking about who to give them to.

    My (Korean) high-school girlfriend’s family business, a furniture shop, was torched. They lost almost everything. She started working extra jobs to help get her family back on their feet, and I never saw her again.

    It was strange to see it all on TV from UCI, just far enough away for it not to seem real.

  8. Excellent take, Michael.

    As far as looting, no riot goes without it’s hustling. I hear a lot of cops and right wing types say that the looting was really the whole reason for the riot to begin with. I don’t know if I buy that because if that were the case, they could just start looting any time they wanted to, couldn’t they? Something opened the door for them, and it was indeed a mass civil protest. Every disaster has its looters, from the small time thieves of South Central in ’92 to the corporate swindlers in the Bush Cabal after Hurricane Katrina in ’05.

    As far as not viewing the riots as an uprising, didn’t a lot of gangs in South Central form peace treaties just after the riots? Police have said that the treaties were bogus, but as I recall, gang murders in the ’90s did drop after the riots, so the statistics seem to back up the idea that there was in fact a legitimate peace treaty between some very large gangs in the area, that had been in violent wars beforehand. Of course, the treaties weren’t permanent, as we see today. But there seemed to be some social change in South Central after the riots, even if things started to crumble apart a decade later.

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