Riots of 1992

Freshman (College 1st year) ・History ・APA ・3 Sources

Los Angeles - Riots of 1992

A very common quote which we hear almost every day, 'people bring change'. The meaning of this quote is that you have to do something in order to achieve certain goals. The people of Los Angeles they actually went through it in 1992  (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). The riots were too extreme that at a point 4,000 US soldiers were also deployed to take care of the event. The death toll was 53, more than 3,500 fires were started and more than 1000 buildings were destroyed. Damage of billions was caused  (Marks, Barreto & Woods, 2004). People came out in anger on the streets to show the partiality and discrimination they were receiving. Through the riots people revolted against the law enforcement agencies and government officials. The riots revealed the feelings of the ordinary citizen of Los Angeles  and how eager they were to change the society.

The riots which occurred in Los Angeles in the year 1992 which is also known as the Rodney King Riots were events of riots, mass looting and civil disturbance in Los Angeles. The situation started due to a video-taped police brutality incident  (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). It is considered as the biggest and longest running riot in the history of United States and the worst in terms of deaths. The Rodney King beating was the starting point for the Afro Americans and other minorities of Los Angeles and it spread all over the country. As the beating was caught on camera and instantly spread like fire in a forest.

The video showed the unjust and unfair behavior of law enforcement agencies and people towards minorities. Rodney Glen King, was born in in California and was raised in Aldatena by his parents with 4 more siblings. He struggles with alcohol addiction in his life and was involved in criminal activities (Marks, Barreto & Woods, 2004). In 1989, he robbed a store in California for which he was caught and later convicted. He was sentenced 2 years of imprisonment. However, he was released after a year of his sentence. The beating, which caused all the riots occurred when King and his two friends were at a friend's house to watch a game of basketball. King's car on return with passenger when it was cornered by 4 police officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno) (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). He was beaten at the scene (struck 30 times and kicked 6 times). He was beaten repeatedly by the officers. Metal batons were also used multiple times. The passengers who were in the car with King were also taken in custody.

The story changes course when the officers were put on trial and the jury consisted of 10 Caucasians, one Filipino and a Hispanic. Many people at the time suggested that the trail does not have a fair jury (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). The case seemed like an easy to predict. All the evidence was present on tape and because of it what verdiction thw defense will be able to make against the prosecution?. The case being notorious and historical event was caught on camera, it spread fast for an improved re-formation of the Los Angeles Police Department. The event showed the unfair treatment of not only the police but the regular people to. However, the jury decided that the evidence presented in the was not enough to get the officers convicted. This statement lets the officers acquitted, which sparked the riots all over Los Angeles  (Marks, Barreto & Woods, 2004). In a couple of hours after the official announcement of the verdict. Thousand of people not just the Afro-Americans came out on the street of South Los Angeles. The riots happened for long (6 days to be specific) which is a long duration for a city to be riots. People started travelling in groups and targeted people who were not black or Afro-Americans. Stores were looted.

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The law enforcement agencies tried to take care of the situation but failed miserably. Besides that, a lot of Korean people were also attacked, which happened as an after effect of killing of a 15-year old (Latasha Harlins) who was trying to rob a store and got killed by the Korean store owner (Soon Ja Du) (Lie & Abelmann, 1999). Before the riots in 1988, a rap group recorded a song for their album which was a way for many Afro-Americans and other minorioties to show their feelings regarding the Los Angeles Police Department. The song described how anyone who does not appear to be white or has dark skin was generally profiled by the law enforcement agencies. Minorities in the Los Angeles at the time realized that they were mis-treated and no one was bothered with it. Not just in the case of Rodney's beating, the situation was all the same before. Police brutality was a major issue for the minorities of Los Angeles.

During the riots, there were no national guards or police present. On the 3rd day when the situation was almost worst, Rodney made a plea in which he stated that 'Can we all just get along?'. The rioters on the other side had no such intentions however the rioting started to slow down and on the 4th day National Guards were observed taking control (Lie & Abelmann, 1999). There were acts of violence carried out till the 6th day but they were not as severe as in the starting 3 days. The riots brought endless damages to the Los Angeles. The death toll was 53 and the damage done to properties was out of count. The riots were not about robberies, theft, killing and violence. People were fighting against the oppression and hundreds of episodes are found in history where people revolted when their basic rights were denied.

Afro-Americans have always felt that they are not being treated fairly even after the Civil Rights Movement. The minorities found only this way too out of the situation through which their concerns can be heard and appropriate action can come along (Lie & Abelmann, 1999). After the riots ended, the Los Angeles law enforcement agencies were more positive and episodes of police brutality were decreased significantly. More Afro-Americans joined the Police Department and before the riots more Caucasian officers were the main ones serving. As the riots ended the United States - Department of Justice re-instate the investigation of the case (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). They took the steps and found violation of many federal civil rights been broken by the officers. The new trial focused better and Rodney King was called in as a witness to the events of the night. The new jury and sentence found the 2 officers guilty and they were sentenced to 32 months of prison where the other two officers were acquitted.

The Rodney King's beating incident turned into an international story. This incident has a lot of morals (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). How police can be wrong in identifying a suspect, how police can go wrong and no one talks about it and what citizens can do. The riot is one of many examples which shows how injustice, inequality and corruption can bring chaos. Beating of people without any reasons or proper evidence, murder of innocent people, uncountable damages, corruption of people in power and a downfall of economics are some of the situations which can occur due to a civil unrest in a place where society is pushed to the limits (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1992). The Rodney King's case was a light for the people of Los Angeles, which changes the lives of it's people forever. Rodney's story is still read and told. His story will not be forgotten and will be always used as a lesson to generations in future.

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  1. Hamilton, S., & Hamilton, J. (1992). Los Angeles riots (1st ed.). Edina, Minn.: Abdo & Daughters.
  2. Lie, J., & Abelmann, N. (1999). The 1992 Los Angeles riots and the “Black-Korean conflict.”. Koreans In The Hood: Conflict With African Americans, 75--87.
  3. Marks, M., Barreto, M., & Woods, N. (2004). Race and racial attitudes a decade after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Urban Affairs Review, 40(1), 3--18.
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