The Los Angeles Riots
The Los Angeles Riots or the Rodney King Riots began on April 29th, 1992 in Los Angeles, California. The riots were sparked when a jury acquitted four policeman that were on trial for the beating of motorcyclist Rodney King. The beating was caught on a video tape which showed clear evidence as to the policeman’s course of action after catching up to King in a high speed pursuit. The riots continued for six straight days following the verdict, and lead to widespread looting, arson, and even murder. By the end of the riots, a total of 53 people in all lost their lives.
Besides the verdict to the Rodney King trial, there were multiple other reasons that lead to the riots that were building up for a long time. This included: the extremely high unemployment rate in the area of South Central Los Angeles due to the economic recession at the time, a perception of the Los Angeles Police Department engaging in racial profiling, and anger over another case dealing with a Korean American who beat and killed an African American woman. On the night of March 3rd, 1991, Rodney King was raced down by policeman, and from there was beaten, tasered, and stricken with clubs.
The police claimed that the first few minutes that was not on videotape entailed King violently resisting arrest. The remainder of the arrest was recorded by a man named George Holliday, who captured the beating in its entirety. The police officers also claimed that King was under the influence of the drug PCP while driving his car. The chase ended up in the Lakeview Terrace district, and apparently King had been fleeing from the police because he was a convicted felon out on parole, and he feared any parole violations. King had been charged with assault, battery, and robbery previously.
The Los Angeles DA charged the four police officers with assault, and three of the four were charged with the use of excessive force. Since there was so much media coverage for the trial, the trial received a change of venue, and moved to the predominantly white neighborhood of Simi Valley in Ventura County. However, the juries were taken from San Fernando Valley, which was composed of 10 whites, 1 Hispanic, and 1 Asian. On the seventh day of jury deliberations, which took place on April 29th, 1992, acquitted all four officers of assault, and three of the four of excessive force.
The riots began on the night of the verdict and would peak over the next two days or so, and continued for a total of six days. A curfew was set and the National Guard was deployed to take control of the situation at hand. Federal troops from the 7th Infantry Division and the United States Marines from the 1st Marine Division were also sent in to take control. As stated previously, a total of 53 lives were lost, and nearly 2,000 people were injured. The material damage over the six days cost the United States approximately 1 billion dollars. A total of 3,600 fires were set that destroyed 1,100 buildings. The rioters targeted stores owned by White and Black Americans, and Korean Americans. The street gangs also played a big role in the riot, as they took this opportunity to fight other gangs, the military, and the police.
On the sixth day, Mayor Bradley lifted the curfew, thus ending the riots. The schools and businesses began to reopen, but the Federal Troops were not relieved from their position until May 9th. The State Guard stayed until May 14th, and some scattered soldiers stayed until May 27th.