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The L.A. Riots—20 Years Later

What lessons have we learned as Southern Californians from the worst rioting in recent memory?

April 29 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots. The widely televised upheaval, also referred to as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest, was sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers—three white and one Latino—who were accused of brutally beating a black man, Rodney King, in 1991.

Over the next several days, Los Angeles exploded into a frenzy of violence, looting, arson and murder that began in what was then predominantly black South-Central L.A (now named South L.A., a predominantly Latino area).

According to one of the most reliable estimates, the rioting claimed 53 lives, left thousands injured and reportedly damaged property worth $1 billion. The office of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represented South-Central L.A., burned down during the riots. Waters defended the loss of her office building as “one of the victims of the rebellion,” which, in turn, she described in a May 10, 1992 Los Angeles Times article as "a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice and a lot of alienation and frustration."

The L.A. Riots are considered the nation’s first “multiethnic” riots, partly because stores owned by Korean Americans and other Asian immigrants were widely targeted. As such, the riots are a pivotal moment in L.A.’s racial, immigrant and urban history, aptly summed up in the words of then-Mayor Tom Bradley, himself a former police officer: “Today the system failed us.”

Round-numbered anniversaries are always a good time for reflection. Twenty years after the L.A. Riots—and with the recent killings of two black youths in Florida and Pasadena fresh in our minds—what lessons have we learned? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the L.A. Riots will undoubtedly recall the day the rioting began and Mayor Bradley declared a state of emergency.

Where were you that day? What did you see in your neighborhood? What was going through your mind?

Though the riots did not take place directly in Agoura Hills, many were still affected, whether it was a strong emotional reaction or knowing someone involved–a victim, police officer, looter, business owner of a destroyed building or someone else.

How were you affected? Share your memories in the Comments box below.

 

 

Paul G April 26, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I was shot at on the 605 freeway at the Mount Olive overpass. I was driving a truck that was empty just trying to get away from the violence. I heard on the CB that someone had a gun on the bridge, within seconds I saw the rifle bearing down on me and heard the shots ring out. I just kept driving on the the 210 to the 118. I finally stopped in Simi Valley in the Kmart parking lot around 1 am and saw three holes in the roof of the trailer. I kept working and made one more trip into LA that night and continued every night during the unrest.
Susan Pascal April 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Wow! Thanks for sharing that harrowing experience, Paul.
John April 26, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Not to go off topic but I would sure like to see those gas prices again.
coledude April 26, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I have a memory of thinking "Why don't I have a gun"? Don't be me 20 years ago, they are going to riot again... arm yourself!

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