Today is the 20TH Anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots.
On March 3, 1991, video tape recorded by George Holliday, showing Rodney King, a Black American, being repeatedly beaten by a group of LAPD officers, was broadcast on the evening news. A year later, on April 29, 1992, all officers were acquitted when the jury could not reach a verdict. The result sparked outrage about police brutality, racism, and economic inequality in South Central Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles where large groups of Black Americans took to the streets, many shouting “Black justice!” and “No justice, no peace!” The protests became what is now known as the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots or South Central Riots, also known as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest occurred on April 29, 1992, when a jury acquitted three White and one Latino Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of Black motorist Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Thousands of people in the Los Angeles area rioted over the six days following the verdict.
Looting, vandalism, assault, arson and physical attacks (some of which ended in murder) occurred. Property damages was estimated to be roughly $1 billion. In aftermath, 54 people died during the riots and thousands more were injured.
The most well-known attack that occurred was that of Reginald Denny. At the intersection of Florence and Normandie, a group of angry Black citizens attacked Denny and beat him until Bobby Green Jr., a Black American citizen, intervened and saved him. Green saw the assault live on television, and rushed to the scene to rescue Denny and then drove him to the hospital using Denny’s own truck.
Bobby Green ran to the scene to join three others in rescuing the dazed and bloody Reginald Denny.
Denny survived the attack and now lives in Arizona.
Later, despite threats and insults from the community, he went on to testify against Denny’s attackers. He and his family have since moved to a suburb east of Los Angeles and he did not respond to messages for comment. On the 10th anniversary of the riot, he told the Los Angeles Times: “I can tell my kids that color is on the outside, not the inside. To me, I turned justice around and showed them that all black people ain’t the same as you think.” [SOURCE]
Another person who was attacked at the same intersection was Fidel Lopez. He was pulled from his truck and robbed of nearly $2,000. Damian Williams smashed his forehead open with a car stereo while another rioter attempted to slice his ear off. After Lopez lost consciousness, the crowd spray painted his chest, torso and genitals black.
Rev. Bennie Newton, a Black American minister who ran an inner-city ministry for troubled youth, placed himself between Lopez and his attackers. He helped Lopez get medical attention by taking him to the hospital. Lopez survived the attack, undergoing extensive surgery to reattach his partially severed ear, and months of recovery. Sadly, only a little over a year later, Rev. Newton would die from leukemia. Fidel Lopez honored and remembered him by paying his last respects to the minister who saved his life by attending his funeral.
Today, twenty years later, has America and her citizens changed all that much?
Henry Watson, one, of the men involved in the attack on Reginald Denny states that South Los Angeles has not changed that much:
“In this part of town, high school dropout rates are higher than for the city as a whole, and only 8 percent of the area’s residents have college degrees, compared with 30 percent for all residents of Los Angeles, according to American Community Survey estimates from 2006 to 2010.
More than three times as many households in the area reported yearly incomes of less than $20,000 during the same period than homes with yearly incomes of more than $100,000. That’s in stark contrast to the city as a whole, where there were more households with incomes above $100,000 than those with incomes of less than $20,000.
Manuel Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at University of Southern California, said economic distress caused by the departure of manufacturing industries and high unemployment and widespread distrust of the police department set the stage for the outrage following the King verdict.
“It’s a question of if you throw a match and there’s no tinder there will be no fire. If there’s a lot of tinder you need a match. And there was lots of tinder,” Pastor said. “There was lots of economic frustration, there was racial tension in the air.”
For another take on what is happening twenty years later, here is this video:
Some things in Los Angeles have changed, some things have not.
So, the question that is put to the rest of America is:
What has changed in your life where racism is concerned?
What has changed in your family, your place of worship, your school, your neighborhood———yourself?
Can we all get along?
Is it even possible for Americans—Black, Asian, Native American, Latino, Middle Eastern, White— to drop the facade and give up on the virus that is racism?
Or is this nation content to obliterate itself from within?