The Voice Of The People: The 1992 L.A. Riots



FNN CELEBRATES BLACK HISTORY: FEB. 4, 2014.  April 29, 1992: Swarms of people were waiting outside the courthouse in Simi Valley, California. Everyone in the United States was watching the trial on television—Rodney King  vs. the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department).  Everyone presumed the case of Rodney King vs. the LAPD to be an “open-shut” case because of the brutal beating administered by five policemen to Rodney King. But what happened next would result in 54 deaths, 7,000 arrests and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.

It all started in Los Angeles on March 3rd, 1991, when Rodney King, an African-American had an encounter with the LAPD. He was speeding at 12:30 am and was spotted by two of the policemen. King ran a red light, nearly causing an accident, and was finally stopped. Rodney King was said to be resisting arrest, but instead of handcuffing him, a group of five policemen began to brutally beat him. The incident was caught on videotape by George Holliday, a citizen who witnessed the attack. When the footage hit the media, it became the center of controversy because numerous people believed that race was a major factor in the story.

Soon charges were made. On March 8, Police Chief Daryl Gates announced the policemen would be prosecuted. There was a trial because of this, since the policemen claimed to be innocent.  Because there was a videotape, everyone presumed this case as an “open-shut.” But the jury said that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the policemen. That verdict was the tipping point for the black community to express their anger.

When the jury decided the video wasn’t enough evidence to convict the policemen, the black society went into an uproar.

For the next couple of hours, L.A. was transformed into a place of pandemonium. There were people setting fire to stores. They were looting stores. They were breaking windows.

They were on this avenging drive that couldn’t stop. Violent mobs stormed the streets shouting, “No justice, No peace!”

News reporters and photographers caught the astonishing moments of the uproar on camera. A collection of impromptu footage caught the  anger of the community.

Within a couple of days, Los Angeles became a place of utter destruction—with burnt down buildings, hundreds of arrests, and rubble covering the streets. News reporters flew to Los Angeles. Many people thought the verdict was stupid since those police officers beat Rodney King senseless.  Then, something else sparked in the fighting community. As they saw their city in ruins because of the violence, the community decided to come together as a whole to stop it.  Even rival gang members came together. It took millions of dollars to repair Los Angeles. But unity was repaired, and that’s what truly builds a city.

The L.A. Riot was a milestone in modern black history—with a verdict that shook society, a riot that stirred a nation, and the unification that repaired a city. Even though there was lots of damage done, the black community came together with other communities, mended the bad feelings and stopped the violence.  

Katherine Hunter is a freshman at Friendship Tech Prep Academy.