The Riots That Rocked Los Angeles on April 29, 1992
Many years have passed since the Rodney King verdict sparked the worst riots in American history, but the events of that day are still fresh in the minds of many. On April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted four LAPD officers of beating Rodney King, a Black man who had been pulled over for speeding. The officers were caught on camera repeatedly striking King with their batons, but they claimed they were acting in self-defense. The not-guilty verdicts sent shockwaves through the city of Los Angeles and touched off a wave of violence that left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.
The Riots Begin
The first signs of trouble came early in the day when crowds began to gather near the Los Angeles County Courthouse to await the verdicts.
The riots began on the afternoon of April 29th after a jury in Simi Valley acquitted all four police officers who had been charged in the beating of Rodney King. The officers—Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno—had been captured on video tape beating King with their batons more than 50 times. The tape of the incident had been shown on television repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the trial, and many people believed that the officers would be convicted.
When the verdict was announced, people began to gather in South Central Los Angeles to protest the decision. The protests quickly turned violent, and looters began breaking into stores and setting fires. As night fell the violence spread throughout the city, and by the end of the day, there were reports of rioting and looting in more than 30 different neighborhoods, mainly Black and Latino neighborhoods. The violence continued for six days until finally coming to an end on May 4.
The National Guard is Called In
On the morning of April 30th, Mayor Tom Bradley declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to help restore order. It took several days for the National Guard to gain control of the situation, and by that time much of South Central Los Angeles had been destroyed.
The Aftermath of the Riots
When the smoke finally cleared, the damage was staggering. More than 1,100 buildings had been destroyed by fire, and property damage was estimated at $1 billion. In addition to the 55 people who were killed, more than 2,000 others were injured. The vast majority of those who died were killed by gunfire, and most of them were African American. In total, there were more than 12,000 arrests made during and after the riots.
Moreover many Koreans who owned businesses in South Central Los Angeles felt that they had been singled out by looters and criminals. In response to this perceived discrimination, some Koreans formed armed groups to protect their businesses during future civil unrest. This increased tensions between Koreans and African Americans in Los Angeles and contributed to further violence in the years to come.
For many Angelenos, the riots were a turning point in their lives. In the years since, there have been numerous books and documentaries about what happened and why it happened. While some believe that not enough has changed in America since 1992, others point to the election of Barack Obama as proof that progress is possible—even if it sometimes feels like it is happening too slowly.
Looking back at the events on April 29th 1992
The 1992 Los Angeles riots were one of the most destructive civil disturbances in American history. The violence also stoked racial tensions between Koreans and African Americans in Los Angeles which would lead to further violence in subsequent years. These riots changed Los Angeles forever and forced Americans to take a hard look at race relations in the Country.