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The 1992 riots began in on April 29th following the trial of 4 LAPD police officers who savagely beat Rodney King, an unarmed motorist when 3 were found not guilty and 1 was caught in a hung jury. The ensuing outrage at the verdicts set off 3 days of rioting. Unlike the 1965 Watts Riots some 27 years earlier, the '92 riots were much more racially diverse while the earlier riots pitted blacks against whites.

In the 3 days of rioting Mayor Tom Bradley had declared a curfew, Governor Pete Wilson had sent 40,000 National Guardsmen to assist the outnumbered LAPD and finals were postponed at UCLA and USC. Los Angeles area residents would turn on the news to see their city burning, anyone on the street beaten without reason, property destruction, and looting and even Rodney King who pleaded to the public, "Can't we all just get along?" This all happened when I was a 7-year-old I witnessed a place less than 30 miles from my home being burned, people running out of department stores with TVs, furniture, anything they could carry, and then driving off with it before the building went up in flames on my 10 PM news. It was, and still is hard to imagine that the effect that the image of 4 officers beating a man and the unfair trial that they had would cause was enough to trigger such a violent showing of contempt that finally ended on Monday, May 3rd when schools and businesses that weren't destroyed or looted tried to reopen.

The riots had caused 50 deaths, 4,000 injured, 12,000 people arrested, and property damage exceeded more than $1 billion. It also forced an unecessary trial, as the "horrific" tape that the public had seen was only a small portion of it, the parts of King lashing out at police had been deemed unsuitable for broadcast as they were "too blurry."


Jennings, Peter. The Century
Rubel, David. The United States in the 20th Century

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