20 years ago on April 29, 1992, the so-called 'Rodney King' riots broke out in Los Angeles. They were triggered by the acquittal of 4 Los Angeles police officers after a trial who were caught on video of violent beating on King after the end a chase of him at dangerously high speeds in his his car with 2 passengers about a year earlier (one of those pax would be dead months later in a car accident). It was believed that King was drunk and/or using PCP drugs, he had been in jail before and was resisting arrest as didn't want to go back. The combination of events that night along with the cops all hyped up from the chase at high riots led to the beating. While King was beaten, his passengers were not, and at least he wasn't shot dead.
The riots were further triggered by a long and bad history of the LAPD and black residents, economic racism, street gangs, the then very violent 'crack' drug trade, the popularity of violent anti-cop/'cop killer' rap music and other factors. 1000's also used the riots as an excuse to loot stores and some of those killed or injured were done by street gangs taking advantage of the riots to cover their needs for revenge for members of other gangs and over their 'turf'.
The riots in LA
lasted several days, killed and injured 100's, were captured on video and went immediately went around the USA and the world on CNN and network TV
. The brutal beating of Reginald Denny, a truck driver became a symbol of the sick violence of those riots. There were smaller riots in cities throughout the USA, chasing city workers home, jamming roads and transportation terminals. The economic damage in LA
was probably well over $1 Billion. One result of the riots were a substantial reduction of the number of locations of places selling alcoholic beverages and finally some investment in stores and jobs in the neighborhoods. The cops involved would be tried under other charges in a court in the LA
County court districts, with at least one cop going to jail, the rest losing their jobs and with the black mark of their actions that fateful night lasting for their lives. The LA
police would undergo a change in leadership with Chief Gates removed, Mayor Bradley chose not to run for another term, and it caused a real examination and heightened attention to actions of police with persons of color especially if deadly. It also may have led to the acquittal of OJ Simpson 3 years later as a way to get revenge against the LA
police who were still seen as full of racial bias.
20 years later, those neighborhoods are still crime ridden and economically not much better. Some of the key players those days of the riots are dead, some are still in jail, others moved away and lead quiet lives. Rodney King is still alive, has been arrested a number of times, spent time in rehab as to drugs and alcohol and has given interviews over the last several days.
The Rodney King riots are a deep and terrible blot in our history. Hopefully we will never see such violence again.