Many of us know of the infamous 1992 L.A Riots, but what really caused all of that violence and unrest in the city of Los Angeles over twenty years ago? Here’s a bit of a timeline of events that led to the 5 days of upheaval that will forever be remembered.
March 3, 1991: Video Footage of the LAPD Beating Rodney King Airs on KTLA
On March 3rd, Rodney King led Highway Patrol Officers on a high speed chase while refusing to pull over in fear of violating his parole while driving under the influence. By the time he exited the freeway, 5 LAPD officers joined in the pursuit. King and his two passengers were ordered to exit the vehicle and were beaten once they did. Rodney King received the most brutal beating, which resulted in over 30 blows by multiple officers and was captured on tape by George Holliday from his apartment nearby. Holliday brought the footage to KTLA News after being ignored by the police department.
March 16, 1991: Teenager, Latasha Harlins is Killed By Store Owner Over A Bottle of Orange Juice
In March of 1991, 15 year old Westchester High student, Latasha Harlins was fatally shot by liquor store owner, Soon Ja Du. The video footage shows a physical altercation between the two ultimately ending with Du shooting the teenager in the back of her head as she was leaving the store. In her testimony, Du stated she believed Harlins was trying to steal a bottle of orange juice that was placed in her backpack but Latasha died with the money in her hand.
Insult was added to injury when the jury found Soon Ja Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter but the judge, Joyce Karlin decided to sentence Du to 5 years of probation, community service and a $500 fine instead. The black community was outraged and deeply saddened by the injustice shown by Judge Karlin that resulted in a woman nearly walking free after murdering a child. Many artists spoke out against the verdict, most notably Tupac Shakur. Tupac mentioned Latasha in songs like “Thugz Mansion” “Wonder If Heaven’s Got A Ghetto” and even dedicated “Keep Ya Head Up” to her in the beginning of his music video.
April 29, 1992: Officers Found Not Guilty in the Beating of Rodney King & The L.A Riots Begin
On the afternoon of April 29th, officers were acquitted of the beating of Rodney King. The footage George Holliday provided to KTLA allegedly had 10 seconds edited from the beginning which showed King charging at the officers. Because of this, the jury found they had to acquit the officers of the charges. This verdict was the final straw for the black community in Los Angeles.
The case ended at 3:15pm and by 3:45pm, protestors were outside of the courthouse. The community was outraged, confused and wanted answers. They were tired of experiencing injustice time and time again. The following five days were plagued with looting, violence and destruction of property. Los Angeles looked like a war zone and was placed under a curfew and the National Guard was deployed in attempt to settle tensions and obtain safety and control.
A Bit of Positivity: The Watts Gang Truce
Destruction and violence weren’t the only results of the tumultuous 1992 L.A Riots. Ultimately, the anger and frustration experienced throughout the city led to bonding and a sort of “peace treaty” amongst rival gangs in the city.
April 17, 1993: Two Officers Found Guilty of Violating Rodney King’s Civil Rights
Officer Koon and Officer Powell were found guilty by a federal jury of violating King’s civil rights when beating him nearly a year prior. The two officers were later sentenced to two and a half years in prison