The Los Angeles Riots
Though sparked by the Rodney King verdict, there were many other causes of the riots that erupted on the streets of Los Angeles on April 29, 1992. The Los Angeles riots in 1992 were devastating. The obvious issue portrayed through the media was black versus white. If you did not live in Los Angeles or California chances are you did not hear full coverage of the story, you heard a simple cut and dry portrayal of the events in South Central. If you heard one thing about the riots, it was that there was a man named Rodney King and he was a black male beaten with excessive force by four white Los Angeles police officers on Los Angeles concrete. The media portrayed the riots as black rage on the streets due to the not guilty verdict of the four Los Angeles policemen that were facing excessive force charges. The not guilty verdict may have been the initial cause, but the riots were not about Rodney King, they were about greater issues. Some of these issues were black versus white, blacks and Hispanics versus the police, blacks versus Koreans, and poor versus rich. The riots were do to all the underlying festering rage that had been building up in the residents of Los Angeles and the disbelief that police even when caught on tape, could get away with such brutality.
Los Angeles was just waiting for an event like the Rodney King verdict to explode. All that was needed was that one spark to ignite the anger in the citizens of South Central and cause the area to explode. South Central had been dealing with significant underlying racial and economic problems in the years since similar riots in Watts in '65. In 1965, steps taken to remedy the racial tension in the city were begun. In an effort to prevent future civil unrest in the city, then Gov. Pat Brown commissioned a committee led by John McCone to investigate the "underlying causes" of the '65 riots. The McCone Commission found that "poverty, racial divisions and other social conditions helped trigger the violence" (Pope). However, after the commissions report, interest in the Watts riots faded and adequate action was not taken to address these issues in the affected areas. At the conclusion of its investigation, the McCone Commission cited that "so serious and so explosive is the situation that, unless it is unchecked, the August riots may seem by comparison to be only a curtain-raiser for what could blow up one day in the future" (Pope). Although the city has changed in those years since the Watts riots, unfortunately, much has remained the same. This confession by the McCone Commission proved to be prophetical. The Watts riots left 34 dead and 600 buildings damaged or destroyed. The '92 riots caused 52 fatalities, and more than 1,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed. An anonymous man from Hollywood made a similar statement in '92 after the riots. He stated, "the verdict was just the spark-this (the riots) had been set for years before" (Smith).