The 1992 Los Angeles Riots Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


The relations between white and black citizens of the United States always attract the attention of different representatives from the press and TV. One of the most significant events, which affected a lot the rights of African Americans and other not “native” citizens of America, were the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The background for those riots was the arrest of one African American man, Rodney King, by white police officers on March 3, 1992. The point is that the black man was beaten before the very arrest.

Numerous injuries and wounds, a videotape, and numerous depositions were the strongest arguments of the officers’ guilt and their carelessness. Rodney King had to pass through three plastic operations to look like a normal man, as he was before the arrest. (Smith 46) However, April 29, 1992, was the date when four of five police officers were acquitted, and only one of them, Laurence Powell, was accused. In response to such injustice, numerous riots broke out in a moment on the streets of Los Angeles.

Even if the Los Angeles riots lasted about 5-6 days, their effects were rather considerable: lots of innocent families and children faced losses; they were scared both to go outside and to stay at home because the anger of African Americans and other minorities in the United States had no limits and distinctions.

1992 LA Riots: the Beginning

In fact, at the beginning of 1992, people faced numerous problems: high unemployment, car culture, and race inequality. Any of these factors may serve as a good starting point to the rebellions and riots. People did not get opportunities to earn for living and use their potential to develop.

However, the verdict against the police officers was that very straw that evoked all anger and misunderstandings among society. The participation of the press and the publicity of the case and its details provided people with the opportunity to follow the events and analyze who was wrong and who was right.

“The LA riots erupted on 29 April 1992 after a jury acquitted four LS police officers accused in the beating of Rodney King, a black motorist who, while driving under the influence of alcohol, had led California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department officers on a high-speed chase and subsequently attempted to assault the arresting officers.” (Fastabend et al. 90)

During those days, one of the most terrible disturbances made by the civilians took place in the history of Los Angeles. At the very first day, more than two dozen rebels were admitted to the room of Martin Luther King Center; and about eight people were killed (Los Angeles Times). It was only the beginning. No one knew what would be further.

The Rising of Discontent during the 1992 LA Riots

The riots, which started on April 29, 1992, were considered to be peaceful, and the only purpose that the rebels wanted to achieve was to protest against the verdict of the courthouse. However, with some time, the crowd, gathered outside the Simi Valley (Ventura County), became angry and started swamping the LAPD representatives. Beating and screams could not be stopped from that period. People wanted justice. Rioters started setting fire to business officers and beating their owners.

They stole the cars both empty and with some people inside. Those who tried to resist were beaten. It did not matter whether there was a family, young lady, or an old man – rioters did not make distinctions.

They had the only purpose to destroy everything in their ways and demonstrate their power and rights. “The 1992 L.A. riots involved a rainbow of ethnic and racial groups as both victims and perpetrators. The multiethnic conflict punctured the myth that had been carefully nurtured by the city’s politicians and corporate executives.” (Buff 267)

Some business owners were ready to defend their properties. For example, the Korean-American store owners decided to use the same “assault weapons” against the assailants to save their products and not to allow people to hurt their families. (Pratt, 23) Because of such cruel attacks, people could not leave their houses and other building without proper protection. Mothers were worried about their children. During those several days, they thought over that terrible future, in which their children could live in.

People did not see another way to rebel but start beating the others to show that every person on the planet had some power and could use it any time. Children’s fights at classes flared out with an unbelievable speed. The video, where police officers beat Rodney King, was available everywhere. Both grown-ups and children could watch it.

Even the grown-ups could understand how unfair and wrong all those actions were, children, did not want to plunge into details and tried to find any possible reason to start fighting. Was it right to show the video to everybody? Hardly! People should be able to be responsible for their actions, and not every child is ready to comprehend the idea of crime and punishment.

“During the L.A. riots, as TV cameras rolled, white truck driver Reginald Denny was pulled from his cab and nearly beaten to death by what came to be known as the “L.A. 4+”, seven young black men.” (Friedman and Squire 84) It was a kind of response to the actions of March 3, 1992. The point is that almost all black people supported those actions. They underlined the fact that if white people had the right to beat and main black citizens, all offended African Americans should have the same right.

The Consequences of the 1992 LA Riots

In six days, almost all the rebels were arrested. Half of the population blamed Rodney King for such a situation. However, such fame of his was not beneficial to him and his family at all. One day he said a wonderful phrase, “Can we all just get along?” (Time) Of course, this only phrase could not stop all those angry African Americans and other dissatisfied minorities. However, with the help of armed force, the situation was changed for the better.

Rodney King won more than $3 millions from the City of Los Angeles during the case concerning the beating by the police officers. However, the great part of all this money he decided to spend on the city’s recovering. People could not continue living in such conditions, the conditions caused by his careless driving and officers’ madness.

During those six days, Los Angeles was full of fire, smog, and screaming. The losses of these days were really huge. For the city of peace and calm, 58 deaths, more than 12 000 arrests, 7 000 fires, and numerous injuries were too much. The total damage was about $717 million (Los Angeles Times).

Among the whole population of Los Angeles, the Asian representatives suffered a lot. White Americans also faced numerous losses (moral and financial). “The tragic intergroup tensions that caused a near meltdown of black-Asian Pacific relations during the 1992 Los Angeles riots can best be understood in terms of an ethnic succession model involving conflicts over neighborhood turf, business opportunities, and political preferment.” (Nakanishi and Lai 239)


People always can find a reason for the quarrel; the only thing they need is a desire. In 1992, the situation in Los Angeles was not simple. People did want to work and help their families. However, racial inequality and ethnicity played a crucial role, even during those times. This world may be symbolically divided into two parts: whites and blacks. Is it possible that people of any race can comprehend each other without additional force and losses?

The events of April 29, 1992, demonstrate how to own innocent breaking of set traffic regulations may lead to several day-lasting riots and deaths. There is no person in the world, who wants to break some rule. From time to time, it is inherent to any human being. However, no person in the world has the right to judge and kill.

The police officers broke lots of rule, and some families lost their members. The impact of the 1992 Los Angeles riots on families is really great, because people of different age, race, and status were involved into those actions, the actions, which cost 58 lives in 6 days.

Works Cited

Buff, Rachel. Immigrant Rights in the Shadows of Citizenship. New York: NYU Press, 2008.

Charting the Hours of Chaos. Los Angeles Times. 2002. Web.

Fastabend, David, Schnaubelt, Christopher, M., Mendel, William, W., and Munger, Murl, D. Military Aid to Civil Authorities. DIANE Publishing, 1999.

Friedman, Ellen, G. and Squire, Corinne. Morality USA. U of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Gray, Madison. The L.A. Riots: 15 Years after Rodney King. Copyright Times Inc. 2007. Web.

Nakanishi, Don, T. and Lai, James, S. Asian American Politics. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Pratt, Larry. “Of Assault Weapons, Gun Control, and the Second Amendment.” The Washington Times. June 7, 1996, 23.

Smith, Anna, D. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Dramatist’s Play Service, 2003.

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