The LA Riots, 20 Years Later

18 Apr

It’s been nearly 20 years since Los Angeles experienced one of the worst outbreaks of civil unrest in U.S. history. Spurred by the 1992 acquittals of four LAPD officers charged in the beating of Rodney King, the riots left 54 people dead, more than 2,300 injured, and caused nearly $1 billion in property damage.

Much has changed in the twenty years since those events transpired. The LAPD has rehabilitated its public image, the city’s rapid demographic shifts have tempered, and concerns about the weak local economy have supplanted public unease about safety, crime, and gangs.

A recent survey by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University found that Angelenos feel safer than they did in years past. Since the riots, residents reported that L.A. has improved in several areas, including race relations, the environment, crime, and gang activity.  Still, respondents felt that the local economy, jobs outlook, housing, public education, traffic, and healthcare in L.A. are all worse now than they were in 1992.

No one denies that there is still plenty of work to be done to eradicate the underlying social and economic factors that catalyzed the riots in 1992. Many groups have embraced the 20-year milestone as an opportunity to open up a dialogue about the progress that Los Angeles has made, and to identify where gaps still exist.

KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum convened a public forum that explored this question: “In all the talk about the ’92 Riots and race, what’s missing?”

The SAIGU (Serving Advocating Inspiring Giving Uniting –“saigu” is also the Korean term for April 29, 1992) committee is holding a commemorative service on April 29th to mark the 20th anniversary of the riots. The committee is composed “of community and faith leaders, non-profit organizations, and other individuals.” The service will provide people with an opportunity to record and preserve the stories of those affected by the L.A. Riots.

At USC, there will be a day-long event that focuses, in part, on the rise of social movement organization in the wake of the riots. To register for “From the Ashes” [PDF] click here.

And, for his part, Snoop Dogg has produced and narrated a documentary that “explores the connection between the violence manifested in the streets during the 1992 riots and the rage expressed” by Hip Hop artists in the early ‘90s.

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