This Day in Black History: L.A. Riots

From the African American Registry

Burning in South Central

Burning in South Central

On this date The Los Angeles (Rodney King) Riot began in 1992. One of the first major urban insurrections in the United States after the 1960s, this riot shocked many Americans who had come to believe that the days of explosive racial tensions were behind them.

Like Los Angeles’ Watts Riot of 1965, the 1992 rioting was sparked by an act of anti-Black police brutality. On March 3, 1991, police officers in Los Angeles, California, stopped a car driven by a 34-year-old African-American named Rodney King, who, they said, was speeding. According to the officers, King emerged from his automobile in an aggressive manner that suggested he might have been high on drugs. Before handcuffing King, the police delivered some 56 blows and kicks and a number of shocks from a stun gun to the fallen body of the suspect.

A bystander captured the beating on videotape and within two days the footage was being broadcast on national television. King brought charges of brutality against four of the policemen. The officers, who claimed they acted in self-defense, were tried before a predominantly white jury in a white middle-class suburb of Los Angeles. On April 29, 1992, all four men were acquitted. Within two and a half hours of the verdict, a crowd of furious protesters gathered at the corner of Florence and Normandie Streets in South Central Los Angeles and through the next day and night rioting exploded across 50 square miles. At the same time, smaller disturbances were erupting in cities such as San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Read more about the riots here.