The LA Riots broke out 25 years ago this month, after four white policemen were acquitted in the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King. The beating had been videotaped by a bystander and broadcast on newscasts worldwide. Two weeks later, a 15-year-old black girl, Latasha Harlins, was shot to death by Soon Ja Du, a Korean-American liquor store owner. That incident was also caught on tape by a surveillance camera and was repeatedly broadcast. Soon Ja Du was convicted of second degree murder and granted probation.
These events and the ensuing riots changed Los Angeles and its people.
After the Rodney King beating, Mayor Tom Bradley appointed a commission headed by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, which recommended reforms of the LAPD. Then came the verdicts and the rioting.
It became clear that the LAPD was completely unprepared for the violence and had no plan. Governor Pete Wilson called in the National Guard, which patrolled the streets for 17 days.
After the riots, Rodney King asked the infamous question, “can’t we all just get along?”
Back on the 20th anniversary KCRW took a look at the lasting effect of the riots on the city.
You can listen to that programming here.
Warren Olney also interviewed Rodney King, before his 2012 death.
At the time KCRW listeners shared their own memories of the riots and how they were impacted by them.
(Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Public Library/Gary Leonard)