Is It The L.A. 'Riots?' Or 'Rebellion?' 'Unrest?'

Apr 27, 2012
Originally published on April 27, 2012 5:05 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Twenty years ago this Sunday, a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of black motorist, Rodney King. Within hours, the city started to burn.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

RODNEY KING: I was in Studio City. I was sitting with my family in awe.

SIEGEL: Rodney King watched the violence escalate from his living room just a few miles away.

KING: We were warned by the FBI to stay in because the streets is going to be - it's going to be a lot of turmoil going on and it's like this has been going on. People are really tired of it.

SIEGEL: The rage is Los Angeles focused on the LAPD, but the department largely stood on the sidelines early on as drivers were pulled from their cars and businesses were ransacked.

Steve Gates was a captain in the LAPD at the time and brother of then chief Daryl Gates.

STEVE GATES: I was like the rest of the community. You know, where's LAPD? Where's our normal response? It was baffling. People were looting. People were burning buildings. They were hurting other people. They were shooting their firearms. It was a riot. I look at it as a low point. It was disturbing. It was very, very disturbing.

BLOCK: Disturbing, but not surprising for many in LA's black and minority communities. Connie Rice is a civil rights attorney who has spent her career focused on the LAPD.

CONNIE RICE: The way I viewed it and the way I saw it was as an explosion of anger and fury because of the emasculation of the community. This was like 40 years of kindling that had built up and the King beating was the match that lit the fire and that verdict was the explosion.

BLOCK: The Korean community in Los Angeles felt the full impact of that explosion, as Connie Rice put it. Many Koreans owned businesses in the hardest hit parts of the city, including Koreatown, west of downtown LA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.