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2013 by Hilary Braun Spark: The 1992 L.A. Riots All Rights Reserved. Printed at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This book was typeset in Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach in 1990, and Knockout, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 1994. It was printed on French Paper Companyâ€™s Parchtone text weight paper.
The 1992 L.A. Riots
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IT WASN’T ABOUT BURNING BUILDINGS, IT WAS ABOUT JUSTICE. YOU KNOW, NOT JUST FOR RODNEY KING, HE’S JUST THE SPARK. JUSTICE FOR ALL THE RODNEY KINGS THAT’S OUT THERE THAT DIDN’T GET ON CAMERA, DIDN’T GET ON FILM. AT A CERTAIN POINT, PEOPLE JUST GET SO FED UP THEY GET VIOLENT. Ice Cube
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THE WARNING CALL RODNEY KING TRIALS THE L.A. RIOTS
reet knowle st of th ng re st e th ss ne it w to t now abou e gang c th om fr e ub C e Ic ed m na r ke uc ompton, crazy motherf eeze qu S f of ed w sa a t go I f, of d lle With AttitudesWhen I’m ca with me The ck fu ya if y, bo o, to ou fY of ed ul and bodies are ha w I’m goin ho ’s at th s, as yo ff O e m t ge d e gonna hafta come an mumb to t ar st z ga ig N t ou in ow sh ’s at e punk motherfuckers th n off oi G bo m gu e lik t po a in em ok anna rumble Mix em and co ass So give it yo at d te in po ’s at th t ga a h it w erfucker like that e’s a murde er H e ov m ck ja a r fo n w do I’m h Ain’t no tellin when K-47 is A n so an M es rl ha C e lik rd co re p yo dancin with a crime e to to go n ca u yo e M ol fo n ki uc rf on’t make me act the mothe monthly and y, kl ee w yo ily da x, bo a th t ou e I’m knockin niggaz n with the c w do I’m at th y rl ea cl e se rs ke hem dumb motherfuc orhood hb ig ne ur yo in I’m n he w o S e m Boy you can’t fuck with p as fuck As I leave, believe I’m stom
called e the e poout ble, f on t up er rap s the toe, no yearly capital d, you pin but
or years South Central L.A. had been plagued by economic struggle, drug epidemics and violent crime. The LAPD had been accused of using excessive force and oppressive tactics towards African Americans, which created feelings bitterness and hatred for the police. Minority communities in South Central L.A. felt ignored, mistreated and misunderstood by America. There seemed to be no opportunity to improve their condition. With the Rodney King beatings caught on tape, many African Americans felt that justice would finally be served to those who had tried to oppress them. And when the trial jury announced that the four police officers were not guilty, years of pent up frustra-
tions exploded into rage and disorder in South Central L.A. By the end of the six days of rioting, 52 people had died, 2,000 were injured, 3,600 fires were set, 1,100 buildings were destroyed and there were $1 billion dollars in property damages. It was the biggest riot of the century. South IceCentral CubeL.A.’s job market had been hard hit by what the California Economic Development Department called the “most severe depressions of the post-war era”. Between 1991–1992 108,000 local jobs had vanished; the Black and Latino community were severely impacted. The crack epidemic of the 1980’s had destroyed families and communities. 1991 and 1992 were the worst years for crime with 1,025
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NO ONE SURVIVED ON THE STREETS WITHOUT A PROTECTIVE MASK. NO ONE SURVIVED NAKED. YOU HAD TO HAVE A ROLE. YOU HAD TO BE “THUG,” “PLAYA,” “ATHLETE,” “GANGSTA,” OR “DOPE MAN.” OTHERWISE, THERE WAS ONLY ONE ROLE LEFT TO YOU. “VICTIM.” Jerry Heller
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murders in 1991 and 1,092 in 1992. Gang violence was destroying the community from within itself. Children who witnessed this violence took in the message of worthlessness and a two-tier society in which they could never rise above. Police treatment towards African Americans was excessive and cruel. These racist tactics of oppression and the lack of job or educational opportunities kept the community in a cycle of violence. There was a 45% unemployment rate of African American males. It was difficult to make change or be heard. Chief Daryl Gates Operation Hammer became infamous for its racial-profiling and destruction in the 1980’s. Between 1984 and 1989, citizen reports of police brutality had risen 33%. Rap music became an outlet for many of the youth living in South Central L.A. All of the frustrations are well documented long before the L.A. Riots broke out. People were bringing attention to it, but no one was listening. South Central L.A. was infused with racial conflicts, bitterness and hatred of all kinds. It wasn’t just between white on black or black on black violence.
There was a great deal of tension between Korean Americans and African Americans, especially as the Korean community started being seen as taking the jobs African Americans once had. Cultural differences fueled misunderstandings that lead to a great deal of racism within South Central L.A. Just months prior to the Rodney King beatings, Latasha Harlins, a 15 year-old black girl was shot and killed by a Korean grocer Soon Ja Du in an altercation over a bottle of orange juice. After Harlins attempted to pay for the drink she had put in her backpack, Du accused her of stealing and grabbed Harlins by the sweater. Harlins knocked Du down and began to walk away but was shot. When brought to court, the judge let Du off with a $500 fine and some community service. This outraged many— essentially the sentence left the message the “taking of a black child’s life was scarcely more serious than drunk driving”. After this sentencing there were early warning signs of the riots that were going to occur. It fueled the hatred towards the white America and Koreans.
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COMIN STRAIGHT F YOUNG NIGGA GOT AND NOT THE OTHE THEY HAVE THE AU ITY FUCK THAT SHI 14 | SPARK
FROM THE UNDERG T IT BAD CUZ I’M BR ER COLOR SO POLIC UTHORITY TO KILL A IT, CUZ I AIN’T THA SPARK | 15
if I did d An ss cla in d pe up wh g in be r be em m re d ver had shit I coul didn’t plan it out B pa pa t, ul fa y m it as W s as y m d pe up wh a , mam it, had to make ke ta ’t dn ul co I e us ho e th of an m e th be eft me to s was my G’ in ak M ip gr ck clo I d an ck glo a t go k, oc it Down the bl n And he tc ki e th t ou a am m y m t ge to it sh is th Movin’ enough of r First you didn’t le el ef ck Ro e lik e rg la e liv to st Ju , lla fe a t I sock wn then we’ to e th t ec sp re t n’ do u yo If w no n’ ni ar le re ck but you’ ople only pe k ac Bl t rio n’ ki uc rf he ot m a s it’ n m da d n you down Go thro ss pa t n’ do en th wn to e th om fr t no re u’ yo ce so don’t try it If but it’s long ove ht rig t n’ ai It u yo t as bl t igh m s ol fo G. O. e use som nt G’s so you wa I o to e ec pi a t ge az gg ni e th l til e ac pe can’t have ettoI wond gh a t go en av He if er nd wo I e, di I if d An me a criminal Hea if er nd wo I to et gh a t go en av He if er nd wo aven got a ghetto I on Earth, tell me w re He to et gh a t go en av He if er nd wo I to a ghet hurts And 16 | SPARK
dn’t Broke ea y miswhy t give ’ll y hate ough erdue lader if aven what’s d even
n March 3, 1991 Rodney King became involved in a high speed car chase when he passed a traffic stop initiated by the California Highway Patrol. When King finally was caught and came out of his car, five white LAPD officers, Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano began beating him and unbeknownst to them, were being filmed. King was hit 56 times with a baton, kicked six times, had nine skull fractures, a broken eye socket and cheek bone, a broken leg and nerve damage. Many of these caused permanent damage. The tape was picked up by local and eventually national news sources and many felt that it would bring the
injustices of the LAPD to light. While it shocked many Americans, the South Central L.A. community was not surprised at all. Many hoped this exposure would bring reform to the LAPD and South Central community. Others saw it as a chance to get revenge on those who had repeatedly gotten away with oppression and violence against minorities. The jury that heard the case consisted of 10 whites, one Asian and one Latino in Simi Valley, a white conservative L.A. suburb. At 3:15 PM it was announced that they had found all four police officers innocent.
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IS THIS GONNA BE ENOUGH TO FINALLY BLOW LAPD OPEN? WILL IT FINALLY BE ENOUGH FOR THEM TO SEE WHAT EVERYDAY AFRICAN AMERICANS HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT FOR YEARS AND BEEN IGNORED? Connie Rice
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CROSS EXAMINATION OF OFFICER KOON BY LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY ALAN S. YOCHELSON AUGUST 6, 1992 20 | SPARK
Yochelson: Would it surprise you to know that there were a total of 56 blows struck with the baton? Koon: I’ve heard that figure before, yes, sir. Yochelson: Assuming that that figure is correct, that is what you refer to as a torrent of blows? Koon: At that time I did not realize 56 blows had been delivered. Yochelson: You appreciate that this was a big time use of force? Koon: That’s how I characterized it, yes, sir, it was a big time use of force. Yochelson: Now, you testified yesterday that as Mr. King reached the end of this event you felt that lethal force might be necessary? Koon: Did I feel that lethal force was going to possibly be used in this situation? Is that what you mean, sir? Yochelson: Yes.
Koon: Yes, I did. Yochelson: And by “Lethal Force” you mean deadly force; is that correct? Koon: That’s correct, sir; chokehold or a weapon. Yochelson: And when is deadly force authorized by Los Angeles Police Department? Koon: I’m not sure by what you mean by “when it is authorized.” Yochelson: When can you shoot somebody under LAPD policy? Koon: When they are an imminent threat to you. Yochelson: What kind of threat? Koon: Deadly threat to you. They have to pose a deadly threat to you. Yochelson: In other words, they have to be in a position to kill you? Koon: That’s correct, sir. Yochelson: And what was Mr. King doing here that led you to believe
that he was going to kill you or kill somebody? Koon: It was my belief and my perception he was under the influence of PCP. If he had grabbed my officer, it would have been a death grip. If he had grabbed the weapon, he would have had numerous targets, sir. Yochelson: He didn’t grab anybody during theses events, did he? Koon: No sir, he did not. Yochelson: He didn’t kick anybody during these events, did he? Koon: No, sir, he did not.
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Africans h e th r fo wn do t n’ ai u yo If e. in m n tti ge a say this and I’m one e th r fo wn do t n’ ai u yo If k. an bl t in po d e United States, perio u need to step yo vil De it. sh d an d ei th ar ap om fr a ric Af h er in Sout ep in and s st s an ric Af us d an rs he ot br us t le d an e k ass to the sid finger on y m t go I in et m so f of em k ea Br s as at th in some funk in it’s do-or-die They y cit e th in in liv t Bu y wh er nd wo az gg ni ger so ason why the re e Th nd ta rs de un ly al re t n’ do d an n ili ba where me King Me g ey dn Ro t no e m d an e ac pe r fo t ou t no e M ife and hand riot in em th d an on pt m Co in t rio em Th ng ba es s click, me gun go wanna see niggaz st ly al re t n’ do d an rs ke La ey th in n rio em ch Th o’clock, then a n ve se at wn do it ck Lo t oo sh to t ar st e lic oot and po em Them th t ns ai ag us s it’ z cu ve lo no ow sh t n’ do e ike Beirut M if I ma k ris n ow y m at ll ki d an , de k ea br to t or sp r love me cuz it’s w no ht rig t bu , wn to wn do g in ot lo en be e’s er to spray rioting but th ted fires down at the end o 24 | SPARK
here es that p your start n the woney take gun Long tart again never ay Dew Bree, of the
ithin a half hour of the verdict being announced, a crowd of over 300 formed at the court house to protest. Soon after, riots began all over South Central L.A. Tensions that had been built up for years burst at the seams. Thousands of stores were looted or destroyed, many of them Korean-owned stores. The attacks were usually anonymous; as long as it was operated by Koreans it was a target. At 6:45 PM, Reginald Denny was driving his truck through the intersection of Florence and Normandie when he was dragged out of his car by a mob of black residents and brutally beaten. Denny did nothing to instigate the attack, he was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was attacked
because he was white; he was a symbol of revenge. The root of oppression that African Americans felt had come from sources outside of their own community; yet they were destroying their own neighborhood from within and attacking people for the same reasons that made them feel victimized. The violence was a source of terror not just for the targets of the attacks, but for the families living in South Central L.A. Mothers worried if their children would make it home from school. Parents worried about the safety of their children in such an unstable situation where attacks often came out of left-field. Many sat at home wondering if their own family were involved in the rioting and if they
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“YOU SHOULD HAVE BE ING ATTENTION TO ICE WEREN’T PAYING ATTE CUBE. AND LOOK WHA
EEN PAYE CUBE. YOU ENTION TO ICE AT HAPPENED.” Dr. Todd Boyd
would come home safe. Many media sources showed the senseless looting of electronics and frivolities, but what didnâ€™t get as much coverage was how many people stole just so that they could have diapers. For most Americans watching this unfold at home, it was hard to believe the senseless violence and crime. The images they saw were horrific. Their actions were unquestionable cruel. Racist acts were unleashed on innocent victims solely based on their appearance. Koreans got the brunt of the brutality because they were the perfect scapegoat. But for the most part, the underlying causes of African American suppression were beyond the South Central L.A. borders.
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To see the events unfold without any knowledge of the environment that provoked it was to see days of warrantless attacks by an angry mob. But it was the small and steady doses of injustice that infiltrated African American life in South Central L.A. over many decades that gave rise to the 1992 L.A. Riots. It was growing up in a world without self worth; being told directly or indirectly that you were nothing. This was not a surprise attack, and it is bound to be repeated if there is no attempt to understand it. The Riots were the voice of the unheard, it was the only opportunity they saw to get their message across.
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I HAVE WILD MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER AND I LOOKING OUT OUR WINDOW AT NEWS HELICOPTERS IN THE SKY THEN TURNED AROUND AND SEEING THE IMAGES THEY WERE SHOOTING OF OUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD ON THE TELEVISION SCREEN. I REMEMBER THE ANXIETY ON MY MOTHERS FACE BECAUSE MY OLDER BROTHER WASN’T HOME FROM FOOTBALL PRACTICE YET. Jorge Rivas
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52 DEAD. 2,000 INJURED. 3,600 FIRES.
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By the end of the L.A. Riots, 52 people had died, over 2,000 were injured and 3,600 fires destroyed over 1,100 businesses. Overall, there was $1 billion in property damages. It was the biggest riot of the century The L.A. Riots did not happen out of the blue; it arose because people felt ignored by their country for years as if they were being swept under the rug. When voices were not heard by the mainstream media, South Central L.A.â€™s residents went to the recording studios and told the truth about what it was like to live there. Some of the most famous recordings in rap history predicted the L.A. Riots or were in response to the L.A. Riots. And they were still written off. But, as extreme
as the Riots were, many claim that little has changed locally and nationally. Many black residents left South Central L.A. and underlying racism between various communities were never truly addressed. Others argue that there is change, but it is slow. This is not a discussion necessary only for the L.A. residents, it must be a national discussion because it is a national issue. If the underlying causes of the riots are not contemplated and addressed, they are bound to repeat.
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Published on May 21, 2013