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Los Angeles Riots


LOS ANGELES RIOTS, an uprising that occurred in May 1992 following the acquittal of four white police officers in the 1991 beating of Rodney King, a black man who had led Los Angeles police on a high-speed automobile chase. The beating was videotaped by a bystander and broadcast repeatedly by news organizations. Most observers were shocked when the jury did not convict the officers, who had been shown savagely beating a prostrate King. The riots ravaged inner-city Los Angeles, killing at least fifty-three people and injuring twenty-four hundred. Rioters burned and looted stores—in some neighborhoods, shops owned by Korean Americans were targeted—leaving twelve hundred businesses destroyed. Cost estimates climbed to more than $1 billion. A white truck driver, Reginald Denny, became a national symbol of the riots when he was pulled from his vehicle in south-central Los Angeles and severely beaten by a group of young black men, leaving him unconscious and critically injured. That beating was also caught on videotape and dominated national news for some time. Another group of black residents came to Denny's rescue and took him to a hospital. In 1993 two of the acquitted officers were convicted on federal civil rights charges of assault with a deadly weapon and brutality. A commission investigating the riots concluded that the Los Angeles Police Department, then under police chief Daryl Gates, was inadequately prepared for violence. Rampant poverty, unemployment, and social decay were also blamed for igniting the uprising.


Abelmann, Nancy. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Gooding-Williams, Robert, ed. Reading Rodney King, Reading Urban Uprising. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Hunt, Darnell M. Screening the Los Angeles "Riots": Race, Seeing, and Resistance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Kathleen B.Culver/a. r.

See alsoRiots ; Riots, Urban .

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