Op-Ed: Villaraigosa: We came together after the 1992 uprising. We can do it now.
If we’re going to talk about the Los Angeles riots it’s important to remember that the unrest wasn’t just about politics or race.
“There is no black-white division or segregation in Los Angeles,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told KPCC’s Laura K. Donahue in 1992.
“There is no class war in Los Angeles, and I don’t believe there can be one, because we are all one people.”
The L.A. riots erupted over a month and a half — from Friday, August 9, to Monday, August 18 — and spanned five different cities: Compton, Long Beach, West Covina, Long Beach, South Gate, and Van Nuys.
The riots were sparked by the beating of Rodney King by police officers as he was being transported.
It became a national obsession that would take years to fade. The story of an unarmed black man, who died of a heart attack after being beaten by police officers under arrest, was the biggest story in the country after King’s death and would be re-told for generations.
On the other side of the story, of course, was the city’s Police Department. They were accused of being racist, with some saying they didn’t even like blacks.
And there were other, lesser-known but important forces at work: the media, who, in the days following the riots, called the LAPD racist, said they had a “culture of terror” and that they “groomed potential police officers to become assassins, not police.”
It became front-page news around the world, and it had the effect of turning the focus away from violence on a personal level — what some called the LAPD’s “culture of terror” — to an issue of civil rights.