In 1992, after the shock of the Rodney King not guilty verdict for the cops came down, South Los Angeles burst into flames. So what did the cops do? Did they go in to protect the citizens?
No, the chilling truth is the rioting did not stop during that first night of fury. Nor did it stop the next day, or the day after. It spread out throughout other LA areas over a six day period.
Though a police presence were deployed in the area, they were outnumbered, and ordered to watch only. Helicopters hovered overhead and the only thing they could do was film Reginald Denny’s beating.
The media took hold of one socialite asking a reporter, “Has Beverly Hills fallen yet?” It became a mocking slogan as it was revealed later that the police were ordered to protect the area and businesses there, and leave South LA and Koreatown on their own.
Many of the disturbances were concentrated in South Central LA, which was primarily composed of African American and Hispanic residents. Half of all riot arrestees and more than a third of those killed during the violence were Hispanic. Fifty-three people died during the riots, including ten who were shot dead by police and military forces, with as many as 2,000 people injured.
Estimates of the material losses vary between about $800 million and $1 billion. Approximately 3,600 fires were set, destroying 1,100 buildings, with fire calls coming once every minute at some points. Widespread looting also occurred. Stores owned by Korean and other Asian immigrants were widely targeted.
Korean-Americans, seeing the police force’s abandonment of Koreatown, organized armed security teams composed of store owners, who defended their livelihoods from assault by the mobs. Open gun battles were televised as Korean shopkeepers exchanged gunfire with armed looters. During the riots, many Korean immigrants from the area rushed to Koreatown, after Korean-language radio stations called for volunteers to guard against rioters. Many were armed, with a variety of improvised weapons, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles.
Due to their low social status and language barrier, Korean Americans received very little if any aid or protection from police authorities. David Joo, a manager of the gun store, said, “I want to make it clear that we didn’t open fire first. At that time, four police cars were there. Somebody started to shoot at us. The LAPD ran away in half a second. I never saw such a fast escape. I was pretty disappointed.” Carl Rhyu, a participant in the Korean immigrants’ armed response to the rioting, said, “If it was your own business and your own property, would you be willing to trust it to someone else?
We are glad the National Guard is here. They’re good backup. But when our shops were burning we called the police every five minutes; no response. At a shopping center several miles north of Koreatown, Jay Rhee, who estimated that he and others fired five hundred shots into the ground and air, said, “We have lost our faith in the police. Where were you when we needed you?” Korean Americans were ignored. Koreatown was isolated from South Central Los Angeles, yet despite such exclusion it was the heaviest hit.
Though much of the rioting was racial, most people saw it as a disintegration of civility. People rioted because of the built up anger and frustration of recent events. Even your average citizen just saw an opportunity to steal and they did.
So, what have we learned from history? We have learned that the 1% will be protected by the police and the military. The rest of us are on our own.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Los_Angeles_riots http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/riots-erupt-in-los-angele http://goo.gl/XLeb1