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1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles

On April 29, 1992, immediately following and in response to the acquittal of four white police officers charged with the use of excessive force in their beating of black motorist Rodney King, thousands of people in Los Angeles took part in mass law-breaking, including taking goods from stores, and setting fires. These acts, most commonly characterized as riots, though characterized as an uprising, rebellion, or insurrection by some, lasted about four days. Estimates of the number of lives lost during the unrest vary between 50 and 60, and estimates of the material damage done vary between about $800 million and $1 billion. Approximately 600 fires were set, and about 10,000 people were arrested. In addition to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), about 10,000 soldiers from the California National Guard, and thousands of soldiers from the United States Army and Marines were deployed to suppress the crowds. Smaller, concommitant riots occurred in other United States cities, including San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Chicago.

Of those arrested, about 42% were African-American, 44% Latino, 9% White, and 2% other. These numbers are proportionate to the number of residents in the areas of Los Angeles where the events occurred, although they are not proportional to the racial make-up of Los Angeles as a whole. Stores owned by Korean immigrants were widely targeted, although stores owned by whites and blacks were also targetted.

In addition to the immediate trigger of the Rodney King verdict, there were many other factors cited as reasons for the unrest, including: the extremely high unemployment among residents of the South Central neighborhood, which had been hit very hard by the nation-wide recession; a long-standing perception that the LAPD engaged in racial profiling and used excessive force; and specific anger over the light sentence given to a Korean shop-owner for the shooting of Latasha Harlins, a young African-American. Additionally, in the time between the public revelation of King's beating and the trial verdict, the two largest LA street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, agreed to a truce with each other, and began working together to make political demands of the police and the LA political establishment.



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