Ten years later, L.A. bears scars of Rodney King riots

Bush touts economic development a decade after Rodney King race riots.

Ten years after Los Angeles was shaken by some of the worst riots in U.S. history, President George Bush went to the California city with proposals for economic development in hand.

South Central L.A. is still marked by burned out and boarded up buildings, although officials say most of the $1 billion in damage caused by four days of rioting has been repaired.

The poverty stricken neighbourhood exploded on April 29, 1992, following the acquittals of four white police officers caught on videotape beating Rodney King, a black motorist pulled over on an L.A. road.

By the time calm returned, 55 people had been killed, 2,000 more had been hurt, and entire city blocks with hundreds of buildings had been reduced to ash.

Lasting images from the mayhem include live footage of a white trucker, Reginald Denny, being pulled from the cab of his truck by a group of black men who beat him and left him bleeding in the street.

An official inquiry into the violence concluded L.A. police chief Daryl Gates had made no plans for fallout from the verdicts, and the police were caught unprepared when the riots started.

King himself later issued a plea for calm: "Can we all get along?"

Many still don't trust the police

A lot has changed since then, but problems remain.

A poll released by the L.A. Times newspaper Monday suggests most people in the city think race relations are better than they were a decade ago, but minorities still have trouble trusting the police.

The Times questioned 1,288 adults, 262 of them black.

The police department has changed from 10 years ago when it was 60 per cent white. White officers now make up 45 per cent of the force, with blacks and Hispanics making up 47 per cent.

A majority of blacks and Hispanics polled by the newspaper said police brutality is still a problem.

Large numbers of blacks (55 per cent) and Hispanics (45 per cent) also told the pollsters the violence was best described as a rebellion rather than rioting.

South Central L.A. remains a poor neighbourhood with high rates of both unemployment and crime.

Bush went to the second largest U.S. city touting his plans for economic development and for expanding the role of religious groups in social programs.