Twenty years ago today, a Los Angeles jury acquitted three police officers of assault in the case of Rodney King, a black man whose violent beating at the hand of white officers from the Los Angeles Police Department was caught on videotape.
What followed the verdict was an outburst of rioting and violence that left 53 people dead and turned Los Angeles into a virtual war zone for nearly six days. Within hours of the decision's announcement at 3:15 p.m. on April 29, 1992, protesters congregated at Normandie and Florence Streets in South Central Los Angeles, a gathering that quickly turned violent. Looting, attacks, arson and fighting soon followed, and spread to other parts of the city. Shopowners, particularly those in the Koreatown district, began to form armed security teams and exchange gunfire with looters.
At the time, the Los Angeles Times newspaper sent its photographers into the heart of the action, in order to document events as they developed. Twenty years later, the Times has published many of those photos as a retrospective on Framework, the paper's multimedia portal.
The photos below were taken by Kirk McKoy, Ken Lubas, Alan Duignan, Randy Leffingwell, Gary Friedman, Gerard Burkhart, Larry Davis, J. Albert Diaz, Joe Kennedy, Steve Dykes, Hyungkwon Kang, Patrick Downs, Rick Meyer and Marilyn Weiss for the Los Angeles Times. The photo of Rodney King's beating comes from George Holliday/Associated Press.
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 had a profound effect on the racial discourse in the United States. It also had an impact on popular culture.
In music, there were several reactions to the event, from Tom Petty's song "Peace in L.A." (which he rush released following the riots), and Sublime's "April 29, 1992".
In hip hop, Ice Cube's We Had To Tear This Mother----- Up, Dr. Dre's The Day The N----z Took Over and Tupac's Hellrazor all spoke to the outpouring of anger and violence that ripple through L.A. after the Rodney King verdict.
In film, Spike Lee's Malcolm X , his biopic of the black rights activist, was released several months after the riots, and the opening credits featured scenes of Rodney King's beating and a burning American flag, scored by an archival speech by Malcolm X himself.
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