Monday, August 07, 2017

25 Years After the LA Rebellion.

It has been over 25 years since the LA rebellions of 1992, but I remember it just like yesterday. I was 8 and a half years old when it occurred. The rebellion didn’t happened because one of one event. It occurred by a combination of complex social and economic reasons. Los Angeles was born centuries ago and by the 1980’s, Los Angeles was changing. That time saw the rise of economic inequality, deindustrialization, the epidemic of police excessive usage of force against citizens, and new ethnic dynamics. One aspect of this dynamic was the growth of Korean businesses in predominately African American communities. Many Koreans back then were recent immigrants to America. Many black people felt that Koreans exploited black people and refused to give black people jobs in their stores. Many Koreans underestimated the vicious cycle of racial oppression that black people were experiencing (for decades in LA). The Korean population was divided among liberal Koreans who sincerely wanted racial reconciliation and human justice and more conservative Koreans who desired are more law and order philosophy (many of them heavily supported the Republican Party). Police mistrust is now new in Los Angeles. The Watts rebellion of 1965 came after decades of police terrorism and housing plus job discrimination against human beings. The “touch on crime” rhetoric and the further militarization of police agencies continued since the 1960’s. Many SWAT Team units massively grew since the 1960’s rebellions. Nixon promoted “law and order” including Reagan. This was an overt attack not only on black activism for change, but on the Warren court decisions that gave people constitutional protections from unlawful arrest and from the violation of habeas corpus rights. The underground drug trade, the War on Drugs (which was used as a pretext to dismantle many democratic rights especially under the Reagan administration), the prison industrial complex, continued poverty in poor areas, and gangs who enacted unjust violence exacerbated the tensions in Los Angeles. By the 1970’s, the post-World War II boom ended. Police state power in America grew along with police brutality (against black people, Hispanic people, etc.). This was mixed with massive union busting, unequal consumer services, lax educational services, layoffs, and cutbacks in social programs. Desperation was in the air by the 1980’s and early 1990’s. This entire situation caused an explosion of hurt, pain, and rebellion. The LA rebellion was done by black people, Hispanic people, and others.

Also, many racial and police related incidents accelerated the cause of the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion. One was Latisha Harlins (who was an innocent black girl) being killed by one Korean store owner. She was only 15. First, Soon Ja Du owned the Empire Liquor store. Harlins had money and put a bottle of orange juice in her backpack. Du falsely believed that Harlins wanted to steal when Harlins had money in her hand. Du grabbed Harlins by the sweater and snatched her backpack. Harlins used self-defense and struck Du 3 times with her fist. Harlins walked away. Later, the orange juice was dropped during the event. Du snatched the bottle from her. Harlins starts to leave and Du got a handgun to murder her in cold blood in the back of her head. She died instantly. This was in March 16, 1991. Later, the court only found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter. She was only given 5 years probation and 400 hours of community service plus a $500. This was a total injustice. Tupac dedicated a song to Latasha Harlins in his song “Keep Ya Head up” and other songs. Ice Cube made a song about the incident in the song “Black Korea” from his album Death Certificate. District Attorney Ira Reiner denounced Judge Karlin and pledged to use an unusual California law to bar her from trying criminal cases. "This was such a stunning miscarriage of justice that Judge Karlin cannot continue to hear criminal cases with any public credibility," he asserted. Denise (or Harlins’ aunt) tried her best to recall the Judge Karlin, but she was unsuccessful. The Harlins family held vigils outside the Du residence every year on the anniversary of her sentencing. RIP Sister Latasha Harlins.  The unjust beating of Rodney King by police terrorists ignited the rebellion also. The evening started in the evening of March 3, 1991. Rodney King had a high speed chase. He traveled through Lakeview Terrace in LA. Later, he came into a stop. After the two passengers were placed in the patrol car, five white Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers – Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano – attempted to subdue King, who came out of the car last.  Rodney King was tasered and brutally beaten with batons. Rodney King was severely injured. The video footage was recorded by a camcorder by a local resident named George Holliday from his apartment in the vicinity. It was 12 minutes long. Some clips were not released to the public. That footage was shown to the world. People issued widespread condemnation of the brutal assault against Rodney King. Even the mayor and LAPD chief of police Daryl Gates condemned the excessive use of force. Minority communities for years and decades complained about excessive usage of violence against people of color in Los Angeles. Some hoped that justice would be served and the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King would be in prison for a long period of time.

Many wanted Gates to resign. Later, there was the independent commission of the incident. The Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, informally known as the Christopher Commission, was formed in April 1991, in the wake of the Rodney King beating, by then-mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley. It was chaired by attorney Warren Christopher (who later became U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton). "The commission was created to conduct 'a full and fair examination of the structure and operation of the LAPD,' including its recruitment and training practices, internal disciplinary system, and citizen complaint system." This commission was similar to the Kerner report from the 1960’s. The Christopher Commission exposed how many significant LAPD officers used excessive force ignoring written guidelines on conduct to citizens. It found that management in the LAPD prevented accountability. It wanted new standard of accountability to make sure that people (who are cops) are responsible. The commission highlighted the problem of "repeat offenders" on the force, finding that of approximately 1,800 officers against whom an allegation of excessive force or improper tactics was made from 1986 to 1990, more than 1,400 had only one or two allegations. But 183 officers had four or more allegations, forty-four had six or more, sixteen had eight or more, and one had sixteen such allegations. Generally, the forty-four officers with six complaints or more had received positive performance evaluations that failed to record "sustained" complaints or to discuss their significance. This was a serious problem and black people have every right to be outraged at this pattern of oppression against our community. Four officers were charged with assault. The police trial was changed from Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in Ventura County. Simi Valley is a more conservative place. The jury was made up of nine whites, one biracial man, one Latino person, and one Asian person. The prosecutor was Terry White, who was an African American. The trial existed in 1992. On April 29, 1992, the jury acquitted all 4 officers of every charge (They couldn’t agree on a verdict for the fourth officer charged with using excessive force). This caused shockwaves in the black community. The justice system has opposed the interests of black people for a long time and this verdict was a turning point. Director John Singleton, who was in the crowd at the courthouse, predicted, "By having this verdict, what these people done, they lit the fuse to a bomb." The rebellion happened from April 29, 1992 to May 4, 1992.

The rebellion peaked in the next 2 days. April 29 was on a Wednesday. A dusk to dawn curfew and the deployment of the California Army National Guard eventually caused the rebellion to end. 63 people died during the event including 8 being killed by the police including 2 killed by guardsmen. As many as 2,383 people were reported 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 Koreans and other Asian ethnicities were widely targeted. On April 29, 2/3 of the LAPD were in Ventura, CA or out of town. The verdict came in 3:15 pm. By 3:45, more than 300 people appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse to protest the verdict. Anger and some incident happened in the Florence Avenue area. Mayor Bradley deplored the verdict, but wanted people to use calm without violence. At Florence and Halldale, 2 officers wanted assistance to arrest a young suspect. They arrive and arrested the youth. The young man was roughly handled and his name was 16 year old Seandel Daniels. The crowd berated the police as Daniels was known in the community. Bart Bartholomew (who was later attacked and had his driver side window broken), a freelance photographer for The New York Times, and Timothy Goldman, who began to record events with a camcorder over the next two hours. Lieutenant Moulin ordered the officers out of the area since he feared that the police would use deadly force. The officers were outnumbered and left. They didn’t have riot equipment. The crowd celebrated and moved south to Florence and Normandie. A liquor store named Tom’s Liquor was broken into by over 100 people.  As Timothy Goldman continued to record the scene on a personal camcorder, the Los Angeles News Service team of Marika Gerrard and Robert Tur arrived overhead in a news helicopter, broadcasting from the air. Henry Watson and other men assaulted Larry Tarvin, who was a truck driver. Many people beat up Asians and whites. An African American named Rodney helped Larry Tarvin to escape. The attack on Reginald Denny was at 6:46 pm. He was another truck driver. A group of black individuals almost beat him to death.  Damian Williams threw a brick at Denny that struck him in the skull, fracturing it in 91 places. One black man, Bobby Green Jr. of South Central LA saved Denny’s life. Fidel Lopez, a self-employed construction worker and Guatemalan immigrant, was pulled from his GMC pickup truck and robbed of nearly $2,000. Members of the rioters including Damian Williams smashed his forehead open with a car stereo as another rioter attempted to slice his ear off. He was spray painted black in his body. Another black man saved Lopez's life. Many people protested and used violence in Parker Center. Many turned over vehicles and set objects ablaze. Firefighters were shot at by people.  One firefighter was shot in the stomach. The first of the National Guard units, the 670th Military Police Company, had traveled almost 300 miles (480 kilometers) from its main armory and arrived in the afternoon to assist local police. They were initially deployed to a police command center and they began handing out bulletproof vests to the firefighters after encountering the unit whose member had been shot. Later the same evening, after receiving ammunition from the LA Police Academy and a local gun store, the MPs deployed to hold the Martin Luther King Shopping Mall in Watts. People protested and threw rocks in Lake View Terrace, LA. The curfew from Mayor Tom Bradley came on Thursday. The rebellion spread into Central Los Angeles from South Central. It came into Hollywood too. Then, it went south into Inglewood, Hawthorne, Compton, and Long Beach (which are cities in Southern California). Korean Americans used groups of gun armed people to protect their stores too. There were open gun battles between Koreans and others involved in the rebellion. Then President George H. W. Bush opposed the rebellion and allowed the California Army National Guard to intervene. On May 1, 1992,  Rodney King at an impromptu news conference in front of his lawyer's Los Angeles offices on Wilshire & Doheny, tearfully saying, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" Governor Pete Wilson wanted federal assistance. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act via Executive Order 12804. This allowed federalized Army National Guard and federal military personnel to come. The military came and many sports events were postponed. On May 2, 30,000 people attended a peace rally in Koreatown to support local merchants and support racial healing, around 11 am. The crisis calmed down by Sunday. During the aftermath, thousands of people in Los Angeles cleaned up their communities. Few violent incidents continued days later. Schools, banks, and businesses reopened. To Korean Americans, this event was Sa-I-Gu or four-two-nine” in Korean (which was the date of April 29, 1992). Ironically enough, the rebellion increased political activism of Korean Americans and other ethnic groups. Some wanted to unite with other minorities in LA to fight racial oppression and scapegoating, which were liberal Koreans. Others wanted to promote economic and social policies of the Republican Party. The Koreans wanted to advance their political causes just like African Americans wanted to promote our political causes. Also, it is important to respect the black people’s legitimate grievance of advancing more black owned enterprises in mostly black communities too. In other words, many black people felt that many Korean store owners disregarded the cultural sensibilities and the economic rights of black Americans in the black community. Hispanic people were involved in the rebellion too.

Many black people and Hispanic people united during the time for the sake of opposing political disenfranchisement and economic oppression. The rebellion was a multiethnic affair. Many Korean American, African American, and Hispanic American stores were destroyed in the rebellion. The rebellion existed by complex reasons of urban denial of legitimate services, police brutality, corporate exploitation, ethnic tensions, and economic inequality. The African-American Congressional representative of South Central Los Angeles, Democrat Maxine Waters, said that the events in L.A. constituted a "rebellion" or "insurrection" caused by the underlying reality of poverty and despair existing in the inner city. This state of affairs, she asserted, were brought about by a government which had all but abandoned the poor through the loss of local jobs and by the institutional discrimination encountered by people of racial minorities, especially at the hands of the police and financial institutions. She is 100 percent right. The criminal officers, who beaten Rodney King, were tried again on federal charges of this violation of civil rights. The decision came on April 17, 1993.  Two officers—Officer Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon—were found guilty, while officers Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind were acquitted. Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million in damages from the City of Los Angeles for the attack. Many organizations stepped forward to rebuild Los Angeles; South Central's Operation Hope and Koreatown's Saigu and KCCD (Korean Churches for Community Development), all raised millions to repair destruction and improve economic development. Many donations helped people to rebuild LA, but most of the local stores in the poorest areas were never rebuilt. Rodney King would pass away by an accidental drowning on June 17, 2012. 25 years later, racial tensions have improved in Los Angeles. Yet, economic inequality has grown since that time. The reason is that the middle class has declined since 1992. More middle class people live in the suburbs. Also, there is an increase of tech and service jobs (mostly gotten by the upper class and the rich) which many poor residents readily don’t have access to. The report by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs concluded that unemployment and poverty have worsened in some areas, and per-capita retail sales have dropped, due partially to a lack of large stores. Homelessness is still a problem in Los Angeles. The black population has radically declined in LA. From 1992–2007, the black population dropped by 123,000, while the Latino population grew more than 450,000. According to the Los Angeles police statistics, violent crime fell by 76% between 1992 and 2010 and tensions between racial groups have lessened; 60% of residents (like Dee Young) reported racial tension has improved in the past 20 years with decreasing gang activity. Likewise, police brutality is a problem in America. Groups like Black Lives Matter made the world see this problem also. The 1992 rebellion in LA was a prelude to future rebellions in Ferguson (in 2014) and Baltimore (in 2015). It was a reminder that we must fight for our rights in order to have freedom. Part of this freedom is about advancing black liberation.

By Timothy

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