Los Angeles Riots

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The Worst Riot in U.S. History

“The last thing the leaders of Los Angeles expected in the early 1900s was that their city would become the scene of the nation’s deadliest urban race riot since the Civil War” (Cannon 3). On March 3, 1991 Rodney King was arrested for driving through stop signs and multiple lights. Rodney King, African-American, had been arrested once before and the police were convinced he was on the narcotic “PCP”. The entire arrest was filmed and several witnesses claimed that Rodney King resisted arrest even after being struck with a taser and hit with night sticks. Four Los Angeles Police Department officers were tried for using excessive force against Mr. King. However, the tape of the arrest did not display any of this. “During the trial, it was revealed that one officer, Laurence Powell, had boasted about beating Mr. King and had used a racial epithet while referring to a black couple” (Flores).

The tapes, known as the Holliday tapes after being filmed by a civilian George Holliday did not display these actions claimed by the defendants. The Los Angeles Police Department officers who beat Rodney King before arresting him were never convicted by the court. This caused an outbreak in the streets of Los Angeles and a four day riot for the courts not convicting the officers who beat the African-American man. “After he stopped, four L.A. police officers hit him more than 50 times with their batons, kicked him and shot him with stun guns. A man who had quietly stepped outside his home to observe the commotion videotaped most of it and turned a copy over to a local TV station” (Williams).

The four Los Angeles Police Department officers who were being convicted of beating a pedestrian arrived at the court at 3:00 P.M. and by 3:45 P.M., over three hundred and fifty stood in front of the Los Angeles County court. By nighttime the group doubled. “The civilians outnumbered the Los Angeles police greatly and this forced the police to retreat. By 8:00 P.M. the group that nearly doubled since earlier in the day started to walk out along the streets of Los Angeles” (Koon 6). While walking they set cars on fire and looted from the local stores nearby. The crowd that gathered were mostly African-Americans who were outraged by the beating of the Black Rodney King by four Caucasian police officers.

While driving home Caucasian bus driver, Reginald Oliver Denny, was stopped at a light nearby the courts where the riots had began. Those rioting saw Reginald and pulled him out of his bus. “After being dragged to the middle of the street Mr. Denny was beaten by multiple African-American pedestrians participating in the riots who lived in the town” (Flores). As news stations reported the action from above, they continued to show the horrible scene going on in the streets of Los Angeles as the police were nowhere to be found. Reginald Denny was hit with a brick by a man nearly killing him. Despite being beaten by all African-Americans, it was an African American in fact that saved Mr. Denny. After watching the beating on live television a pedestrian living close by, Bobby Green Jr., quickly drove to where Denny was and drove him to the hospital, saving his life.

Shortly after Reginald Oliver Denny was beaten, Guatemalan native Fidel Lopez was hit as well. The same man who threw a brick at Denny hit Mr. Lopez over the head with a stereo. This busted Fidel Lopez’s forehead open. As well as splitting his head open, they spray painted a majority of his body black. Not until after numerous surgeries and months of recovery until Fidel Lopez finally healed from the extensive beatings he took. “The aftermath of just the first night resulted into several casualties. What the people of Los Angeles had little clue of was that this riot would go on to last four more days and expand by the thousands” (Mansfield 3).

Not only Los Angeles, but all of the United States was stunned to see what had taken place in as little...
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