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The days Los Angeles burned, the 1992 riots legacy 30 years later

“One of the most astounding things about the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the response of the LAPD, which is to say no response at all”

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Reginald Denny's truck stopped in the middle of the intersection of Florence and Normandie (Screenshot/LNS/KCOP13)

LOS ANGELES – It was a Wednesday, a verdict from the jury in Simi Valley in the case of four Los Angeles Police Department officers charged in the brutal beating of a Black man after a felony traffic stop the previous year was expected at any moment and tensions were running high in LA’s minority neighborhoods.

Rodney King, who was on parole for robbery, was beaten by LAPD officers during his arrest after a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991, for driving while intoxicated on the 210 freeway. When LAPD and California Highway Patrol cruisers finally stopped him, King was ordered out of the car.

What happened next was caught on video by a bystander as four LAPD officers then kicked him repeatedly and beat him with their batons for approximately 15 minutes. The video showed that more than a dozen other officers stood by, watching and some even were commenting on the beating.

King’s injuries resulted in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage.

The graphic video of the attack was broadcast into homes in Southern California and then across the nation and worldwide provoking outrage and calls for the immediate removal of then LAPD Chief Darryl Gates.

Emotions ran so high that the trial of the four officers who were arrested on brutality and other criminal charges was ordered moved to Ventura County after a state appellate court panel ruled that political fallout and community anger was such that the officers could not get a fair hearing in Los Angeles because of “excessive publicity and a highly charged political climate,” the Los Angeles Times noted, and so the trial was moved. Simi Valley was more convenient geographically than Alameda County, a venue the prosecution preferred.

The four police officers indicted for brutalizing black motorist Rodney King in a videotaped attack are shown in these police mug shots taken March 14, 1991. From left, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, Officer Theodore J. Briseno, Officer Timothy E. Wind and Officer Laurence Powell. Two served time in prison and all four lost their careers. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office)

The trial got underway in early February of 1992 and in the last week of April the jury got the case. On April 29, 1992, a jury consisting of 12 residents from the distant suburbs of Ventura County — nine white, one Latino, one biracial, one Asian — found the four officers not guilty.

The acquittals were announced around 3 p.m. and less than three hours later, the unrest began.

A news helicopter piloted by Trans reporter-photo journalist Hanna Zoey Tur, who was then working for Los Angeles News Service/KCOP 13 TV, caught what arguably became the epic ground center in what would become a series of moving crowds of rioters spreading civil disturbances and massive property damage over the seven day period starting that afternoon on the 29th, lasting until May 4, 1992 when authorities ultimately regained control of both the City and County.

The civil unrest had commenced with gatherings of angered Angelenos especially Black residents not long after the verdict had been announced. But by 5:30 pm mobs had started to roam the streets of South Central LA with some limited property damage and vandalism. Then at around 6:46 pm, a truck entered the intersection at Florence and Normandie.

Tur and her Los Angeles News Service/KCOP 13 chopper crew caught what happened next and the live feed from the helicopter was broadcast to the nation and the world. A group of Black men who came to be known as the “L.A. Four” grabbed the 39-year-old truck driver, Reginald Oliver Denny and dragged him out of the truck.

Denny was beaten with fists, kicked, and struck with a cinder block, one man hurled a five-pound oxygenator at Denny’s head and the other kicked him and hit him with a claw hammer. While the beating continued Tur and her chopper continued to circle the scene Tur noting on air that there were virtually no LAPD units within sight of the attack.

After the beating ended, some men threw beer bottles at the unconscious body and a man searched Denny’s back pockets, taking his wallet. The attackers were chased off by locals who ran to assist the badly injured truck driver.

Denny suffered a fractured skull and impairment of his speech and his ability to walk, for which he underwent years of rehabilitative therapy.

The rioting spread to other sections of the city as residents set fires, looted and destroyed liquor stores, grocery stores, retail shops and fast food restaurants. Light-skinned motorists — both white and Latino — were targeted; some were pulled out of their cars and beaten.

There was more than the Rodney King case that exacerbated racial tensions in LA that Spring.

The same month as Rodney King’s beating the year before, a Korean store owner in South Los Angeles had shot and killed a 15-year-old African-American girl named Latasha Harlins, who was accused of trying to steal orange juice. It was later discovered Harlins was clutching money to pay for the juice when she was killed. The store owner received probation and a $500 fine, NPR reported in 2017.

The incident heightened tensions between Koreans and African-Americans, and intensified the black community’s frustration with the criminal justice system.

The other contributing factor was that the LAPD was seen by the city’s minority populations as little more than an army of occupation. In a 2017 in an interview with NPR’s Grigsby Bates, lawyer and civil rights activist Connie Rice said; “What we had was aggressive paramilitary policing with a culture that was mean and cruel, racist and abusive of force in communities of color, particularly poor communities of color.” 

“It was an open campaign to suppress and contain the black community,” she added noting; “LAPD didn’t even feel it was necessary to distinguish between pruning out a suspected criminal where they had probable cause to stop and just stopping African-American judges and senators and prominent athletes and celebrities simply because they were driving nice cars.”

When 911 calls about the violence started coming in, LAPD units were not deployed immediately. In fact LAPD Chief Gates announced early in the afternoon of April 29 that his officers had the situation under control.

“One of the most astounding things about the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the response of the LAPD, which is to say no response at all,” says author Joe Domanick, who has studied and written about the riots, in an interview with NPR’s Grigsby Bates.

That night, Gates went to speak at a fundraiser in West Los Angeles and reportedly ordered cops to retreat. Police did not respond to incidents of looting and violence around the city until almost three hours after the original rioting broke out.

For the rest of the night, the scene at Florence and Normandie repeated itself with rioters across the city. Just before 9 p.m. that night, Mayor Tom Bradley called for a state of emergency, and California Gov. Pete Wilson ordered 2,000 National Guard troops to report to the city.

On May 1, the third day of the riots, Rodney King himself attempted to publicly appeal to Los Angeles residents to stop fighting. He stood outside a Beverly Hills courthouse with his lawyer and asked “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

Ultimately there were 50 plus riot-related deaths including 10 people who were shot and killed by LAPD officers and National Guardsmen. More than 2,000 people were injured, and nearly 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists were arrested.

Screenshot/KNBC 4 Los Angeles, April 30, 1992

More than 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and approximately 2,000 Korean-run businesses were also damaged or destroyed. In all, approximately $1 billion worth of property was destroyed.

The Arlington, Virginia based think-tank the Rand Corporation found of those arrested during the riots, 36 percent were African-Americans and 51 percent were Latinos.

The Rodney King beating and the riots that came out of social issues that still have not been resolved as most recently evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement propelled by ongoing killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement agencies across the nation.

The relationship between the Black community and law enforcement remains frigid. According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, Black people make up less than 10 percent of the population in L.A. County, but 24 percent of law enforcement killings.

The economic disparities that concerned Black people in 1992 also persist today, including vast wealth inequality that affects multiple nonwhite groups. Remnants of the uprising still stand in the form of wrecked buildings never repaired.  

The Los Angeles Times noted on Thursday that for all the strides that have been made since the 1992 L.A. riots, many Angelenos believe their city may still be a powder keg, according to a survey by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.

The share of L.A. residents who expect that another wave of “riots and disturbances” will occur has hit the highest peak since the survey launched in 1997, with 68% saying it was either very or somewhat likely. Nearly 40% believe race relations in the city have worsened over the last four years.

Cecil Rhambo, the police chief at the Los Angeles International Airport, who is currently running to replace Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, in an interview with NBC News journalist Curtis Bunn said that some elements of Black life have improved over the last three decades, but not so much that an unpopular verdict involving a Black person and white law enforcement would not ignite another explosion of emotions onto the streets.

“There’s always a potential for riots or an uprising in the future,” he said. “Right now, inflation is running amok, largely in part due to what’s happening around the world that we can’t control. Covid hasn’t gone away. And so, I think there’s always an opportunity for things to get so bad that people repeat history.” 

That history can be repeated, Rhambo said, because the potential for violence against Black people by law enforcement — with no one held accountable — remains strong.

“We just want to stop being mistreated by the police,” he said. “It’s just a basic common decency of how we treat people. That was the tipping point in 1992. If the George Floyd verdict had been different, I would not have been surprised if something happened. In the 1965 Watts riots and in ’92, it was the perfect storm that led to the violence. We have a perfect storm going on now that creates this powder keg. So there’s always a potential for that in the future.” 

27 Photos of the Horrific 1992 Los Angeles Riots:

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Additional reporting from NPR, The Los Angeles Times, and NBC News Los Angeles

Los Angeles

LA Times: LAPD execute search warrants in racist audio leak probe

It is unclear how the recordings were made. Recording conversations without a person’s consent is illegal in California, with rare exceptions

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LAPD Chief Michel Moore being interviewed by KTLA 5 in October (Photo Credit: LAPD Public Affairs/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – Several law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that Los Angeles Police Department detectives have served several search warrants as they attempt to find out who recorded a meeting filled with racist and offensive comments among three L.A. City Council members and a powerful labor leader.

The Times reported that the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing, did not identify the specific targets. But they said the department obtained warrants for several social media accounts, including the Reddit account that first posted the audio leak.

This past October, LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced in a press briefing that detectives were investigating the source of the leaked racist recordings that thrust City Hall into a harsh national spotlight.

“The department has initiated a criminal investigation into the allegation of eavesdropping into the L.A. Fed meeting involving then-Councilperson Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Councilmember Kevin de León and the Fed president Mr. [ Ron] Herrera,” Moore said, referring to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The recordings took place at the offices of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has called the leak “illegal” and vowed to have those involved prosecuted. The union attempted to block the Los Angeles Times from publishing details of the recordings, saying they were obtained illegally. The Times refused to halt publication.

It is unclear how the recordings were made. Recording conversations without a person’s consent is illegal in California, with rare exceptions.

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Los Angeles

Trans remembrance vigil held at LA LGBT Center

“We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity”

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LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad

HOLLYWOOD – A Trans Remembrance Vigil was held at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Monday, November 21st.

Candles and white, pink, and lavender flowers mounted on tiers draped by a trans flag adorned the center stage. A large monitor served as the focal point of the evening above the memorial display. 

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles started the ceremony with an acapella performance. Following the song of hope and redemption, opening remarks were given at the pulpit by the Anti-violence project manager for the LGBT center, Mariana Morroquin, and representatives from the Trans Wellness Center, Bienstar Human Services, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Friends Community Center, APAIT, and [email protected] 

Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“I think it is very important to acknowledge our partners,” said Morroquin, somberly addressing the seated audience of about one hundred and fifty. “We know that hate is real. A lot of us have seen hate pretty close. We are very grateful to have you. We open our arms to receive your love and your support. The way we support each other is by providing jobs, providing spaces for us, and providing opportunities. Because hate is out there. We need this space. We need to welcome everyone. I want you to keep that in your heart. And tomorrow, when we get back to work, let us open our hearts and our minds. Don’t make decisions for us. Invite us to those tables. We know what we need. We’ve been doing this forever. We are going to keep fighting because this is what we do.” 

She then added, “We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity. We gather because we must remember what is worth fighting for. For now, we commemorate. We tell the stories of the ones we lost. For tonight, that will be enough.” 

One by one, members of the audience approached the pulpit to read the names and stories of a multitude of trans people whose deaths were the tragic result of hate crimes. The photos, names, and ages of the victims were displayed on the center-stage monitor. 

“My name is Nikai David,” said one speaker, the photo of a pale, curly-haired young lady displayed behind them. “I am a model and social media influencer who aspired one day to own my own clothing boutique. I had just celebrated my birthday a week before I was shot in Oakland California, on December 4th, 202. I was thirty-three years old.” 

Stories of these deaths included shootings by assailants, police, and family members, brutal beatings, and stabbings. The bodies of these victims were found in their homes, in garbage cans, and on streets where they were left, still dying, among other locations. 

The final name read was Daniel David Aston, who died in the recent Club Q mass shooting.  This year, TDOR came on the heels of the senseless massacre in Colorado Springs that left five members of the LGBTQ+ community dead and 25 injured. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer gave an impassioned closing speech, first inviting the audience to take several deep breaths in unison. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“We will mourn our family, our siblings,” said Reverend Spencer,  “but we are not having our primary focus on the violent conclusion of their life. We are choosing to see them and know them and celebrate them in the full context of their living. For they were fierce and powerful people.”

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Los Angeles

Karen Bass speaks to Los Angeles for first time as mayor-elect

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background & love for the city of LA She addressed issues including homelessness

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Karen Bass speaks to LA for the 1st time as mayor-elect (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.) addressed the City of Los Angeles for the first time as mayor-elect since she was declared winner Wednesday and her opponent billionaire real estate magnate Rick Caruso conceded in a press conference.

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background and love for the city of Los Angeles. She addressed issues including homelessness and economic hardship promising that her administration would work hard to get things done for the city.

Her primary focus she said when she takes office in December is to declare a state of emergency and execute actions on the homeless crisis that has enveloped Los Angeles.

KABC 7: Karen Bass to address city of Los Angeles for the 1st time as mayor-elect:

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Los Angeles

Beloved North Hollywood bookstore suffers arson attack

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in North Hollywood for 35 years, the fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators

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The Iliad Bookshop/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – The Iliad Bookshop, located 5400 Cahuenga at the corner of Cahuenga and Chandler Blvds. in North Hollywood, was the target of an alleged arson attack at around 11 p.m. this past Thursday evening.

LA Fire firefighters responded to the blaze in front of the rear entrance which was fully engulfed after an unknown person or persons stacked up books and items left out by the store.

In interviews with KCBS2 LA, KABC7, and other media outlets, the bookshop’s owner Daniel Weinstein, said that a flyer, which he categorised as “terroristic,” was left at the scene of the blaze. The damage to the building was primarily to the entrance area with noticeable scorch marks, there was smoke damage inside as well. Weinstein added that the store’s iconic two live-in cats, Zeus and Apollo, were not harmed.

There was no information as to the extent of the damages to the store’s inventory.

In a GoFundMe started by the bookshop to repair and recover from the attack, Weinstein wrote:

“We were very lucky: neighbors saw the flames and flagged down a passing firetruck; had the firefighters arrived mere moments later, the entire store would probably have gone up. As it is, we suffered heavy damage to the main entry. The doors (which are metal) are still functional, but will need to be either replaced or fixed. We lost lighting fixtures, signage, and wood framing; we also suffered damage to the mural on the right side of the doors. Smoke filled the interior of the store, but we were able to rescue our two cats Zeus and Apollo and we’re hopeful that the damage to the books and fixtures is minimal.

We have high insurance deductibles so we need to cover the cost of replacing the exterior lights, sign, and trim, and touching up the mural. We expect the funds we’re looking for to be divided between repair costs and a mural artist.”

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in the North Hollywood community for over 35 years. In a March 2019 profile article by Los Angeleno magazine writer Augustus Britton, the shoppe was described as “a cozy mix of librarial reverence and old lore magic. The walls are lined with literary memorabilia, most notably art by R. Crumb and posters of Bukowski alongside author obituaries from days past. An aged photograph showing Weinstein drowning in a pile of hardcovers hangs on the wall.”

Britton goes on to say: “Weinstein’s 10 employees are awesome. There are no better poetic words to describe them. One could say they all look like fictional characters. Grateful Dead fans, Philip K. Dick spies or Stendhal savants eating Chinese food at the counter while the shop’s spunky cats Zeus and Apollo — more nods to Greek mythology — climb over their shoulders.”

The fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators.

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Los Angeles

LAPD asking for public’s help finding missing teen in West LA

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

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UPDATED: Monday Nov. 7, 2022 from KABC 7.

A Los Angeles teen who went missing from his home on Halloween night has now returned safely and been reunited with his family, police said Sunday.

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

Andrew’s mother Anna posted on Facebook that Andrew came home Saturday. She said her son left home voluntarily because he was struggling with some mental-health issues. He then decided to come home on his own volition after about five days of sleeping on the street.

She expressed thanks to the public for providing support and said Andrew saw some of the missing-person flyers “and knows now that he is cared about by so many people.”

LOS ANGELES – The family of 18-year-old Andrew Jason Wright and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit are asking for the public’s help in locating him. Wright, an 18-year-old high-school senior, was last seen Monday around 6 p.m. near the 1700 block of Federal Avenue in West Los Angeles.

Wright is described as an 18-year-old male Asian with brown hair and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs approximately 190 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black coat, maroon vest, gray pants, and black leather shoes.

His mother told KABC Eyewitness news that Wright has recently been suffering from depression and is extremely worried.

“He went on a walk around 6 p.m.” Anna Wright said. “He was supposed to go trick-or-treating with his little brother and sister at 7. And he never came back.”

Andrew’s father set up a search party where volunteers have been going around looking for him and passing out flyers.

If you have seen, or have any information regarding the whereabouts of Andrew Jason Wright, please contact Los Angeles Police Department, Missing Persons Unit, at (213) 996-1800.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).

Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most Keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

From KABC 7:

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Los Angeles

Trixie Mattel & LGBTQ youth celebrate 30th annual Models of Pride

The sponsor of this year’s Models of Pride was Glamazon L.A.—Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group along with the Los Angeles City College

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Trixie Mattel accepts Model of Pride Leadership Award from LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner (Photo Credit: LA LGBT Center)

LOS ANGELES — Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, Glamazon L.A., celebrated the 30th anniversary Models of Pride youth conference which drew hundreds of LGBTQ+ young people and allies—and special award-winner Trixie Mattel—to Los Angeles City College this past Saturday.

Attendees connected with peers, learned from role models, and got to celebrate with live performances and festivities. Parents and professionals had opportunities to learn from one another, build community, and gain tools to support the LGBTQ+ young people in their lives. 

The day’s highlights included drag queen, musician, entrepreneur, and television phenomenon Trixie Mattel accepting the first-ever Model of Pride Leadership Award.

“Right now, we are witnessing drag becoming weaponized by bad actors on the far right. They are banning Drag Queen Story Hours and trying to paint drag queens as enemies of family values,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner said in his opening remarks. “This is a disturbing trend happening across America. What we at the Los Angeles LGBT Center know, and what Trixie Mattel’s prolific career embodies, is that drag is powerful. It is a pathway to unlocking new potential for freeing yourselves of the shackles of gender norms and for embracing the creativity that is waiting to be unleashed inside each and every one of you.”

“I didn’t grow up with much representation on television. At most, gay people on TV were allowed to be the snippy gay assistant or the funny makeup artist or, at best, the sexually ambiguous villain,” Mattel said in her acceptance speech. “I think the reason drag is so inspiring is because queer people are told to minimize everything. We’re told to be the friend or the supporting character. Drag makes us think, what if I’m the main character? I want you guys to know that you are all the main character.”

The Rolf/Uribe Models of Pride Leadership Award, given annually to youth and adults who have been models of pride to the LGBTQ community, was awarded to youth activist Alex Flores and PFLAG Los Angeles Vice President Steve Krantz.

The event was attended by more than 500 youth—including more middle schoolers and younger attendees than any previous Models of Pride—as well as more than 200 parents and professionals. Youth, parents, and professionals attended 100 workshops, with the offerings for youth ranging from “Rights of Youth in CA Public Schools” to “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Adult workshops ranged from “When Your Kid Transitions” to “Creating Affirming Spaces for Queer & Trans Elementary-Age Children.”

Entertainment highlights included performances by the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Gay Freedom Band of Los Angeles, The Voice finalist Hailey Mia, Mayhem Miller of RuPaul’s Drag Race, DJ Brynn Taylor, and Mike Xavier. Attendees also enjoyed a continental breakfast, a catered backyard BBQ lunch, and a dessert extravaganza.


Models of Pride is the world’s largest free conference for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies, filled with life-enriching workshops, entertainment, resources, and more to help attendees to build confidence and self-esteem while developing valuable life skills. The conference also offers family members, educators, professionals, and all other LGBTQ+ supporters the opportunity to attend the Parents and Professionals Institute at Models of Pride, which offers tailored workshops, a resource fair and celebratory reception.

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