Today, Sunday, April 29, is the 20th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots, in which neighborhoods across Los Angeles exploded in violence, looting, arson and murder that began in what was then predominantly black South-Central L.A (now named South L.A., a predominantly Latino area).
The unrest resulted in part from anger over the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers—three white and one Latino—who were accused of brutally beating an African-American man, Rodney King, in 1991.
According to one of the most reliable estimates, the rioting claimed 53 lives, left thousands injured and reportedly damaged property worth $1 billion. The riots were widely considered the worst civil unrest in American history.
On this anniversary, it’s worth noting that the city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities have, by most accounts, transformed greatly, owing in part to shifting demographics, a transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department and economic changes across the region.
Here’s a sampling of assessments. Please add your own impressions of how things have changed in the last 20 years in the comments below.
Nearly 20 years after Los Angeles was shaken by one of the worst outbreaks of civil unrest in U.S. history, residents say the city is safer and relations between its racial and ethnic groups are significantly better than they were in 1992.
Most also say L.A. is unlikely to see riots in the coming years like those that swept the city after the 1992 acquittals of four Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney G. King, a new report shows. --Los Angeles Times
A succession of police chiefs – most notably William Bratton – have made reform a top priority. Eight years of federal oversight helped clean up the department. And the changing demographics of the LAPD – 37 percent white, compared with 59 percent in 1992 – has changed the character of the force, many say. --Christian Science Monitor
The biggest change has been the Los Angeles Police Department's approach to policing in our neighborhoods. The relationship between police and the community is far from perfect. Racial profiling, police brutality and general harassment of young men of color is still a significant problem in South L.A. as it is in South Florida, New York City, Pasadena, etc. ...
And the liquor store problem that became such a high-profile and visible target during the riots? While South L.A. still has too many liquor stores there has been a more than 20 percent reduction in alcohol outlets since 1992, thanks mostly to community activism. --Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO, Community Coalition, blogging on The Huffington Post
In many areas where urban blight and hostility between the Los Angeles Police Department and mostly African-American residents contributed to the urban unrest in 1992, businesses and shopping centers have replaced entire corridors once reduced to ashes. --CNN
In the 1990s, black residents made up roughly half the population in South Central. Today, Latinos account for about two-thirds of the residents in what is now called South Los Angeles — “Central” was officially scrubbed from the neighborhood’s name by the City Council in 2003. In the 20-some square miles that make up the area, stretching southwest of downtown from the Santa Monica Freeway to the Century Freeway and as far west as Inglewood, there are 80,000 fewer blacks than there were in 1990. ...
The new buildings that have gone up are mostly thanks either to government or to projects financed by nonprofit or church groups. Crime is down as it is throughout the city, but the dropout rates at high schools remain persistently high. Residents complain of a lack of public transportation and healthy food, though they succeeded in shutting down some of the liquor stores. --The New York Times
Here’s a list of links to other coverage of the 20th annivesary of the Los Angeles Riots. Please add your own in the comments.