LA Riots: Rodney King looks back on the 20-year anniversary (PHOTOS)


Protestors upset over the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial in Simi Valley, California, demonstrate outside of the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters in Washington D.C. 30 April 1992. The acquittal of four police officers in the beating of King led to widespread anger and rioting.


Paul J. Richards

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles is marking the 20-year anniversary of the LA riots this weekend, commemorating the violence that broke out April 29, 1992 after a California jury acquitted four LAPD officers who were videotaped beating black motorist Rodney King, msnbc.com reported

The riots were among the most lethal in US history, according to msnbc.com, leaving 54 dead, nearly 3,000 people injured, and thousands of businesses damaged or destroyed. In their anger over the acquittal, a mostly black mob dragged white truck driver Reginald Denny out of his truck and beat him unconscious at an intersection in South Los Angeles, which became one of the iconic images associated with the rioting. 

"It felt almost like we were headed to Armageddon," Rodney King told the Los Angeles Times in an interview. "Everybody had their own reasons. It wasn't just police brutality. It was the way people were being treated over the years. [...] It was a bad time, a combination of everything — race relations, police brutality, poverty. I was born [the year of] the Watts riots. This made me realize what people was going through back in the 60s. I thought God had turned his clock back." 

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King, who has a checkered past, is currently promoting his book "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption," which he co-wrote with Lawrence Spagnola, ABC News Channel 7 reported. It tells the story of his life before, during and since the now-infamous instance of police brutality that gave him a place in history. 

Many, King included, believe that the riots have improved the LAPD and made the city a better, more tolerant place. According to a study done by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, most Angelenos say LA is unlikely to see a repeat of such riots. 

John Hope Bryant, who founded a financial literacy and small business development program called Operation Hope after the riots, also argues that Los Angeles is better because of 1992's series of events, CNN reported

"We believe that you cannot have a rainbow without a storm first, and no doubt, 20 years later, while real problems remain to be solved in our underserved communities, south Los Angeles and its surrounding communities have made great strides from the chaos to becoming a community," Bryant told CNN. 

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To commemorate the uprisings, NBC News Los Angeles has launched a project on Twitter called @RealTimeLARiots, where it is chronicling the events leading up to and during the riots on Twitter, tweeting historical updates in chronological order. 

"We wanted to create a powerful way to remember such an important anniversary in LA's history," NBC's Olsen Ebright, who is running the feed, told local news site the LAist. "Nowadays, when news breaks, people reach for their phones and open Twitter. It's habitual. It's become just another part of the news cycle. So taking an event like the LA riots and putting it through that filter is an incredible way to tell that story." 

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