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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Could the L.A. Riots Repeat in the 21st Century?

By April 29, 2012

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Twenty years ago today residents outraged that an all-white jury chose not to convict the four police officers who savagely beat black motorist Rodney King of a crime set fire to Los Angeles. Looting and violence spread throughout the city, which suffered approximately $1 billion in property damage. Few telltale signs remain of the uprising that highlighted racial tensions throughout the United States. And as we all know, a black man now runs the country. But could the L.A. Riots happen again under the "right" conditions?

Sylvester Monroe, a Time magazine writer who reported on the riots, discussed the possibility of another urban uprising in a piece for TheRoot.com. Current residents of South Los Angeles, the epicenter of the 1992 uprising, told him they doubted the likelihood of a repeat rebellion.

"We get along better now," Chris Chambers, a black South L.A. native remarked. He views tensions between blacks and Korean storeowners as an impetus for the riots as well as the Rodney King beating. That's because about two weeks before the officers who beat King walked, Korean storeowner Soon Ja Du received no jail time for fatally shooting black teenager Latasha Harlins for allegedly stealing.

Chambers characterized Korean storeowners today as more respectful. "They don't pull out a gun when you walk into a store anymore," he said. "They realize that all blacks are not shoplifters, and they will actually have a conversation with you now."

Another black Angeleno whom Monroe spoke with--Lawrence Tolliver--also doubts that a recurrence of the L.A. Riots will take place.

"I do not feel it could happen again because [the police] are now accountable to us and want to be," he said. "If something like [the King beating] did happen today, it would be a lot different than in 1992. They would investigate it, and the current police chief would not let it get to that point. We have a lot more impact on the department now."

While another rebellion may not happen in Los Angeles, Monroe pointed out that it could happen elsewhere. The racial tensions that have flared up in some parts of the nation following Trayvon Martin's murder make it a real possibility. What if George Zimmerman were to be acquitted of murder and face no jail time for killing Martin? Outrage would certainly follow such a verdict. It remains to be seen if that outrage would lead to as situation as catastrophic as the L.A. uprising of 1992.


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