Rodney King Riots

Published: 1992
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley testified before a House investigative subcommittee in Washington on June 14, 1982, looking into Interior Secretary James Watt’s offshore oil leasing plan. (UPI Photo/Chas Cancellare/Files)

Howard Dicus: A storm of anger hit Las Angeles in 1992.

Tom Bradley: “I was shocked, I was outrages.”

Howard Dicus: LA Mayor Tom Bradley was stunned that a white jury acquitted white officers of beating a black motorist, even though the whole world saw it. A witness had a camcorder.

Unknown Speaker: “Rodney King was not being abused.”

Howard Dicus: A jury member said, she felt the videos showed Rodney King resisting arrest.

Unknown Speaker: “Rodney King was directing the action.”

Howard Dicus: Many whites were amazed by that, but most blacks were infuriated.

Female Speaker: “God help America. I am grieved that 12 people could look at all of this evidence and come to this conclusion.”

Howard Dicus: Rioting broke out in South Las Angeles that night. UPI’s Bob Brill went to the scene and became part of the story.

Bob Brill: “A guy looked at me with the strangest look and he said, “You are white, what the hell are you doing here and then he looked past me as if to see someone come from behind me and no sooner than I see him looking past me I get hit in the back of the head with the beer bottle.”

Howard Dicus: While TV viewer saw a white truck driver beaten. Brill was a short distance away.

Bob Brill: “They just continued to stomp my face, kicked me in the head.”

Howard Dicus: The white LA Police Chief who hadn’t spoken to his black Mayor in a year, simply withheld his S.W.A.T. team from the riot zone and let looters and arsonists destroy the community by weeks end, black anger against white racism had gone to the very top.

Benjamin Hooks: “If we can’t have Justice then nobody will have Justice.”

Howard Dicus: That’s no man on the street. That’s respected civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks at a college commencement.

Benjamin Hooks: “We are tired of you coming to our churches, to our institutions when you look for our votes and help us saying we shall overcome and then forget to come to see about us, until you want our votes again.”

Howard Dicus: Who should appeal for calm, but Rodney King himself.

Rodney King: “People I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

Howard Dicus: Only rats died in this disaster, although one man was fired over it. This is the sound of water being pumped out of a network of abandoned tunnels underneath Chicago. A retaining wall was leaking and while one official dickered over the price of fixing it, it broke. The Chicago River poured in. Much of the commercial district was closed for days while basements were pumped out and dried out.