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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Line Between Radical Revolution and Riot

The Line Between Radical Revolution and Riot  By Chanel Mitchell

We have all heard the saying by Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” It was Wednesday, April 29th, 1992. The verdict was in and the community was enraged. Call out the LAPD, the National Guard and the US Marines. The city of Los Angeles was literally ON FIRE.  It was the disappointing acquittals of four LAPD officers in the Rodney King trial, the acquittal of Korean Liquor Store owner Soon Ja Du who murdered 15 year old Latasha Harlins and the continuous issues of police brutality, racism and social inequalities that sparked the 1992 LA Riots.

I was only 1 year old when the verdict was read. My family tells me of the community’s gatherings at local Barber shops, Beauty Salons and anywhere where there was a radio or television set to hear the fate of the four police officers who brutally beat African American male, Rodney King. The world witnessed the beating on videotape and was sure that the LAPD officers would be punished for their crimes.

At 3:15pm that day, the verdict was read and to shock the world, the four officers were acquitted of assault and use of excessive force. People were frustrated, angry, disappointed and completely fed up.
Just a few hours  after the verdict, around 6:45pm my grandparents, who resided in South Central Los Angeles, recall the gathering of people on the streets of Florence and Normandie as rallies rapidly grew into angry mobs and rioting began. It was that moment where a white male truck driver by the name of Reginald Denny pulled into that intersection of Florence and Normandie , was  forced  from his truck and beaten nearly to death my rioters.

As seen live on television, rioting began with the attacking of cars and innocent people, looting then arson. My Grandpa tells me that all you could hear was yelling, screaming, sirens and full on commotion. Your lungs were contaminated the 3,600 fires that were set. Businesses were burning and retail stores were trashed by looters who felt that their doings were justified.  The scene was described like a warzone.Many people, my grandfather included, felt that their only options were to hide in their homes or join the so called “revolution.”  Some family members admit participating in looting from grocery stores recalling taking meat from the local meat market to feed the family. Although they were doing wrong, the felt that these extreme actions were the only way that issues of police brutality, racism and social inequalities could be confronted.

Over the next 6 days, rioting continues with looting, arson and murder. A noted 55 people were killed, 10 of whom were killed by the police and thousands were injured. Over the course of rioting 1,000 buildings were destroyed and there was an estimated $1 Billion dollars in damages. The Los Angeles community was destroyed.  In the end, as an effort to end the violent terror, Governor Pete Wilson requested federal assistance. About 10,000 members of the National Guard, law enforcement officers and military officers patrolled the streets until rioting was under control.

To prevent such things like the Rodney King incident or rioting of the community, the LAPD and their leader Bernard Parks initiated methods of change. They increased their number of minority officers and analyzed the use of obsessive force upon victims. Reporting of police brutality decreased and the community was at ease.  Although changes have been made, corruption within the LAPD is still confronted. Most recently, we have witnessed the manhunt of Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer who began a killing spree as a result of these claimed corruptions. What we learn from this is that anger of injustice sparks controversial revolutions and when people are fed up they act upon those emotions and sometimes they aren’t the most ethical decisions. What is true is that violent actions do not cause change but ultimately makes the situation worse.

The question that I leave you with is where is the line between radical revolution and riot? 

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