Twenty years ago Sunday, Los Angeles erupted in riots that forever changed the city. Some conditions, like the LAPD's relationship with the community have improved, while the areas blighted by the riots still struggle today. Now hear from others as they tell their stories about a time that changed the way America saw race.
Lon McQ talks about the day the music stopped when KJLH, a black owned music radio station based in south Los Angeles stopped playing music when the riots began and instead took calls from residents who reported what they saw and vented their anger and frustration at the verdicts and the ensuing destruction of their community.
When Mark Craig heard the news of the verdict, he was filled with rage. He got in the car with some friends from his racially diverse suburb north of Los Angeles and raced to downtown LA, determined to express his anger and frustration at the injustice of the verdict. He felt betrayed by his country and was determined to let the world know. He and his friends found themselves smack in the middle of downtown LA in front of police headquarters. A melee ensued - cops facing off against a loud and racially diverse crowd of protesters and a swarm of media. The protesters shouted "no justice no peace" and looked to destroy anything they could find. In what became an iconic image, Craig, in his peace symbol t-shirt, throws his fists up in victory after the protesters set a parking lot kiosk on fire and toppled it over. Despite his optimistic perspective on life, Craig says that not much has changed in 20 years in terms of racial and economic struggles. "There will always be the haves and have nots" but he does what he can to be a positive influence on youth today.
Los Angeles firefighter Scott Miller was driving his fire truck through the thick of the riot chaos on April 29, 1992 when a car turned its headlights off and pulled up on the passenger side of his truck. A man in the car pulled out a gun and shot him in the face while he was behind the wheel. His recovery was nothing short of amazing. Within a year, he was back at work on light duty at the la fire dept working for the fire prevention bureau, and after 4 years of hoping he'd get back to fire fighting, he accepted the fact that given his disability with his left hand, he'd never fight fires again.
On April 29, 1992, Rosalina Nieves was just 9 years old. After coming home from school, she watched in horror as local TV stations in Los Angeles broadcast live images of mobs of people attacking passersby at the intersection of Florence and Normandy in the South Central section of L.A. The riots began after a jury acquitted four police officers in charges from beating black motorist Rodney King. The infamous intersection was just five blocks from her home. Scared for her dad's safety, she and her Mom continued to watch the news intently for any information that could keep them safe---especially since her dad hadn't yet made it home from work. The public service the news media provided that night, is one of the reasons, she says, that she chose to become a journalist herself. Today Rosalina works as an Assignment Editor for CNN in the Los Angeles bureau.
CNN journalists look back at their coverage of the 1992 riots that engulfed Los Angeles following the acquittals.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.