It has been 25 years since the LA Riots (or Rebellion, depending on your perspective) began at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central LA.
This pivotal moment in American history inspired quite a few recent documentaries and TV specials, bringing those fiery spring days back into the public’s consciousness.
Whether you were on the front lines or one of the millions who watched from the safety of their living rooms, here are 10 surprising things you should know…
The ’92 Riots are on record as the costliest in U.S. history. Over 1,000 buildings were destroyed to the tune of more than $1 billion in damages.
1. Then-L.A.P.D. police chief Darryl Gates was not only running the show in 1992, many reports also peg Gates as the lieutenant who ordered officers to leave the scene during the 1965 Watts rebellion 27 years earlier. Many believe that Gates decision in 1965 led to the riot popping off.
2. Rodney King was pulled over for speeding and driving while intoxicated on March 3rd, 1991. He was never indicted on any charges. We guess that whole beating thing took precedent.
3. L.A. rappers pretty much predicted the rebellion. Many of them had spoken on the issues between police and the community for years with records like NWA’s Fuck the Police and Ice T/Bodycount’s notorious Cop Killer. Ice Cube summed up the feelings of the hood best on the 1993 track “We Had to Tear this Muthafucka Up.”
4. Moving the trial from heavily African-American and Latino populated Los Angeles to the suburb of Simi Valley—which at the time had a one-percent African-American population—played a major role in securing the jury that acquitted Stacey C. Koon, Laurence M. Powell, Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind of assault.
5. The acquittal of the officers who beat King was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but the murder of Latasha Harlins and subsequent light sentencing of her killer, Korean shop owner Soon Ja Du, helped set it off. “A lot of people in the community say that her death and the incredible injustice of Soon Ja Du not paying any price for it was almost more than the officers being acquitted,” says Dan Lindsay, director of LA 92.
6. The ’92 Riots are on record as the costliest in U.S. history. Over 1,000 buildings were destroyed to the tune of more than $1 billion in damages.
7. The famous peace treaty between warring gangs in Watts actually took place the day before the LA Riots jumped off. Aided by Jim Brown, hundreds of members from Grape Street, PJ Watts, Bounty Hunters and Hacienda Village met at the Nickerson Gardens housing project for a cease fire that would inspire black and Latino gangs throughout the LA area.
8. On April 20th, 1994—nearly three years after the Riots took place—a jury ordered the City of Los Angeles to pay Rodney King $3.8 million as compensation for his beating. The city initially offered $1.25 million after admitting liability. King wanted $9.5 million.
9. Many feel that the climate after the riots nudged the jury on the O.J. Simpson trial to find him not guilty of murder because they feared a guilty verdict would set off another uprising. More than 100 police officers on horseback surrounded the LA County Courthouse on the day of the verdict. Needless to say, OJ got off and there were no riots.
10. Sadly, those riots might not be LA’s last. According to a poll conducted by Loyola Marymount University that has been surveying Los Angeles residents every five years since the then, nearly 6 out of 10 Los Angeles residents believe that another riot is likely in the next five years.
Photo: Getty Images/Gary Leonard/Contributor