How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

On the legacy of Rodney King and the 1992 riots

Photo by Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

Rodney King during a press conference in May, 1992

Rodney King was an unlikely historical figure, thrust into the books at the age of 25 when his videotaped beating at the hands of Los Angeles police - and the officers' acquittal the following year - triggered the deadly 1992 L.A. riots. King would never be the same, nor would the city.

King died yesterday at 47, his body found by his fiancée in his backyard pool in the L.A. suburb of Rialto, Calif. His life had not been an easy one. Above and beyond his well-documented struggles with alcohol and drugs, he'd been saddled with living as a poster boy for police brutality. But as King is being remembered, his legacy includes the police reforms that followed the riots, along with memories of a defining period in the city's history that continue to resonate.

The riots, which some still refer to as the "Rodney King riots," began April 29, 1992 after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating King, who had been pulled over after a chase. King was left with multiple skull fractures and a broken eye socket; a passerby had caught the beating on video, which was aired by news agencies.

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Perspectives on the L.A. riots, 20 years later

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A building damaged by fire during the 1992 Los Angeles riots

During the last month, KPCC brought together four panels of Angelenos to share their recollections of the deadly riots that began April 29, 1992 in an informal series of private conversations, led by journalists and other members of the staff.

The panelists were people from throughout the city, of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many had little in common save for having been old enough 20 years ago to remember the rioting began that day, after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating black motorist Rodney King. In the violent, confusing, smoke-filled days that followed, more than 50 people died and property damage mounted close to $1 billion as arson fires and looting spread. To this day, the riots remain a defining moment in L.A. history.

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'We are on the side and never talked about': Perspectives on the riots, 20 years later

Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

An overturned car on a Los Angeles street during the riots, April 30, 1992.

During the last month, KPCC brought together four panels of Angelenos to share their recollections of the deadly riots that began April 29, 1992 in an informal series of private conversations led by journalists and other members of the staff.

The panelists were people from throughout the city, of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many had little in common save for having been old enough 20 years ago to remember the rioting began that day, after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating black motorist Rodney King. In the violent, confusing, smoke-filled days that followed, more than 50 people died and property damage mounted close to $1 billion as arson fires and looting spread. To this day, the riots remain a defining moment in L.A. history.

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'It wasn't just about Rodney King': Perspectives on the riots, 20 years later

AFP/Getty Images

An apartment building damaged by fire during the 1992 Los Angeles riots

During the last month, KPCC brought together four panels of Angelenos to share their recollections of the deadly riots that began April 29, 1992 in an informal series of private conversations led by journalists and other members of the staff.

The panelists were people from throughout the city, of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many had little in common save for having been old enough 20 years ago to remember the rioting began that day, after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating black motorist Rodney King. In the violent, confusing, smoke-filled days that followed, more than 50 people died and property damage mounted close to $1 billion as arson fires and looting spread. To this day, the riots remain a defining moment in L.A. history.

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'My family was victimized': Perspectives on the riots, 20 years later

Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A burned-out fast food restaurant during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles

During the last month, KPCC brought together four panels of Angelenos to share their recollections of the deadly riots that began April 29, 1992 in an informal series of private conversations, led by journalists and other members of the staff.

The panelists were people from throughout the city, of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many had little in common save for having been old enough 20 years ago to remember the rioting began that day, after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating black motorist Rodney King. In the violent, confusing, smoke-filled days that followed, more than 50 people died and property damage mounted close to $1 billion as arson fires and looting spread. To this day, the riots remain a defining moment in L.A. history.

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