Contact Gabriel H. Sanchez at gabriel. Got a confidential tip? Submit it here. A firefighter sprays water on a burning auto parts store on April 30, Getty Images. A store owner and a Los Angeles police officer inspect the damage caused by looters.
A group of police officers arrest a man during the riots. A police officer stands near a wounded man as smoke from arson fires clouds the air. Military troops arrive in Los Angeles to restore order.
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An LAPD officer falls while chasing a suspected looter. Warning This image is graphic Tap to reveal Click to reveal. Paramedics cover the body of a man found dead under Interstate Because if Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and dozens of now-familiar names tell us anything, it's that we still have lessons left unlearned from the Los Angeles uprising in In an era before social media and smart phones, most Americans relied on newspaper, radio, and television reports to understand the scope of the unrest that gripped a panicked city for several days after the April 29 not guilty verdict of four white officers.
Arsenio Hall, the popular black late night television host, insisted on taping his show at First AME Church over the objections of studio executives skittish over outbreaks of violence that law enforcement seemed unable to contain. During the hour-long taping, Hall presided over one of the most powerful hours of television produced during the s, opening the show with an excerpt of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The riot's second night coincided with the finale of "The Cosby Show," the long running sitcom about an upper middle class black family that became for several seasons the most watched show in the nation. The show, which premiered during Ronald Reagan's first term, inaugurated the nation's initial flirtation with the post-racial ideal that would be in full bloom with the election of Barack Obama.
Los Angeles' explosion of violence cast doubt on the idea of colorblindness a quarter of a century ago, just as Ferguson permanently exploded this myth in our time.
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The decision by the "Arsenio Hall Show" to scrap regular programming to focus on the meaning and historical context of the riots made events in Los Angeles a national touchstone for long gestating debates about race, civil rights, and justice that now transcended conventional politics. In , America's elected leaders failed to comprehend the magnitude of the nation's racial crisis, with President George H.
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Bush expressing shock at the verdict, but ignoring the systemic issues of poverty, criminalization of black bodies, and racism that led to the violence, looting, and chaos in the city. The LA riots were a rude awakening for Korean-Americans.
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Arkansas governor and then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton who would appear on Arsenio Hall's show in early June offered powerful words while visiting Los Angeles several days after the riots began. Clinton's comments suggested that a presidential candidate finally understood the pain carried by black Americans who resided in segregated neighborhoods wracked by crime, violence, and drug abuse on one hand, and a criminal justice system that further dehumanized whole communities through racial profiling, police brutality and violence on the other.
Would the man that Toni Morrison labeled the nation's "first black president" turn his uncanny ability to express personal empathy into transformative social justice policy on behalf of black people? As President Clinton supported a series of draconian policies that helped incarcerate more black men at the federal level than Ronald Reagan did, those policies became the blueprint for America's egregious system of mass incarceration, and further punished the formerly convicted and their families by denying housing, employment opportunities, and food to predominantly black and brown Americans caught up in the drug war.
While serving as a high-profile surrogate for his wife's presidential campaign, former President Clinton admitted to supporting policies that "overshot the mark" by incarcerating too many people of color.
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Los Angeles in represented both a missed opportunity and a sign of the times. Two decades before the death of Trayvon Martin inspired the creation of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag that in turn ignited a national movement for racial justice, Los Angeles drew a more scattered response from civil rights activists, amplified racial fatigue among white Americans, and quickly became more comfortably understood as a cultural touchstone -- one mined by creative artists for exploration in film, music, television and novels -- rather than a political one.