This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, sparked by the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused of beating now-deceased Rodney King. During the five days, mobs around Los Angeles looted stores, burnt 3,767 buildings, caused more than $1 billion in property damage, and led to the deaths of more than 50 people and left another 4,000 injured. A story that has been forgotten since then is that of the brave storeowners in Koreatown who fended off mobs with handguns, rifles and assault weapons.
On the second day of the riots, the police had abandoned much of Koreatown. Jay Rhee, a storeowner in the area, stated to The Los Angeles Times, “we have lost faith in the police.”
With the cops nowhere to be found, hundreds of people marauded through the streets towards Koreatown. The neighborhood suffered 45 percent of all the property damage and five fatalities of storeowners during the riots. Having had enough of waiting for police, Korean storeowners assembled into militias to protect themselves, their families, and businesses.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “From the rooftops of their supermarkets, a group of Koreans armed with shotguns and automatic weapons peered onto the smoky streets . . . Koreans have turned their pastel-colored mini-malls into fortresses against looters tide.”
Rhee claimed that the storeowners shot off 500 rounds into the sky and ground in order to break up the masses of people. The only weapons able to clear that much ammo in a very short time are assault weapons. Single shot pistols or rifles might not have been able to deter the crowd hell-bent on destroying the neighborhood.
By the end of the day storeowners had slain four looters and fended off the mob. It would be 24 more hours until the National Guard arrived and another two days before the riots were completely put down. Had the riots occurred just a couple of years later when the Congress banned assault weapons, many of these storeowners may not have been so lucky. It’s situations like the LA riots, which, while being rare, can occur anywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to far off countries during the Arab Spring.