April 29 marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Los Angeles riots of 1992. They continued for six days, caused an estimated $1 billion in damages, and resulted in more than 50 deaths and thousands of injuries.
A number of publications, the Los Angeles Times in particular, are marking the anniversary, but with the usual bromides about the deep resentments blacks felt in those benighted times, and about how little government has done to restore the devastated areas. No one seems to want to write about the riots themselves and what caused them.
We are therefore reprinting the account of the riots that appeared in the June 1992 issue of American Renaissance. Readers will see an almost perfect parallel to the Trayvon Martin case of 20 years later: The 1991 incident that led to the trial that led to the verdict that led to the riots was disastrously exaggerated by the media. Then, as now, the press was obsessed with white “racism,” and whipped up black anger through irresponsible reporting. The result was the worst rioting in post-war American history.
Needless to say, the media took no responsibility for its recklessness then, nor are they capable of understanding the damage they do today.
Los Angeles Erupts
Racial hatred, stoked by the media, finally boils over.
By William Robertson Boggs
Los Angeles is now quiet after the most destructive and murderous riots this country has seen in more than a century. In just three days in early May, rioters burned more than 5,300 buildings and caused the deaths of 58 people. More than 2,300 people were injured — 227 of them critically — and property damage was estimated at more than $750 million. [The toll, LA Times, May 7, 1992, p. A6.]
The destruction was carried out mainly by blacks, who were said to be outraged by the “racist” beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers and by their “racist” acquittal on charges of criminal assault. Among the dead and injured were an unknown number of whites who were savaged by mobs of blacks simply because they were white.
The entire eruption of violence — which included smaller-scale outbreaks in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and many other cities [Violence continues across U.S. — troops called out in Vegas, SF Chronicle,May 2, 1992, p. A9.] — can be traced directly to the reckless way the media handled the Rodney King incident from the start. Now that the trial is over, and the facts in the case are clear, the media’s behavior can be seen in all its astonishing irresponsibility.
Rodney King, ‘Black Motorist’
Rodney King is a convicted felon with a long criminal record. On March 3, 1991, he was out of jail on parole, and driving recklessly and at great speed through residential streets of Los Angeles. It was later determined that he was blind drunk — there was 2½ times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and there was marijuana in his system — and his driving showed it.
When he was finally forced to a stop, police ordered him out of the car for fear a weapon might be hidden in it. Mr. King refused, and was pulled out. He would not let himself be frisked, spat at the police, made obscene threats to a policewoman, laughed maniacally, and danced about when told to stand still. Mr. King is six feet three inches tall, weighs 250 pounds, and was acting dangerously crazy. [Don Feder, Blacks again are the victims of years of racial demagogy, Orange County Register, May 3, 1992, p. K1. How the defense dissected the tape, Newsweek, May 11, 1992, p. 36.] He refused to lie face-down on the ground so that police could safely handcuff him. The police quite properly decided to force him down.
Their first attempt was with a 50,000-volt electronic stun gun. One shot of this device will knock a person down 80 to 90 percent of the time. The officers hit Mr. King twice with the gun and it had no effect. They began to think that he was on PCP, a drug that can cause psychotic behavior. They later testified that they were afraid Mr. King would attack them and try to wrest a gun away from them. [Linda Deutsch, Jury believed police had right to use plenty of force, Orange County Register, April 30, 1992, p. A4. Sheryl Stolberg, Jurors tell of angry, bitter deliberations, LA Times, May 8, 1992, p. A3.] The best way to take Mr. King down would have been with a choke hold, but the city of Los Angeles banned choke holds in 1982. (A few drug users had died from the hold, but that may have been as much because of drugs as because of the hold.) [Greg Meyer, We must have a way to safely take a suspect down, SJ Mercury News,May 3, 1992, p. 1.]
Since the stun gun had failed, the only way to tackle Mr. King was with night sticks, and the police clubbed him repeatedly. [Murray Rothbard, Rockwell vs. Rodney and the Libertarian world, Rothbard Rockwell Report, July 1991, p. 4. Henry Weinstein, White says jury was the worst possible, LA Times, May 8, 1992, p. A3.] Mr. King refused to stay on the ground, and every time he made a move to get up, he was clubbed again. An amateur video cameraman recorded the beating, which was later broadcast on television.
The video is 81 seconds long, and it shows Mr. King resisting arrest and threatening the police. Virtually all television stations chose to show only the last part, in which Mr. King was on the ground and was being pounded in a way that appeared — and may well have been — excessive. A careful study of the entire tape suggests that the beating stopped when Mr. King did as he was told and kept still. [How the defense dissected the tape, Newsweek, May 11, 1992, p. 36.]
Three of the policemen who clubbed Mr. King were white and one was Hispanic. The media routinely reported that they were all white, and puffed the arrest up into a major racial incident. Television stations showed the tape so often that there must be scarcely anyone in America who has not seen it. As it happens, damage to Mr. King was not great; just a few weeks later, he was feeling chipper enough to solicit a transvestite prostitute, and tried to run over a Los Angeles policeman who interrupted the transaction. [Murray Rothbard, Rockwell vs. Rodney and the Libertarian world, Rothbard Rockwell Report, July 1991, p. 6.]
What would have been different if Mr. King had been white? For one thing, the media would have inquired into why he was beaten. If they had given the story any attention at all, they would have noted a drunk driver’s criminal, threatening behavior.
However, because Mr. King is black, the media had a ready-made explanation for the beating. “Racism” explained it, and the media gave full voice to the war-cry that means they think they have a sure enough white “racist” in their sights. The media scarcely mentioned what Mr. King had done to provoke a beating. They ignored the fact that Mr. King had two companions with him in the car, both of whom were black, both of whom did what the police told them to do, both of whom were unharmed (though one is now claiming they were roughed up). [AP, King passenger claims he was beaten, Las Vegas Review-Journal,May 5, 1992, p. 5A.] And of course, they turned a deaf ear when Mr. King himself said he did not think the police beat him because he was black. [Henry Weinstein, White says jury was the worst possible, LA Times, May 8, 1992, p. A3.] Thus, the media took what was, at worst, an ambiguous incident and blew it into a huge case of white racism.
The policemen were charged with criminal violence and their trial opened a year after the beating. When the jury then found the officers not guilty, it was not necessarily saying that Mr. King’s arrest was an ideal example of police work. Four of the jurors held out to convict the most aggressive officer of assault, and he may be retried on that charge. As for the other three, the jurors decided that what they did was notcriminal. [Paul Lieberman, Jurors tell of their fear and disbelief, SF Chronicle, May 1, 1992, p. 1.]
Of course, the media were so committed to a “racist” version of events that they pronounced themselves shocked at the verdict, and promptly called the jury “racist.” In keeping with their own biases, they regularly referred to the jurors as “all-white,” despite the fact that one was Asian and another was Hispanic. The jurors explained that they did not think about race, nor did they believe the police did either. As one said, “Had the man been white, had he been ‘Oriental,’ had he been anything and acted as Rodney King did, he would have been given the same treatment.” [AP, Members: Race no factor in verdict, Orange County Register, May 1, 1992, p. A11.] Of course, the media knew better.
The jury heard 29 days of testimony [Richard Serrano, Cops in beating acquitted on 10 of 11 counts, SF Chronicle, April 30, 1992, p. A1.] and deliberated for seven days. [Sheryl Stolberg, Jurors tell of angry, bitter deliberations, LA Times, May 8, 1992, p. A3.] The nation saw a few seconds of video tape. The nation, whipped up by the media, convinced itself it knew more than the jury did. From the President on down, nearly everyone wrung his hands over the horrible injustices of white America. Thus prompted and excused, black neighborhoods from coast to coast rose up to loot, burn, and vent anti-white hatred. Thus prompted and excused, a great many Americans were led to think that the arson and murder of those three days were somehow the moral equivalent of the beating and the verdict.
Although “racism” was trumpeted as the great sin that prompted the riots, the media were remarkably quiet about the many cases of vicious racist violence by blacks against whites. The best-known was an attack on a truck driver, Reginald Denny, who was pulled from his tractor trailer by blacks who beat him mercilessly and smashed his face with a fire extinguisher. Other blacks ran up to stomp the barely breathing Mr. Denny, and dance little jigs of glee. Doctors said the man’s injuries were like those of someone who was in a 60-mile-per-hour car crash without seat belts. The only reason Mr. Denny is well known is that a helicopter TV crew happened to tape the attack. [Rescued truck driver is recovering, SF Chronicle, May 4, 1992, p. A6.] From below, blacks fired on the helicopter with pistols and shotguns. [Ed Pope, L.A. goes back to work, SJ Mercury News, May 5, 1992, p. 1.]
Few people heard about Matt Haines, a 32-year-old white man who, with his nephew, was riding a motorcycle into the black part of Los Angeles after a black friend called to say that her car would not start. The two whites were stopped by a gang of about 15 blacks, who knocked them off the motorcycle and beat them as they lay on the ground. Without provocation, one of the blacks shot Mr. Haines in the head. His nephew was shot three times in the arm, but when the gunman held the pistol to his face the weapon did not fire. Mr. Haines died; his nephew survived. [“We’re on your side,” victim told attackers, SJ Mercury News, May 4, 1992, p. 9A.]
Howard Epstein, who was living in northern California, flew to Los Angeles at the start of the riots to protect his Los Angeles machine shop and its employees. Three black men shot him as he was driving from the airport. After his car crashed to a stop, looters stripped him of valuables and ransacked the car. [Orinda man’s fatal decision: trying to protect his shop, SJ Mercury News, May 4, 1992, p. 9A.]
A gang of blacks smashed the car windows of Jeff Kramer, a white reporter for the Boston Globe. They tried to drag him out onto the street, but his seat belt held him in. One youngster then pulled out a gun and shot him three times. Mr. Kramer had the wit to pretend to be dead, and this probably saved his life. [Tom Mathews, et al., The siege of L.A., Newsweek, May 11, 1992, p. 34.]
How many of the ten whites — nine men and one woman — who died in the riot were murdered by black lynch mobs? How many of the injured were, like the truck driver and the reporter, attacked simply because they were white? We will never know. No one is counting. The media, which make a national incident of a dangerous black who is beaten with night sticks, look the other way when blacks commit unprovoked racial murder. How many dead and beaten whites would it take before the media worried as much about black racism as they do about the “racist” jury that acquitted the police officers? Five hundred? One thousand?
Blacks attacked whites in other cities, though they did not manage to kill any. In Richmond (CA), the white coach of a black girls’ softball team was spotted amid shouts of “There’s a white guy.” He probably would have been beaten to death if his team had not pleaded for his life. In the same city, a white water meter reader was clubbed unconscious and woke up in the hospital in a body cast. A white from West Oakland, who was coming home from a rally to protest the verdict, was set upon by blacks and had to have his scalp stapled back together. [Yasmin Anwar, Beating victims wrong color, wrong place, Oakland Tribune, May 3, 1992, p. 1.] In San Jose (CA), a 20-year-old black man told a friend he “was gonna shoot a white person to get even for Rodney King.” A few hours later, he walked up to a couple at a telephone booth and shot both the man and woman in the head. [Ann O’Neill, Racial tension seen in attacks, SJ Mercury News, May 6, 1992, p. B1.] In Atlanta, blacks beat white reporters, photographers and passersby. In New York, two drivers were pulled from their trucks in black neighborhoods; one was beaten and the other was stabbed. [Violence continues across U.S. — troops called out in Vegas, SF Chronicle, May 2, 1992, p. A9.]
In Venice (CA), where whites have been moving into a formerly black neighborhood, mobs attacked the homes of whites and of blacks who were known to be part of the Neighborhood Watch against crime. At least one white family’s home was looted and burned, and dozens were vandalized. As one black resident put it, “It bothers us that people come here building condos we can’t afford. I do know this: Before blacks leave, Venice will burn.” [Robin Abcarian, Striking back: What happened in Oakwood was ugly — but no surprise, LA Times, May 5, 1992, p. E1.]
White people, whom the media like to portray as seething with racism and hate, appear not to have lifted a finger against blacks. Despite wanton murder of whites, not a single incident of anti-black violence seems to have been reported. While whites were being attacked all across the country, editorialists fretted that the acquittal meant “open season” on black men. It would be hard to think of a more astonishing example of the grotesque slant the media give to news about race.
In Los Angeles, Korean storekeepers were another racial target. Many recent immigrants from Korea come with little money and cannot afford to set up shop anywhere but in the blackest, most dangerous part of town, where they work 16-hour days. [L.A. Chung, Tensions divide blacks, Asians, SF Chronicle,May 4, 1992, p. 1.] Blacks and liberals often complain that no one “invests” in the ghetto, but if anyone has, it is Koreans.
Blacks hate them because they are successful, so looters and arsonists sought out Korean-owned stores for destruction. In Korea Town, which borders on black neighborhoods, 80 percent of the businesses were damaged. [Jeff Pelline, Lasting blow to L.A. neighborhoods, SF Chronicle, May 2, 1992, p. 1.] In all, 1,839 Korean-owned businesses were burned or looted. [Steven Chin, Innocence lost: L.A.’s Koreans fight to be heard, SF Examiner, May 9, 1992, p. 1.] Even the Korean Consulate came under attack. [AP, Korean leaders are alarmed at violence in Los Angeles, Oakland Tribune, May 3, 1992, p. B1.]
The racial hatred that sparked the riot lingered on after calm returned. Black police officers and National Guardsmen were taunted with cries of “What are you doing on their side?” [Mark Platte, A lot of hostility” toward black Guardsman, SJ Mercury News, May 5, 1992, B3. Rick DelVecchio, L.A. cops watch over a nervous peace, SF Chronicle, May 5, 1992, p. A6.] Many of the businesses still standing had survived only because the words “Black Owned,” were painted on them. Fresh graffiti read “F*** whitey,” and “F*** the police.” [Eyewitness report.]
At the same time, the presence of more than 10,000 soldiers on the streets brought a feeling of security to a part of town that, even in normal times, is tense with fear and crackles with gun fire. “The neighborhood is safe now,” said one resident; “Every six months, they [the National Guard] should come back and clean the place out.” [Jim Newton, Under the gun, LA Times, May 6, 1992, p. A7.]
Did anyone predict that there would be riots if the police officers were acquitted? Yes; Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates. Just before the verdict, he set aside $1 million in extra overtime pay in case of an acquittal. The public reaction? He was a racist to think that blacks might riot. [Pamela Kramer, Chief Gates returns to his old form, SJ Mercury News, May 4, 1992, p. 8A.]
Rewards for Destruction
What will be the result of all this? In the short term, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people — mostly black — are suddenly out of work, because businesses were destroyed. Perhaps 10,000 of those jobs are gone for good. [Stuart Silverstein, Up to 40,000 out of work after unrest, analysts say, LA Times, May 6, 1992, p. A1.] Whole neighborhoods are without the drug stores, laundromats, gas stations, and grocery stores they depend on.
South-Central Los Angeles had not yet entirely recovered from the Watts riots. Twenty-seven years later, there are still vacant lots where businesses once stood. Banks and major retailers had only just begun to trickle back. [Elliot Smith, Local economy feels the heat, Orange County Register, May 1, 1992, p. C1.]
Peter Ueberroth has been appointed to oversee the reconstruction of South-Central Los Angeles. He has gone cap in hand to federal and state tax payers, but he thinks he can also interest private investors, especially the Japanese. In what must be one of the most stupid things said so far about the riots, he proposed that, “If they [the Japanese] can invest in Pebble Beach, they should be given the chance to invest in South-Central Los Angeles.” [Ed Pope, $1 billion needed to rebuild L.A., Ueberroth says, SJ Mercury News, May 4, 1992, p. 8A.]
President George Bush has duly designated Los Angeles a federal disaster area, so the entire nation will pay for the damage, under a program designed to help victims of natural disasters. [Ed Torriero, Weary residents beginning to rebuild L.A., their lives, San Jose Mercury News, May 3, 1992, p. 1.] Of course, the only disaster that South-Central Los Angeles suffers from is its own population. First indications were that at least $600 million in federal money would be made available to the area. [Ed Pope, L.A. goes back to work, San Jose Mercury News, May 5, 1992, p. 1.] A state legislator has proposed a new sales tax that would raise another $700 million. As state and local money is added, it will be edifying to note when the total outstrips the damage estimates; South-Central Los Angeles is getting its reward for burning itself down.
President Bush has also promised an intensified federal investigation into whether the four police officers broke any federal laws by depriving Mr. King of his civil rights. [Susan Bennett, Bush vows swift action, pleads for end to unrest, Orange County Register, May 1, 1992, p. A5.] If there is a federal trial it will be a barely legal case of double jeopardy, and will hardly be before an impartial jury. How many jurors would be brave enough to return another verdict like the one that prompted the carnage?
More to Come
Los Angeles was not the first city to burn, nor will it be the last. Blacks live in a society in which all evils can be blamed on other people. No matter how barbaric their behavior, they can count on whites to offer excuses and foot the bill. Even Asians can be made to talk the same nonsense. Jai Lee Wong of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission explains why Koreans don’t get along with blacks: “Many don’t understand racism and the history of blacks in this country. They see blacks hanging out drinking on the street corner, children having babies, gangs. But they don’t understand why that exists; that it’s not by choice.” [Charles Hardy, L.A. race tensions: a picture of fear, San Francisco Examiner, May 10, 1992, p. A1.]
Blacks have no choice but to get drunk on street corners, have illegitimate babies, and join criminal gangs. To be sure. So long as the Human Relations Commission thinks this, the only consequence of the Los Angeles riots will be more programs that coddle the criminal and reward the irresponsible. Yet more illegitimate children born to squalor, lawlessness, and welfare will once again burn down whatever their elders manage to rebuild
Christmas in May
Commentators went to great lengths to make excuses for the rioters, but after three days of arson, murder, and looting, the idea that this was “understandable outrage” over the Rodney King verdict began to wear thin. People do not burn down the corner drug store and then shoot at firemen as a protest against what they think was a miscarriage of justice.
Before long we began to hear the “root causes” of the mayhem: “hopelessness,” “despair,” “powerlessness.” The looters who smiled broadly and waved at the television news cameras certainly did not look as though they were wracked with “despair.” They were having their idea of a grand old time.
One 22-year-old Hispanic told reporters that he didn’t give a hoot about Rodney King. He had simply made the most of a chance to make off with 37 cases of beer, two sides of beef, three cases of soda, two gold chains, an imitation Rolex watch, and a whole goat. That night, he and his friends had a barbecue.
One 15-year-old Hispanic girl took along her cousins, aged four, six, and ten, to loot a shoe store. She found that the only danger was the possibility of fist fights with other looters over the plunder. “Everybody was doing it. It was all free,” she explained.
One man brought home several truck loads of anything he could grab: skate boards and tricycles, cartons of cigarettes, mountains of disposable diapers. He has no children and does not smoke. [Ashley Dunn, Years of 2-cent insults added up to rampage, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1992, p. A1.]
One of the very first rioters was an 18-year-old black who was watching television with a friend when the verdict was announced. “If it’s ‘innocent’ we’re gonna f*** this place up,” said the friend. When the news came in, the two set out for the first store they could find and ransacked it. They saw a white woman in a Volvo and smashed her windshield, but she drove away before they could lay hands on her. [Brett Pulley, Faces of Los Angeles: rioter with a beeper, student by the pool, Wall Street Journal, May 4, 1992, p. 1.]
Although rioters deliberately smashed and plundered Korean-owned businesses and spared some that said “black owner,” many a black man’s business was torched for the fun of seeing things burn. A building owned by a 10-year-old service organization called 100 Black Men was reduced to ashes. The Aquarian, which had just celebrated its 50th year, making it the oldest continuously operated black book store in the country, went up in flames. So did Broadway Federal Savings, a bank that had been owned and operated by three generations of the same black family. The blaze that gutted the bank also destroyed the office of Maxine Waters, a black congressional representative. The African Refugee Center and the Ethiopian Community Center were also put to the torch, [Edward Boyer, Black-owned businesses pay a heavy price,Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1992, p. A1.] as were two branches of the Los Angeles public library. [Amy Wallace, Mobs spared most of city’s cultural centers during rampage, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1992, p. B3.]
If “despair” and “hopelessness” were what caused the riots, Hispanics must be just as despairing as blacks. Although the full racial breakdown of the 15,000 arrested rioters was not available as this was written, of the 7,066 looters who had been categorized by race, 49 percent were Hispanic, 40 percent were black, and nine percent were white. [George Ramos, Unrest widens rifts in diverse Latino population, Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1992, p. 1A.] Some ten percent of the arrested rioters were illegal immigrants, [Patrick McDonnell, Scores of suspects arrested in riots turned over to INS, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1992, p. B3.] who must have learned American-style “despair” in very quick order.
Of course, there are “root causes” to the riots. The most obvious is America’s attempt to build a multi-racial nation. This would not have happened in a homogeneous society. Another is something for which our ancestors had a word: depravity. A nation in which depravity goes unchecked and even rewarded should not be surprised to see it multiply.