Executive producer John Singleton and A&E mark the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots with a 90-minute documentary, “The L.A. Riots: 25 Years Later.”
I was 4 years old when a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno) on charges for the beating of Rodney King. Too young to understand the beating, Rodney King is a name I will never forget. I knew of the Rodney King beating, but I never knew the extent of its aftermath.
In the six days after the verdict, 63 people were killed, 2,383 people were injured and 3,767 buildings were destroyed totaling one billion dollars in property damage.
The documentary is a gathering of actual footage and authentic testimonies explaining a tumultuous relationship between White law enforcement officers and Black motorists.
Residents of South Central L.A. were on edge and outraged when a home video of the beating surfaced. Then, days later, a Korean grocer killed 15-year-old Latasha Harlins after falsely accusing her of stealing.
This documentary leaves a lasting impression. I will now always remember the day the Rodney King verdict was rendered—April 29, 1992.
I was relieved that the documentary did not bring up O.J. Simpson. We’ve had enough of the O.J. Simpson story in recent cable listings. However, “The L.A. Riots: 25 Years Later” only confirmed my suspicions that the Rodney King and Latasha Harlins verdicts played a huge factor in Simpson’s 1995 murder trial.
The documentary reminds viewers that not much has changed after more than two decades. Even with footage of wrongdoing, police officers are not being indicted or convicted for an abuse of power, excessive force, and in some cases, murder.
In colorful compare and contrast, the documentary manages to connect the ironic events. Four White police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King, but four Black men were found guilty of doing the same exact thing to Reginald Denny. Denny was the White truck driver who was dragged out of his vehicle and severely beaten in the hours after the first verdict on that fateful April 1992 day. The LAPD, known for rolling deep, needed the National Guard to regain order in South Central L.A.
These instances were no coincidence. The documentary made it clear that the LAPD was a protected fraternal order of racists.
I think “The L.A. Riots: 25 Years Later” is a masterful visual experience. The modern-day police killings and the unlearned lessons of 1992 are a simple reflection of how far we still have to go.
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