Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Deep Look at the Rodney King Beating, the LAPD, and the LA Riots

I lived in San Jose during the '92 Los Angeles riots. I learned of the verdict late in the day, and I decided to walk with some friends in what we thought would be a peaceful (impromptu) demonstration. When I left the dorms that evening, the mayhem had begun in Los Angeles. I had not yet seen the video of the Reginald Denny beating, so I was not aware of the mood that was mixed with the movement on the street. Our scene began to turn ugly at the edge of campus. We heard glass shatter, a palpable tension reverberated, and I looked up to see a phalanx of SJPD rolling toward the crowd.

Years later, while doing research on what went down in LA, I came across Lou Cannon's exhaustive book, Official Negligence : How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. Some of the questions I had at the time were: where was Daryl Gates, why didn't the LAPD react with force, and why didn't the rioting spread to wealthier neighborhoods? Obviously, there are other questions relating to the riots, but I had in mind this vision of (what I thought at the time was) the outsized response of the SJPD. Why didn't the LAPD respond similarly at Florence and Normandie?

Cannon, a Washington Post reporter and biographer of Ronald Reagan, provides the answers. Quoting the Sunday Los Angeles Times Book Review (from "...the definitive work of modern Los Angeles, a massive effort to see the nation's most dynamic city at its most important crossroads.... Official Negligence is a vital contribution to the city's history."

1 comment:

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