By Alice Li and Helen Kim

In March of 1991, a group of police officers chased down a car on the freeway. The driver, Rodney King, was an African American man who, according to one of the officers, seemed as if he were high on PCP. Claiming that he was resisting arrest, the officers began to beat King violently. Unbeknownst to them, the episode was recorded; after the footage was released, it was widely disseminated and received extensive media coverage. The officers were charged with assault and use of excessive force.

The case went to court, and on April 29, 1992, all four officers were acquitted. Public outcry resulted; violence erupted in South Los Angeles. It quickly spread throughout South L.A., Koreatown, Hollywood, Mid-City, Pico-Union, and the Civic Center. For almost a week, the riots raged. People were beaten, some killed. Businesses were looted, buildings destroyed, blazes set. The damage to businesses was devastating many of which were owned by Korean immigrants. Police did little to stop the riots; the LAPD was unprepared to control the masses of people in the streets.

Two archival collections, housed at USC, were recently unsealed.  These two collections document the investigations of two independent commissions which explored the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the LA Riots.  Here are the links to the two finding aids for the collections:

To accompany the records, the USC Libraries is hosting an event to commemorate and discuss the LA Riots.  For more information, check out their website.


LA Weekly, “Then & Now: Images From the Same Spot as the L.A. Riots, 20 Years Later.” Link:

USC Libraries, Records of the Riots: The Christopher and Webster Commission Records Collections

* “Sai-I-Gu” and “Wet Sand,” both by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, are excellent documentaries on the 1992 Riots and their aftermath.


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