L.A. Riots

Andrew Jones goes to Los Angeles in the aftermath of the riots of 1992. He speaks with many people about the racial issues that sparked this uprising--the feeling that blacks and Latinos had been systematically discriminated against in their own neighborhoods for years. The main complaint is that stores in their neighborhoods were owned by whites and Koreans and they were overcharged for all services and products. Much of the tension appears to be between the blacks/Latinos and the Korean shop owners. Another interesting feature of the tape is the discussion of the differing motives between rioters and looters and between the actions in different parts of the city. For example, in some areas, only specific businesses, those that were seen as longtime oppressors, were targeted. A man shows footage from his camcorder of the looting, and notes that all of the looters were white, and all were smiling. Clearly, the situation in Los Angeles was far from simple. This tape is a fascinating glimpse into the psychology of the time period.

00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a commercial and station identification.

00:23Copy video clip URL Program begins with a man standing in front of a store talking about violent incidents in the community prior to the L.A. riots.

00:49Copy video clip URL Titles: “L.A. Riots: Inside/Out ’92.”

01:02Copy video clip URL Footage of the riot aftermath: burned-out, collapsed buildings, armed police, L.A. traffic, debris, etc.

01:40Copy video clip URL Voiceover by Andrew P. Jones, giving a brief background into L.A.’s socioeconomic history.

01:52Copy video clip URL Interview with Juan Gutierrez, Director of One Stop Immigration Center: “This is living proof that great segments of the population, primarily the minority population, are living in the United States of America as if they were living in a third world country.” He believes the causes that need to be addressed are unemployment, poverty, discrimination, and racism. He is outside at a swap meet, which has moved since the building was destroyed.

03:00Copy video clip URL More voiceover from Jones, who talks about his arrival in L.A. as military from around the country simultaneously landed. He shoots various military/police personnel, and workers repairing buildings.

03:45Copy video clip URL Back to Gutierrez, who is now with a group of Salvadorean swap meet sellers. He states that the Koreans were allowed to go inside the swap meet building to retrieve their wares, but the Koreans did not let the Salvadoreans gather their merchandise. The group surrounding Gutierrez agrees, and a Salvadorean shopkeeper steps forward to give her account.

04:27Copy video clip URL Brief interview with Hershey, a recycler: “They focus on protecting the people with money.” He and Jones are in Hollywood at Sunset and LaBrea. Hershey compares MacArthur Park, where drugs are sold openly to a corner at that intersection, which was cleaned up.

05:15Copy video clip URL Interview clips from various people, including a policeman; two women in a car; footage of people looting; Devon, a reggae musician; and Jones’ voiceover.

06:11Copy video clip URL Interview clip of Cesar Noriega, who is driving a car. “This is like a state of siege in some areas.”

06:18Copy video clip URL A protestor, Mia Ruiz, holds a sign, “L.A.P.D. GUILTY.” on the street. As Jones films a large group of police walking the street in riot gear, he asks her if the police are there for her. She replies that they’re bored.

06:35Copy video clip URL Back to Noriega, who speaks as Jones tapes him and the streets they drive though. He was downtown when the verdicts came down and “symbols of oppression and racism were attacked, like the police department, city hall, the LA Times.”

06:54Copy video clip URL A man stands in front of what once was a music school where his son was taught piano. The building is destroyed. The man, a L.A. resident, is irate: “If there’s a story about how they’re destroying civilization, it’s right here.”

07:25Copy video clip URL Noriega: “Once it spread over here, it was more of an economic rebellion. I think people wanted to take things because they didn’t have anything.” He points out the place from which the riots spread.

07:38Copy video clip URL Back to the irate LA resident in front of the destroyed recital hall of the music school: “That’s the destruction of civilization right there.”

08:19Copy video clip URL A military guard and a shopkeeper stand in front of a store in South Central L.A., bantering. Jones interviews the shopkeeper, who stood in front of the store with his family, friends and employees, talking down any potential looters. He is well-known and active in his community, and he believes “they respect us, they work with us, kept the looters away. The outsiders, we intimidated them when it was necessary. They got the message.”

09:18Copy video clip URL Noriega talks about how the first 24 hours were more about political anger; the next 24 hours were mainly looting–“a lot of Korean-owned stores…The Koreans have a reputation…A lot of them do not treat people–customers–with respect…they believe that every time a black person or a Mexican person goes to their store, they’re going in to rob so they treat them like thieves.”

10:07Copy video clip URL Back to the shopkeeper in South Central: “Koreans have never been a part of the community…The community resents their attitude, resents their arrogance…”

10:33Copy video clip URL Jones interviews Korean workers in the community, who believe their businesses were targeted due to racism.

11:32Copy video clip URL The South Central shopkeeper continues discussing the Koreans’ lack of input into the community.

11:46Copy video clip URL Interview with Kwaku Duran, a Legal Aid attorney, who discusses how Koreans can get government loans more easily than other minorities.

12:14Copy video clip URL Interview with Gutierrez, who drives while Jones tapes the streets. Gutierrez talks about the community’s efforts to curtail the number of liquor stores in the area and subsequent efforts to talk to government officials about the mistreatment and racism Latinos and African-Americans suffered from the Koreans.

13:09Copy video clip URL E.T. the Clown holds a sign, “Gates is a Stupid Clown” on the street.

13:56Copy video clip URL Paul Lee, a Legal Aid attorney, discusses how the destruction of banks in the area has forced the community to cash checks at liquor stores which charge large fees, further hurting the community.

15:11Copy video clip URL People show their guns, preparing to defend their businesses. A white man: “The only way this 7-11 is still here is because we’re out here.”

15:15Copy video clip URL Lee discusses the problem of businesses making money from the community and not reinvesting it since the owners live elsewhere.

15:23Copy video clip URL Salvadoran shopkeepers discuss how they made a living at the swap meet and how it impacted the community. Lee talks with them. They do not have insurance and no way to contact the building owner. A Korean shop owner says he gave them information, but another Salvadoran shopkeeper said it was information they already knew.

16:57Copy video clip URL Lee: “In this situation it’s a very surgical destruction. And it’s clear that there was some thought given to what was destroyed and what was not.” He compares the situation to the riots in Watts.

17:56Copy video clip URL Gutierrez drives Jones to western L.A., aka “Koreatown.” He states that not many African-Americans live in the area, but the rage was so great, they came anyway.

18:35Copy video clip URL Jones interviews Leonard Rodriguez, a security guard carrying a riot shotgun. He doesn’t think the Rodney King verdicts are causing the riots: “The majority of people who are looting these places are thugs.”

19:09Copy video clip URL Footage shot by Jesse, a home camcorder operator, of looters, many times people who went into stores multiple times. His footage shows people carrying multiple items, like VCRs, cars full of stolen merchandise, etc. Jesse noticed that “everybody was in a good mood. Jovial. Everybody had a smile on their face walking away with stuff.” He also thinks people weren’t really thinking about the verdicts as a reason to loot either.

19:49Copy video clip URL Back to the shopkeeper from South Central, who discusses his experiences amid gunfire as the riots went on: “I was dodging bullets. They were shooting right next to me at each other in the street.”

20:21Copy video clip URL Footage of the streets and police/military/prison guard personnel discussing the situation. Jones and Lee interview a group of prison guards, asking where they’re from, where they work, and their assessment of the situation.

23:16Copy video clip URL Lee: “What you saw there [the prison guards] was a U.S. gang.”

23:34Copy video clip URL Footage of police/military personnel as words scroll along the bottom of the screen: “No LAPD police officer has ever been convicted of killing a person of color.” Lee interviews an officer about the quality of life in the community in MacArthur Park.

25:11Copy video clip URL Interview with Michael Zinzun, chairperson of the Coalition Against Police Abuse: “What I found taking place was totally out of line.” Footage of police arresting people. Zinzun advocates community control of police and police accountability.

27:14Copy video clip URL A young girl reads from a paper about her father, who sits behind her. Titles: “Epilogue.” Jones asks the father what kind of world he wants to leave for his daughter. The father: “A world aspiring to peace and justice, with an emphasis on justice.” Music fades in.

28:21Copy video clip URL Credits roll.

28:49Copy video clip URL Commercials.

30:06Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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