Around the Nation

Is It The L.A. 'Riots?' Or 'Rebellion?' 'Unrest?'

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

It's been 20 years since Los Angeles erupted in violence after four LAPD officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. And still, the city is not in agreement on what to call the events — riots, an uprising, a rebellion, or unrest? Melissa Block and Robert Siegel hear some of the options and opinions.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. Twenty years ago this Sunday, a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of black motorist, Rodney King. Within hours, the city started to burn.


RODNEY KING: I was in Studio City. I was sitting with my family in awe.

SIEGEL: Rodney King watched the violence escalate from his living room just a few miles away.

KING: We were warned by the FBI to stay in because the streets is going to be - it's going to be a lot of turmoil going on and it's like this has been going on. People are really tired of it.

SIEGEL: The rage is Los Angeles focused on the LAPD, but the department largely stood on the sidelines early on as drivers were pulled from their cars and businesses were ransacked.

Steve Gates was a captain in the LAPD at the time and brother of then chief Daryl Gates.

STEVE GATES: I was like the rest of the community. You know, where's LAPD? Where's our normal response? It was baffling. People were looting. People were burning buildings. They were hurting other people. They were shooting their firearms. It was a riot. I look at it as a low point. It was disturbing. It was very, very disturbing.

BLOCK: Disturbing, but not surprising for many in LA's black and minority communities. Connie Rice is a civil rights attorney who has spent her career focused on the LAPD.

CONNIE RICE: The way I viewed it and the way I saw it was as an explosion of anger and fury because of the emasculation of the community. This was like 40 years of kindling that had built up and the King beating was the match that lit the fire and that verdict was the explosion.

BLOCK: The Korean community in Los Angeles felt the full impact of that explosion, as Connie Rice put it. Many Koreans owned businesses in the hardest hit parts of the city, including Koreatown, west of downtown LA.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from