Thursday, April 29, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: April 29, 1992, The South Central Riots

April 29, 1992: Four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, all of them white, are found not guilty of assault and excessive force against a black suspect, Rodney King. The jury of 12 was composed as follows: Nine white people, six men, three women; one bi-racial man, the only person on the jury known to have African descent; one Latina woman, and one Asian-American woman.

The reaction of Southern California's black community to these officers getting away with the brutal beating of a black motorist was fury. About 1 hour after the verdicts were read, a riot broke out in South Central Los Angeles. It would last 4 days, kill 64 people, and cause over $1 billion in damages.

The American economy was already in a deep recession, and those always hurt nonwhite people more than white people. Over a quarter of a century earlier, in the wake of, among others, the Watts riot in Los Angeles in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "A riot is, at bottom, the language of the unheard."

It was another nail in the coffin of the re-election effort of the incumbent President, George H.W. Bush, a Republican. Just 34 days after the verdict, the Democratic side of the California Primary was won by Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

The following night, he appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, at Paramount Studios, 8 miles to the north of the epicenter of the riot, and laid out his vision for overcoming these problems. It probably won him the election as much as anything else did, and made Hall a more historically significant late-night talk-show host than Johnny Carson and all his competitors combined.

Ironically, the riot also pretty much ended the career of Tom Bradley, Los Angeles' 1st black Mayor. First elected in 1973, as both a hero policeman and a civil rights activist, and a City Councilman since 1963, he had guided the city through great growth, but also great trouble. He was unable to put an end to the record of police brutality that the city had been building up since well before Watts -- since before even the "Zoot Suit Riots" against Mexican-American youths in 1943.

L.A.'s Mayoral elections are officially non-partisan, but Bradley was a Democrat. The 2nd night of the riots, April 30, he appeared on Arsenio's show, in an auditorium only half-full due to concerns about what might happen. He was 74 years old, and looked even older, and so tired. (He probably hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.)

In 1993, Richard Riordan, a wealthy Republican lawyer who had never run for public office before, ran for Mayor of the country's 2nd-largest city, and won, and was re-elected in 1997. But the Democratic City Council stood in the way of most of his proposals, and although he later ran for Governor and Senator, he never won another election.

Since James Hahn was elected in 2001, L.A. has had only Democratic Mayors, including the current one, Eric Garcetti -- whose father, Gil Garcetti, was the District Attorney whose office was in charge of the biggest prosecution of Riordan's time in office, the O.J. Simpson case of 1994-95.

There have been race riots in America since 1992, but none nearly as bad as South Central's. Not even at the height of the recent protests against police brutality.

April 29, 1992 was a Wednesday. There were 12 Major League Baseball games played that day:

* The Yankees lost to the Texas Rangers, 5-1 at the old Yankee Stadium. Matt Nokes hit a home run, but that was the Pinstripes' only home run.

* The New York Mets beat the Houston Astros, 1-0 at Shea Stadium. Yes, both New York teams were at home on the same day: The Yankees in the day, the Mets at night. Attendance: Yankees, 14,270; Mets, 16,400. It was the end of the era when the Mets were, beyond any dispute, the best and most popular team in New York. Daryl Boston singled home a run in the 2nd inning, and Bret Saberhagen pitched a 3-hit shutout.

* The Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago White Sox, 6-1 at Fenway Park in Boston.

* The Toronto Blue Jays beat the team then known as the California Angels, 1-0 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Todd Stottlemyre, Mel's son, pitched a 7-hit shutout, while Jim Abbott went the distance in a hard-luck defeat.

* The Cleveland Indians beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-2 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

* The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-0 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Zane Smith pitched a 4-hit shutout.

* The Atlanta Braves beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. John Smoltz pitched a 7-hit shutout.

* The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Kansas City Royals, 5-3 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

* The Baltimore Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-4 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

* The San Diego Padres beat the Montreal Expos, 7-2 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.

* The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-3 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

* And the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants, 2-1 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The winning run scored in the top of the 12th, when former Yankee closer Dave Righetti, pitching for his hometown team (he was from San Jose, California), threw a wild pitch.


The NBA Playoffs were in their 1st Round. The Chicago Bulls completed a 3-game sweep over the Miami Heat, 119-114 at the Miami Arena. The Phoenix Suns completed a 3-game sweep over the San Antonio Spurs, 101-92 at the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio.

And in spite of the riots, Inglewood was considered insulated enough that the game scheduled for there that night went on. The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 121-119 in overtime, despite 42 points by the Blazers' Clyde Drexler. That would be the only game the Lakers would win in the series.

This was the 1st time that the Los Angeles Clippers had made the Playoffs in 16 years, when they were the Buffalo Braves. Both L.A. teams moved Game 4 of their series: The Clippers to the Anaheim Convention Center (soon to be replaced by the arena now known as the Honda Center), and the Lakers to the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.


The NHL was also in the 1st Round of its Stanley Cup Playoffs. The New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers, 5-3 at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands. It was Game 6. But the Rangers won Game 7 at Madison Square Garden 2 nights later.

The Hartford Whalers beat the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1 at the Hartford Civic Center. Yvon Corriveau scored the game-winner, only 24 seconds into overtime. The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins, 9-3 at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. And the defending Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, beat the Washington Capitals, 6-4 at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.

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