HomeEast Asian AmericanEmotions Still Raw 25 Years after the Koreatown and Rodney King Riots

Emotions Still Raw 25 Years after the Koreatown and Rodney King Riots

Los Angeles Riots

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent


25 years ago tomorrow, the Los Angeles riots broke out following the acquittal of four officers in the Rodney King police beating.

It was one of the first cases of police brutality ever caught on video.

The beating by Los Angeles police officers of Rodney King over a speeding violation was replayed over and over again on the national and local news.

A documentary from Oscar winning director and screenwriter John Ridley relives the 10 years leading up to the riots from the people who experienced it.

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982 – 1992 does an outstanding job reminding viewers that the riots shouldn’t be looked at in a vacuum. The tensions that erupted on April 29, 1992 and spilled into LA’s Koreatown was the result of a long simmering breakdown in race relations between Blacks and the Los Angeles Police Department and between Blacks and the Korean American community.

Ridley lets those who survived the riots and the tumultuous time tell their story without the interference of a narrator. The director who is  known for his Oscar-winning Best Picture film 12 Years a Slave and the ABC anthology series American Crime allows the individual stories to breath, and humanizes the many faces we saw in the news.

We hear from a Japanese American family whose son was shot and killed, caught in the crossfire between rival gangs.

We hear from a Korean American mother whose son went to protect Koreatown businesses from rioters and was accidentally shot and killed by an armed Korean American who had planted himself on the roof, also to protect KTown.

We also hear about the death of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black teen who was mistaken for a shoplifter and then shot and killed by storekeeper Soon Ja Du. Du was convicted for voluntary manslaughter, but sentenced only to 5 years probation and community service despite a jury recommendation for the maximum sentence of 15 years.

Ridley also does a good job setting up the frustration of some Blacks directed at Koreans and the fear in the Korean American community after the murders of at least four Korean shopkeepers.

Where Let It Fall falls short is offering solutions to the problem. What could we as a society have done better? Could all this have been avoided? Perhaps most importantly, what lessons did we learn in 1992 that can be applied to 2017?

The Koreatown riots or SAIGU marked a tragic milestone in the experience of Korean Americans in the United States. The Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), soon to be Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE) will be holding a commemorative service Saturday at the Oriental Mission Church. 1,200 community, business and faith leaders are expected to attend from not only the Korean American community, but the Black community, law enforcement and religious communities as well.

The event starts at 3 p.m. RSVP is required.

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982 – 1992 airs tonight at 9/8 central on ABC.

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