burning LA


TWENTY YEARS AFTER THE SO-CALLED RODNEY KING RIOT, we can do little more than commemorate the deliberate reign of ignorance that has deflected every attempt to understand the deep causes of the complex events that unfolded in the last week of April 1992. Everyone, of course, will agree that the acquittal of King’s assailants was the proximate cause or signal for the volcanic social eruption that followed. But beyond that fact who can say with confidence what happened or why? We don’t know, for example, even to the nearest thousand, how many people were actually arrested. The Sheriff’s Department never managed to reconcile wild discrepancies in the number of those reported booked in the week following April 29. At one point the official figure was around 18,000, but the Sheriff Sherman Block’s jailers could only produce records for about 12,000. The ACLU, the only organization to undertake any serious investigation of the riot week, was able to analyze about half of the arrest reports. Statistics confounded stereotypes: only 38 percent of the arrestees, for example, were African Americans. Moreover about 70 percent of the arrests took place outside of historical South Central Los Angeles.

more from Mike Davis at the LA Review of Books here.