October 14, 2017 -- This documentary film takes an in-depth look at the conditions and events leading up to the tragic Los Angeles riots that started on the day (April 29, 1992) that four policemen were found not guilty of assaulting Rodney King, who was badly beaten by those police the year before.
I got a strong sense of deja vu watching this film about events 30 years ago which are now being repeated. Unarmed black men and women are attacked and killed. When white people are responsible for those deaths, particularly police, they always seem to escape punishment. Angry blacks march in the streets asking why it is that black lives don't matter to white people in power. That was then. That is also now.
This long documentary (two hours, 24 minutes) takes us back 10 years before the riots and shows us events which led up to the riots. The film pays particular attention to the relationships between police and the black community, and between blacks and Korean Americans doing business in the areas where rioting took place from April 29 to May 4, 1992. The riots were so bad, the U.S. Army was called in to restore order.
Although the outcome of the trial of four policemen charged with assaulting Rodney King was the proximate cause of the riots, other contributing events, such as the shooting death of Latasha Harlins on March 16, 1991. Soon Ja Du, who shot Harlins in the back of the head as she was walking away after a fight, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but served no time behind bars. This light sentence (a $500 fine, five years of probation and 400 hours of community service, but no prison time) enraged blacks all over the country, but particularly in Los Angeles, where the killing took place just 13 days after Rodney King was beaten by police.
The film also details other similar incidents over the years prior to the riots. It also details conditions in the poorer areas of Los Angeles, the rise of gang activity, the rise of illegal drug use, and chronic bad relationships between the police and minorities in Los Angeles.
There are a number of remarkable interviews with people in the film who lived through those times, such as a lesbian policewoman who chose the day of the riots to come out to another cop so that she could ask him to properly notify her partner in case she died during the riots. Then there was a man who got a message from God to go save the life of Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was nearly killed in the riots. He did, in fact, save Denny's life. Then there is the juror who passed for white and voted to acquit the police who beat Rodney King. He has since come to terms with the fact that he is 30 percent black.
There are interviews with police who contort themselves trying to justify actions which led up to the riots. There are interviews with other police who have different views of what happened. The interviews include heroes and villains, victims and bystanders in one of the worst episodes in recent history. It would be nice to think that we could learn something from what happened in 1992, but it looks like history is repeating itself. This film rates a B.
An odd fact about the history of the riots: The commander of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, sent to Los Angeles to control the riots, was none other than John F. Kelly, who is currently trying to handle unrest in Washington D.C. as President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff.
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