20 Years Later, Radio Talk Show Revisits L.A. Riots

The stories were interwoven, as if part of a historic vignette.

On Saturday evening, both guests and the host of "The Mo'Kelly Show" on KFI (AM-640) shared their personal accounts of what happened in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, after the verdict was announced in the Rodney King case. 

The host, Mo'Kelly, remembered leaving 9th and Hill in downtown Los Angeles and heading towards the intersection of Florence and Normandie--which is now known for being the starting point for the unrest. 

One guest, Blair Taylor--president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League-- was leaving work at Pepsi feeling "incredulous." He moved to the city in 1988 to attend business school and spoke of being pulled over by the LAPD once a month "for no reason." But Taylor made it clear that while he did not condone the violent acts of the riots, the tense relationship between black residents and the police created the atmosphere.

"These riots were about underlying discontent. All of those things came bubbling forth in that cauldron and the spark that ignited it was Rodney King," he said. "If we can learn from history, the 1992 riots will not be something that happened in vain." 

[Check out the entire show below]


Yet, the show was not just devoted to the past but giving relevance to the present. 

Another guest, Hyepin Im, gave listeners information about a special commemorative event occurring on the anniversary. Im is the founder of Korean Churches for Community Development, an organization which helps churches develop economically. In her role, she has helped not only Korean churches in the Los Angeles but over 3,000 across the nation. 

From a financial perspective, it appeared to some as if Rodney King benefited the most. While the city of Los Angeles suffered $1 billion in property damage, King received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city.

Attorney Milton C. Grimes, who successfully represented Rodney King in the civil trial and landed his plaintiff the punitive judgment, spoke about the differences between the past and the present. He spoke about how technology has allowed for acts of injustice to be more easily recorded. "Everybody has the capability of a cell phone with a camera and video at the touch," the prominent lawyer explained. 

Grimes also expressed disagreement about whether the Trayvon Martin situation could be compared to the civil unrest occurring after the Rodney King riots. He said that the King incident involved abuse by the police, while the Martin case involves death at the hands of another citizen. However, the active esquire reminded listeners that there is more work to be done across the board.

"I think there is a long way to go, but there has not been enough change in the respect of law enforcement for young African-American men."

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