20 Years since The Civil Unrest: Looking Back, Looking Forward
On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King and triggered violence in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage. Whatever you call it - riots, civil unrest, or uprising, that day was a moment of fear, anger, and sorrow.
These events exposed, however, the existing inequities in Los Angeles - Poor race relations, ineffective policing strategies, and a failure by public officials to close the opportunity gap in L.A. Galvanized by the these riots, Advancement Project was created to change the root conditions that imploded within the city. Our founders were lawyers but we realized that to correct these problems, it would require more than just the legal system and litigation; we needed to completely dismantle and reform the inequitable systems that hurt thousands of people every day.
Since our founding in 1999, Advancement Project has been a leader in successfully helping to address the root issues that sparked the 1992 civil unrest. We helped transform the culture of distrust between Los Angeles Police Department and the communities they work in, pushed the need for reform in how law enforcement handles gang violence, and gave communities a stronger, unified voice in a public sphere.
Through our four interrelated program areas - Educational Equity, Equity in Public Funds, Healthy City, and Urban Peace - we work with communities and decision-makers to think carefully and clearly about how to ensure that public resources are directed in an equitable fashion. As a result of our efforts, 67,000 new classroom seats have been added in low-income public schools; we democratized data by creating the largest free and online database of community services, maps and service referrals; and implemented community-centered policing strategies in the LAPD which have brought homicide rates to a 50-year low.
While tremendous progress has been made, Advancement Project, our allies and partners still have more work to do in order to fully close the opportunity gap. As we reflect on the past 20 years, we have addressed many of the issues that led to the '92 Civil Unrest possible. Moving forward, it will be necessary for next-generation civil rights groups to maintain past victories and continue advocating for structural reform to assure that such a calamity can never happen again.
Twenty Years After the Rodney King Verdict - Annenberg TV News (April 22, 2012)
Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek; Connie Rice, Co-Directors of Advancement Project - KALW (April 19, 2012)