SoCal Remembers L.A. Riots Days Before 25th Anniversary

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The riots that consumed Los Angeles 25 years ago had many causes — grinding poverty and hopelessness in South Los Angeles, a police force with a reputation for treating minorities poorly, the not guilty verdict against the white officers caught on tape beating black motorist Rodney King.

But the police tactics — or lack of them — in the crucial hours when the rioting began are also considered a major factor in why the city burned for three days.

Despite deep concerns in the community about violence if the verdict was not guilty, the LAPD didn’t have a plan to deal with unrest. When the first flashpoint of violence erupted at the corner of Florence and Normandie, the LAPD moved in. But, outnumbered, the police infamously retreated.

For the next few hours, a horrified city — and world — watched on live television as rioters pulled motorists out of cars and beat them, set buildings on fire and looted stores, with no police in sight.

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