Author: Trinity Johns
Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
This April, ABC television network release a new documentary chronologically explaining the events that led up to the April 29th, 1992 LA riots. The documentary follows the accounts of individuals that experienced both the riots and the preceding events that led to the city’s 5-day unrest. During this time the city of Los Angeles was literally falling into turmoil as the city burned to the ground. In a time where race related riots and protests are occurring more frequently in the US, “Let it Fall” showcases what happens when years of suppression, lack of justice for victims, and beatings are allowed to happen. This documentary takes the viewer back to 1982- 1997 and displays the very worst of society and its treatment towards minorities.
To begin, the documentary starts by speaking about the infamous choke hold used by LA police in the early 80s. The proclaimed thought was that this move would allow officers to subdue suspects that were under the influence of drugs. During this time PCP, a drug that can sometimes alter someone’s physical strength, was in high demand. Officers chose whether or not to use the move depending on the intensity of the situation. In one instance, James Mincey Jr. was an individual that officers opted to use the move on during an altercation. During the confrontation between Mincey and officers, Mincey was choked for a period of time until he eventually passed out. However, Mincey died moments later as a result to the harmful choke hold tactic. Officers had believed Mincey was on drugs during the altercation, but later learned this was not the case. In the documentary James’s story is retold by his girlfriend; she recounts the feelings she felt knowing Mincey was gone. Additionally, what is most interesting is the response the officer gave in the documentary, now years after the incident. One officer that was present during the Mincey altercation explained that they were simply doing their job. As time passed, 16 people died from the use of the choke hold; 12 of them were black. Due to this, the move was eventually banned and later replaced with the tactic of using metal batons.
Most notably, during this period of unrest Daryl Gates was the chief of police. Gates has historically been known to make irresponsible comments about minorities and is responsible for ‘Operation Hammer”, which was a ploy to saturate the city and make as many arrests as possible in certain communities. This plan allowed police a “free ticket to use excessive force” and lead to a rise in arrest rates. Gates and the Mayor of Los Angeles did not get along; as a result, there was unrest at both the government and citizen level of society.
Furthermore, in 1991 the brutal beating of Rodney King lead to more civil unrest amongst the black community. To further the unrest the murder of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl shot in the back of the head in by a convenience store clerk. The clerk was later sentenced 5 years on probation with no jail time. This lack of sentencing added to the pressure cooker that was soon to explode in Los Angeles. In ‘Let it Fall’, the witness to Latasha’s murder recounts the horrific day and shines a light on the senseless violence and lack of justice that was occurring in LA.
Finally, when the officers that were indicted for the beating of Rodney King were found not guilty on April 29th 1992, the city of Los Angeles experienced extreme rioting. Police did not intervene, stores were looted, and the city went up in flames. However, the documentary makes clear that the verdict of the Rodney King trial was not the sole reason for the riots, instead it shows that the various instances of police brutality prior to King’s beating are also factors to the unrest. ‘Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992’ gives a clear view of what happens when humanity is neglected and rights are ignored. As we continue to see similar instances occur today, it is imperative that change befalls our nation and that civil peace becomes a first priority.
Here is the official trailer for the documentary: