Manuel Pastor: Lessons for L.A. from 1992

Roundup: Media's Take

Manuel Pastor is the director of the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. Kafi Blumenfield heads the Liberty Hill Foundation.

In 1992, the acquittal of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King was the match that ignited a city, setting off a wave of violence that left 53 dead, thousands injured and hundreds of businesses destroyed.

There was a lot of accumulated tinder to burn. Los Angeles was struggling with a faltering and de-industrialized economy that left too many without good jobs, a wave of demographic transition that caused ethnic and generational tensions, and a widening gap between rich and poor that was just beginning to emerge into public view — a bit like the U.S. today.

But after the fires died out, community organizers, close to the ground that had given way, found that the frustration that caused residents to burn their own city could be channeled to transform it...

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