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CNN Special Reports

CNN Special Report Presents "The Fire Still Burns: Thirty Years After the L.A. Riots." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 23:00   ET




UNKNOWN (voice-over): The following is a CNN special report.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Welcome to South Central, Los Angeles.


UNKNOWN: Can't we all get along?

UNKNOWN: The war will continue.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Building after building has been torched.

UNKNOWN: Rodney King!

JONES (voice-over): What if I told you there's so much more that you need to know?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): It has been characterized as something that involved the Black community and no one else.

CHRISTINA ROGERS, SISTER OF LATASHA HARLINS: I just wish that she would have never went to that store.

CAROL PARK, FAMILY'S STORE LOOTED IN THE RIOTS: We didn't understand each other. Korean Americans didn't know the racial history.

JONES (voice-over): A history we can't afford to repeat.

(On camera): If you told me I'd be back 30 years later and still talk about that day, I wouldn't have believed it.

(voice-over): Tonight, A CNN special report, "The Fire Still Burns: 30 Years After the L.A. Riots."

(On camera): Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Thirty years ago, back in April '92, I was just a law student, I was interning in San Francisco, I was trying to find my way. But for the beating of Rodney King and the uprisings that came after that trial, I probably wouldn't be sitting in front of you today. The first time I went to jail was in the aftermath of that moment, and my perspective has never been the same since. Much more importantly, those five days of civil unrest permanently impacted our politics, our justice system, and our culture.

So, we're going to go back to the moment that first sparked this nationwide conversation.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Drive-by shooting at 2800 (INAUDIBLE).

BASS: South Central, Los Angeles was experiencing absolute crisis. We had crack cocaine, the crypts, the bloods. In 1990, we had a thousand homicides. People were panicked, and people in South L.A. wanted to see the police come in.

UNKNOWN: They will kill you in an instant. Your life and the life of any innocent citizen means absolutely nothing to them. They're just vicious little animals.

UNKNOWN: They're killing everybody. They just blasted. You know what I mean?

UNKNOWN: You're up against the rotten little cowards who shoot innocent people.

UNKNOWN: These are little terrorists, and we've got to do something about them.

UNKNOWN: In order to really touch this problem, you got to deal with jobs, you got to deal with education, you got to deal with decent housing.

DANNY BAKEWELL, SR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You always have police stops. And I was with my family, they pull you on the side. You know, make you get out of the car, make your children get out of the car. I mean, they're just very disrespectful. LAPD was always an intimidation factor. You knew that you had limits and bounds because these guys basically would kill you.

THOMAS ELFMONT, RETIRED CAPTAIN, LAPD: The academy was like a Marine Corp-kind of boot camp. It was very, very strenuous, both academically, physically and everything. And the washout rate was very high. There were so few police. There were like 6,000 or 6,200, 6,400. And the crime was so high you spent all your time just going from call to call to call.

We didn't have radios when we got out of the car. So, if you were in the projects and something went sideways, somebody shot at you, you were on your own.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Los Angeles Police call their gang sweep technique "the hammer."

JONES: What's "Operation Hammer?" JIM NEWTON, FORMER EDITOR-AT-LARGE, L.A. TIMES: "Operation Hammer" was

you sweep into neighborhoods, make lots of arrests, and then leave.

BASS: Every weekend, they would just have the mass arrests of Black and brown youth. And the police chief at the time had no regard for the residents of South L.A.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Last year, testifying before Congress, he had this to say about casual drug users.

DARYL GATES, LAPD CHIEF IN 1978: Casual users ought to be taken out and shot.

ELFMONT: We would go out on a two or three-day weekend with 600, 800, 1,000 officers and just blanket a whole part of the city and make arrests.


ELFMONT: Most of the arrests didn't result in felony complaints, felony charges, people going to court. So, in hindsight, it may have made the community feel good but it really didn't change the dynamic on the street.

JONES (on camera): In those days, LAPD's reputation was frightening. If I'm in a community where I got 1,000 cops coming at me and everybody is getting arrested for jaywalking, that doesn't feel good.

ELFMONT: I do think L.A.'s posture was aggressive, but I think there was reason for it because there was such a low number of police and there was so much crime. You have to take control.

BAKEWELL: This is the gravity with which we had to live under with LAPD. They intimidated and basically brutalized the people who lived in the community. I remember on the news where they'd actually gone into a community, take this big battering ram, knocked the door down, knocked half the house down.

JONES (on camera): There was a controversial raid that you were a part of.


JONES (on camera): At 39th in Dalton.


JONES (on camera): In that raid, I don't think a lot of rules were followed.

ELFMONT: That raid was a result of a Hispanic family that lived between two small apartment units and their house had been shot up, the family had been threatened. And so, we ended up putting together a task force and doing search warrants, and that got totally out of control. And the officers clearly damaged the homes, damaged the property. They did what they should not have done.

JONES (on camera): Police officers smashed toilets to shards, tore up family photos. Police officers ripped apart mattresses. The Red Cross had to come in afterwards because some families had been made homeless by police activity. This isn't gang members coming in and destroying the houses. It's the police.

ELFMONT: Well, I wasn't out there. I went out there early the next morning with a sergeant who worked for me. I saw all the damage, and I said, whoa, wait a minute, something went really, really badly wrong out here.

JONES (on camera): You got charged, I guess, vandalism.


JONES (on camera): What was the final resolution of that?

ELFMONT: We were acquitted.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We the jury in the above-entitled clause find the defendant Thomas Elfmont not guilty.

JONES (on camera): What does that say to the community?

ELFMONT: Well, it says that the police can do anything they want.

UNKNOWN: We're outraged. We're disgusted.

BAKEWELL: You can only oppress and suppress people for so long. And eventually that lid is going to burst off.




UNKNOWN (voice-over): If you had a magic wand and you can wave it, if I know I was going to be beaten almost to death that night, I don't think I would have been that frightened to have stopped the car soon. Then again, I'm almost glad that what happened had happened to expose the city of Los Angeles in the way that they train police officers.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We are about 50 miles an hour. There appears to be three male Blacks in a white Hyundai, I believe.

UNKNOWN: (INAUDIBLE) my head. (INAUDIBLE) got a couple of swings at the right side of my face. They see me rolled over. I'm just rolling over waiting to die now at this point.

MILTON GRIMES, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR RODNEY KING: It was a monster in the slick, but nobody could get a good picture of it.

Every other year, someone saw the monster. And here we have what brothers have been saying for years. Got beaten by the police. They call me the N-word. No evidence. And now, we got the evidence. We caught the monster.

MAYOR TOM BRADLEY, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: This city will not tolerate that kind of conduct by its police officers.

UNKNOWN: What I saw made me sick, and there is no way in my view they work to explain that away as outrageous.

STACEY KOON, CHARGED IN RODNEY KING BEATING: The very people that are yelling and screaming for our guilt are the very ones that have brought the situation about the way it is in '82, when they had the chokehold into place and the police commission was talking about a moratorium --

RUSSELL COLE, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER TIMOTHY WIND: That led to changes in the LAPD's force policy. The LAPD's force policy had gone from just running and grabbing to what you see on the video, which is stand back, use your baton as an impact weapon.

KOOK: The city council and the community at large made that decision on their own and they had to live with it, and the result is Rodney King.

NEWTON: The LAPD use these -- they call them (INAUDIBLE) at the time. It served like a laptop in the car that they can use to send messages to each other. And they were often done in shorthand. And the shorthand for a domestic violence incident involving an African American couple was NHI, no humans involved. To me, that was one indicator that this was a culture gone awry.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The Los Angeles Police Department released a transcript of messages sent on the computers installed in police cars. Officers had an exchange about the activities that occurred before the pursuit of Rodney King began.

One officer described his current assignment and another replied, sounds almost as exciting as our last call. It was right out of Gorillas in the Mist. First officer, ha-ha-ha, let me guess who be the parties.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Does Stacey Koon, the man, feel that it's right or wrong to use slurs, as you've said have been used by you, in your manuscript?

UNKNOWN: In stress-related incidents, such as a shooting, such as use of forces, as a means of psychological release, absolutely no problem at all.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): So, it's not wrong to say that Negroes are too dumb to go into shock?

UNKNOWN: Not in the context of a stress-related incident.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Were there any kind of racial comments made at all?

RODNEY KING, POLICE BRUTALITY VICTIM: Oh, racial, no. No. [23:15:00]

STEVE LERMAN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR RODNEY KING: They took me to task. Steve, it's all about race. You know, you need to do this. You have to emphasize that. I said, well, I'd like to make this a broader calling. There are other people that are being disadvantaged and being the victims of police brutality.

JONES (on camera): As time has gone on, you see the racial aspect of it differently now.

LERMAN: I knew the racial aspect of it then, but I decided that I could be inflammatory. I knew that there was a lot of tension. African American community was particularly behind him getting justice.

JONES (on camera): What I felt about that time was that this was a moment for Black people. That there was an opportunity to have a conversation, not just about injustice in general, but about the particular fear that I had as a Black man just trying to get through life.

LERMAN: All along, I've understood that my role in Rodney King's case was to try and diffuse problematic things that could happen, that would be more pain and suffering to Black people from cops, particularly. I wanted just to kind of dull things down a little bit even though the passions were running high.

JONES (on camera): If we can't talk about race in the context of this beating, when can we ever talk about it?

LERMAN: I can certainly see how you might feel that way. I'm not saying that you're selfish, but you want the issue to be right where you want it to be, because when you look in the mirror, you see yourself as a Black man.

But there's a broader spectrum out there. And I wanted to send the message that it wasn't just how these cops treat Black people. I wanted to give a general sense of peace and that white people could understand this.

UNKNOWN: I just don't understand how could someone murder someone and walk free. How is that justice?




UNKNOWN: This grainy security camera videotape graphically depicts the last few moments of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins's life.

NEWTON: It is important to regard the Latasha Harlins's case as part of the King period in the sense that the tension between Korean Americans and African Americans in L.A. largely had its flashpoints in stores. UNKNOWN: I hope all of them go back to where they belong so we can have our community back.

UNKNOWN: They have not treated Black customers friendly. They have not treated them with respect.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Six deaths among Black customers in Korean shopkeepers.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The girl became involved in an over-the-counter fight with Korean grocer Soon Ja Du after Du grabbed the girl's backpack thinking she had tried to steal some orange juice. Harlins punched the grocer two times. Du retaliated at first by throwing a chair, then by grabbing a gun. When the teenager put the juice on the counter, Du pushed it away. Harlins turned and was shot once in the back of the head.

ROGERS: I just wish that she would have never went to that store because that's something that we talked about. That's something that we talked about in our household, that (INAUDIBLE) people don't like us, don't like African Americans. So, why continue to go there? And this is what happened. She got killed.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Soon Ja Du was a Korean grocer in Los Angeles. Now, she's an alleged criminal facing a first-degree murder charge.

BAKEWELL: I can remember using those same words that now is kind of like a national champ, black lives matter. You know, we cry for everyone. Who cries for the fact that our children are being murdered?

EDWARD CHANG, MEMBER, BLACK KOREAN ALLIANCE: I mean, if you look at the tape, it was a heat of the moment.

PARK: At the time, as a child, I just remember going, this is a bad, bad thing, and it's going to be a problem.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): There has always been ethnic tension involving Korean store owners and predominantly Black communities here. But now, it's at the boiling point.

UNKNOWN: Going to a store, first thing they do, like, they're going to steal. We get that. We get that impression right up.

UNKNOWN: We don't respect the customer. That's not true.

PARK: My parents' immigration story, they both came from South Korea. They were both here trying to achieve this American dream. And dad had started to do that. So, he bought his first gas station. It was in L.A. He sold it later and bought another one. And then he bought another and another and another, and I call it his empire of gas stations.

CHANG: The majority of Korean Americans who came during the 70s were known as new urban immigrants. They were highly educated. They have middle-class urban background. But the language barrier, cultural differences, unable to transfer your skill from Korea to the United States, and the only option was to open small businesses. And they found out, in many South Central, Los Angeles, there are a lot of business opportunities.

PARK: They would say things to me like (bleep). You know, oriental. I grew up with a lot of anger. I'm very, very frank about it. I'm very honest about it. When I was younger, I was definitely racist. I was like you would say (INAUDIBLE). We didn't understand each other.

African Americans didn't know Korean culture. They just knew that they were these people coming in and opening businesses in their communities and being rude.

JONES (voice-over): Blacks claim Koreans are able to get government help like small business loans, while they cannot. Blacks claim they are often disrespected by Korean merchants. Koreans say they work hard and often say Blacks do not.

PARK: Korean Americans didn't know the history, the racial history. They didn't know any of the stuff. We're viewed as this model minority. If we're not model, then were perilous from this yellow peril perspective, which is xenophobia. If you see us this way, it fits (ph) us against other communities of color. So, it's interethnic strife (ph).


PARK: But why is there this -- who's putting us there? Why are you telling me that I'm model? Model (ph) to what? It turns out, model as an, you are approximation to whiteness, to being this perfect American.

CHANG: I actually attended Latasha's funeral services. I was part of the BKA, Black Korean Alliance, and we issued the statement.

As racial minorities in this country, we have and will continue to support each other in our struggle towards equality.

(Voice-over): That we don't want this particular case to exaggerate, explode into a major, major racial tension between the two communities.

UNKNOWN: This store will never reopen, not in this community.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): It is perhaps the most talked about legal decision in L.A.'s history. Korean grocer Soon Ja Du received probation, community service, and a suspended sentence for killing ninth-grader Latasha Harlins after a fight about a $1.79 bottle of orange juice.

JONES (on camera): The verdict that came back was very, very light.

NEWTON: It felt radically unjust that this girl who we'd all seen die, that the person who killed her would get off with essentially probation.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): After the verdict, Harlins's family was asked if this will lead to violence.

UNKNOWN: I sure damn hope so, that there would be all the hell in the Black community that will stand up and see this insanity for exactly what it is. Black people once again being unjustly treated --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Chanting, Karlin must go, angry protesters stormed through security checkpoints at the courthouse in Compton.

JOYCE KARLIN, FORMER L.A. COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: I think that judges make tough calls every day.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Was that a tough call?

KARLIN: It was a call -- I won't -- I give a lot of thought to any decision I make, and that was no exception.

UNKNOWN: We're not just going to stand outside. We're going upstairs. Because when you kill our children, you come inside our house.

BAKEWELL: Was this a time for revolt?

UNKNOWN: Today --

GRIMES: It felt like a mule had kicked me in my stomach. I mean, I felt it physically.




UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) over.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) how you feel today.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) how you feel.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): How does it feel about (INAUDIBLE) police officers/

UNKNOWN: He is very nervous about it. He certainly feels that he's protected, though.

JONES (on camera): So, even this didn't happen in the heart of Los Angeles, the trial did not happen in Los Angeles at all?

NEWTON: Yeah, a faithful decision for sure. The judge moved it out of Los Angeles to Ventura. The Ventura County jury is a very different jury than downtown L.A. jury.

JONES (on camera): Different in what way?

NEWTON: Well, more middle class and more white jury.

BASS: Simi Valley is a city where it is known that a lot of Los Angeles police officers reside. And so, the jury pool will obviously be pro-police.

COLE: I wrote the motion to get the case moved out of L.A. County. And the point was it had become a referendum on the LAPD. If you think the LAPD are racists and treat Blacks badly, you will vote guilty.

Nobody wanted to point out that, hey, we got to get the case out of L.A. County because we are going to get a predominantly Black jury in downtown L.A.

TERRY WHITE, PROSECUTOR (voice-over): Those blows from Officer Powell and Officer Wind batons continue and continue for no just reason.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Rodney King rose to his feet and violently charged Officer Powell.

UNKNOWN (VOICE-OVER): There are a lot of things that you don't see at first when you look at the tape, and there are a lot of things that you see only after examination.

JONES (on camera): Do you think there is a danger of showing the video so many times that the initial response that everybody gets sort of washed out?

COLE: That was the point.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Can you make a determination now whether that blow appear to land at 440024?

COLE: The point was to do it frame by frame and show them that, no, it is not what it appears to be. It is not just two guys out of control with the stick in their hands.

UNKNOWN: After seven days of deliberation, the jury in the Los Angeles police beating trial has reached a verdict.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We the jury in the above-entitled action find the defendant, Stacey Koon, not guilty of the crime. We find the defendant, Laurence Powell, not guilty of the crime. We find the defendant, Timothy Wind, not guilty of the crime. We find the defendant, Theodore Briseno, not guilty of the crime.

GRIMES: When that verdict came out, it was like pain, physically painful. It felt like a mule had kicked me in the stomach. It was unbelievable. The next day, I couldn't go to court. I had two court appearances. I won't forget. And I called the court and told them I couldn't come today. I didn't think I could talk to white folks that day.

I got white friends. I still have it. But it is just I can talk to you all today. There is something about that put down, that you ain't human, you are not worthy of justice. It is the three-fifth. Your life don't matter.

JONES (on camera): Your life don't matter.

GRIMES: Your life don't matter. Black lives don't matter. JONES (voice-over): Yeah.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We the jury find in the above-entitled action find the defendant Timothy Wind not guilty of the crime.

UNKNOWN: Everybody was glued to the TV watching us, waiting on the verdict. We thought something was going to happen, man. And after the verdict, I was in shock. The Black community was upset.

UNKNOWN: We had undisputable facts on the field.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): People here are expressing anger and outrage this day.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): There is a real sense of fear that this could lead to unrest because of the verdicts.

UNKNOWN: It is over. You know, they can do whatever they want now.

UNKNOWN: The next person is going be a white person, and the city will see what happens then.

UNKNOWN: It sends a bad message. It says that it is okay to go ahead and beat somebody when they are down, and kick the crap out of them, and it is okay.

UNKNOWN: Criminals!

JONES (on camera): Did most police officers think that was a good verdict or a bad verdict from your point of view?

ELFMONT: I think a lot of police officers would not say it. But to each other, what they said was, oh, my god, those guys were clowns. If you can't control somebody with four officers there, he was a big guy, okay, but still, you just call for more people. I think most officers know that it was wrong.

NEWTON: There was definitely a sense at police headquarters. A lot of police officers seemed relieved and pleased.

UNKNOWN: We want justice, and we want it now!

NEWTON: From that moment on, you can feel tensions starting to build, protesters started to arrive. The day went south fairly quickly after that.

CRISTINA GONZALEZ, KTTV REPORTER (voice-over): We got about 100 officers here. There are more units and there are several helicopters. The crowd is angry, there is no doubt about it.

ELFMONT: I thought that LAPD was completely -- I hate to say the word, but smoking crack, their command staff, because they were all thinking that, oh, you know, the Black community loves us. Well, that wasn't the case, was it? It caught them totally by surprise. UNKNOWN (voice-over): It is off to jail. The man accused of committing the most shocking crime of the entire right.

JONES (on camera): You're saying that even 30 years later, you saw an innocent white person, you would go and do the same thing?




UNKNOWN (voice-over): I didn't wake up on the morning of April 29 and decided to (INAUDIBLE). It was just something that happened.

BOB BRILL, REPORTER BEATEN DURING THE RIOTS: My job was to get reaction from the community, what the community's reaction was to the verdicts.

Here I was on the phone. I'm describing the scene and what's happening. As I was standing there, there was a guy who was really nicely dressed, and he came up to me, like here, he saw me, and he said, what the hell are you doing here?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Oh God! Help! Oh God please!

BRILL: (INAUDIBLE) that bottle right here. (INAUDIBLE) caught me here. And (INAUDIBLE) sent me down to the ground. All I know is feet, fist or whatever were pounding me on the face.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Okay! Okay! That's enough! Alright? Okay!

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We are looking at here and we can see three separate fires. It does look like another one of those corner liquor stores.

TIMOTHY GOLDMAN, VIDEOTAPED L.A. RIOTS: The police were down here. People were down there. So, I walked from 73rd across north until I got to 71st. Police are making arrest of a young kid. And then you can see there was a confrontation. People were upset about them arresting the kid but they also were upset because of the verdict. People were really pissed off.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Look at that. Terrible. And there is no police presence down here.

UNKNOWN: I got swept up into the emotion. The nation watched as a helicopter television camera recorded the savage beating of Reginald Denny, a truck driver pulled from his vehicle by several men at the corner of Florence and Normandie in South Central, Los Angeles. Henry Watson arrested in the beating and charged with attempted murder and torture.

JONES (on camera): What was going to your mind?

HENRY WATSON, CHARGED IN REGINAL DENNY'S BEATING: Nothing. No rational thought. It is chaos.

JONES (voice-over): Why should Reginald Denny?

WATSON: He was a victim of circumstance, just like any other. Emmett Till, you name it. There are so many Black victims. I cannot name them. I lost count. One as opposed to countless lost lives.

JONES (voice-over): How does a veteran, homeowning father --

WATSON (voice-over): Exactly.

JONES (voice-over): -- wind up doing that?

WATSON: Because I am a Black man in America. It mattered in the moment. If you cannot understand that, I don't know what to tell you.

JONES (voice-over): But you are saying that even 30 years later, you saw an innocent white person who wasn't a police officer, hadn't killed anybody, you would go and do the same thing.

WATSON: Yes, yes. Black people die for the same thing on a regular basis.

BRILL (voice-over): These are guys that obviously, intentionally, beat up and almost killed a man for absolutely no reason. I am sure a lot of people who are Black though, gee, this white guy gets beat up by some Black guys and they go to jail. Four cops beat up a Black guy for no reason and they got off scot-free.

NEWTON: It is true that the two tapes are juxtapose against each other. I think it is impossible not to see them as kind companion pieces of violence.

But the King tape registered so strongly with people, I think, precisely because it did seem to validate an argument that had been ignored for decades. I do not think there was a built up feeling among whites that they were likely to be beaten as they drove through intersections.

JONES (on camera): But I do think that there is some fear that exists in the white community about black violence, to the extent that the Rodney King tape validated some fears in the Black community about the police.


JONES: There is a way that the fears in the white committee about those folks in the intercity were validated by that tape.

NEWTON: In that sense, they may both pray on deep fears.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Koreans tried desperately to save their business. Many sat on the rooftops, armed with guns.

UNKNOWN: This is also the same.

PARK: The gas station was looted. They took some cars and bashed in the doors. Mom lost thousands and thousands of dollars of products and things that you cannot replace.

CHANG: Many volunteers began to come to Korea town and began to patrol on the rooftop. They would fire warning shots, don't come near the store. If there were LAPD present, there was no need or necessity, but the LAPD decided to abandon the community.

NEWTON: I was standing inside the lobby with some members of the police commission. Sometime in the early evening, they began to look for Gates (ph) who was missing or at least the commission did not know where to find him. It turned out later that Gates (ph) was at a fundraiser to defeat police reform.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The Los Angeles Police Department are not in evidence here at all. So, they apparently have decided that it's best to allow whatever is happening to happen.

UNKNOWN: Everything is on fire. We built it up and in just one day, it is gone.

JONES (voice-over): When they grab me and they grab you, it just shattered my whole world.




JONES (on camera): When I got dropped off and I came here, you know, seeing the thousands of people, seeing the cops, I knew that it was a moment in history. But if you told me I'll be back 30 years later still talking about that day, I wouldn't have believed it because I didn't think anything was going to happen.

UNKNOWN: (INAUDIBLE) participating in this rally.

IGNATIUS BAU, FORMER ATTORNEY, LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: The one thing I did notice was there was a much bigger show of force that is usually the case and that they were in riot gear.

JONES: April 29, L.A. went in flames. Then we had protests all across the country, including here in San Francisco. You were a young lawyer. I was still in law school. Our boss, Eva Paterson, told me, she said, what is going on, it's good to have legal observers there. They have never been a legal observer at a protest. I said, no, go down there and observe.

BAU: I have been in many protests, marches and rallies. It was a Friday night. I was going to go do this thing and then go home.

JONES (on camera): We didn't make it home. We didn't make it home, not that night. BAU: This is really where I think things started getting heated. That was supposed to keep going down Church Street. This intersection is where that police presence really started like closing in. As we're heading up on the street, I saw that there was a lot of cops out there. That's ultimately where we got stopped.

JONES (on camera): They brought up a big plastic bag and they poured out plastic handcuffs on the ground. And then they brought the city buses, empty city buses. We are not one of the police officers. I said, listen, I'm a law student. This is the problem of police not letting us have our rights.

It was that unlawful arrest. I actually got paid for getting arrested. So, when they grabbed me and they grabbed you, it just shattered my whole world because I was like nobody is safe.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): And now that crime has become priority number one for the voters, looking tough has become a political priority.

PETE WILSON, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Three strikes, you're out. It is the toughest, most sweeping crime reform in California history.

NEWTON: Three strikes is misguided on every level. And part of the broader, I think, really sad reaction to that King beating and the aftermath and the riots, the sense that the way out of this problem was longer sentences and more aggressive policing.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The American people have been waiting a long time for this day.

UNKNOWN: If the bill did nothing else other than create 100,000 hard prison spots, it did nothing more than that. Nothing. It would have some impact on crime.

BASS: Los Angeles is experiencing an increase in crime. It is dangerous when politicians seize on that as part of their campaign to get elected, seize on people's fears, and then put forward very bad policies. And those policies usually hurt Black and brown communities and usually involve an increase in arrests. I see Los Angeles is poised to repeat some of the mistakes that were made in the early 90s.

GATES: It's terrorism on the streets. It's got to stop.

MAYOR LONDON BREED, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: The rain of criminals for destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Make the streets safe. Tough laws on punishment.


SCHUMER: Smart laws on prevention.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: We will ramp up enforcement, deploy more officers on the streets.

JONES (on camera): What's the better way?

BASS: One of the things that has developed over the last three decades, a real proven strategist that have been researched and tested and documented as ways of reducing crime. We have a gang auction youth development program.

We have community intervention workers, and many of those intervention workers were gangs involved in their younger years. And now, they serve as peacemakers. They work with police departments.

But one of the reasons why a lot of crimes, especially violent crimes, go unsolved in inner city areas is because the relationship between the community and the police is not there.

ELFMONT: Around America, the police are not doing their job. Morale is zero. Zero.

JONES (on camera): Why?

ELFMONT: Because they don't feel like if they do their job, they will get any support. And any criticism of the police is going to result in being assigned to the desk, getting a complaint, potentially losing your job.

JONES (on camera): You can understand this, what I would call an overreaction. In other words, you have police officers, the vast majority of them are doing the right thing from their point of view. They might make a mistake. But then, when some people get hammered, everybody takes a big step back and says this is an unfair system.

But the same thing is happening at the community level, where the vast majority of people in Black and brown communities are doing the right thing. There is an overreaction from the system against a few. And now, everybody from that site (INAUDIBLE) unfair system.

ELFMONT: I mean, that's pretty much the way it is.

JONES (on camera): What can make a difference?

UNKNOWN: For effective communication --

ELFMONT: The quality of your training and the kind of training you have, and not just the kind of training where you call the officers in and say, okay, we're going to talk to you today about unconscious bias. What works is training and really good supervision.

JONES (on camera): Here we are 30 years later, what do you think has changed since the beating of Rodney King?

GRIMES: Some things have changed. New police chief was acquired here in L.A. The mayors have changed. But the infrastructure of this white privilege, racism, and the belief that Black people are subhuman and less than the majority, the core hasn't changed that much, in my opinion.

WATSON: The same conditions are still here. Nothing is changed. It has gotten worse. It has been the same for 30 years. History repeats itself. Nothing has went anywhere. The elements are still the same.

JONES (on camera): What elements?

WATSON: The police department, the racism, the drugs, the gangs, take your pick. It is worth.

CHANG: We had the peak of Black Lives Matter protest movement. This time, chose to protest in affluent, white neighborhood. They chose Beverly Hills, Santo Monica, Hollywood. I think they're saying we are not going to burn our own communities anymore. White America must take responsibility and join the movement to wipe out racial discrimination.

JONES (on camera): In what ways do you think that we have made some progress since the days of Rodney King?

LERMAN: Well, we're more sensitive to issues of police brutality.


LERMAN: George Floyd is the example. If there hadn't been a video of what happened to George Floyd, I don't think so.

UNKNOWN: We, the jury, in the above-entitled manner as to count one, unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony find the defendant guilty.

WATSON: That is a form of pacification. That is a diversion. They don't always sacrifice one so that the rest of these (bleep) can continue to do what the (bleep) they're doing, and that is what is going on. It is all talk.

JONES (on camera): It is hard to keep hope. Um, it is. I just feel like I don't have the right to give up hope, given what my parents went through, my grandparents went through, my great-grandparents went through, and to me, they had it so much harder and they somehow still manage to believe it will get better.

WATSON: And you're from Tennessee?

JONES (on camera): I'm born and raised in Tennessee.

WATSON: Okay. Some rock-hard Black folks down there with some generational hate.

JONES (on camera): What you call hate, I call pain. And pain can be healed. Hate can't be celebrated, but pain can be healed.

UNKNOWN: Black lives, they matter here!

UNKNOWN: Black lives, they matter here!

UNKNOWN: Black lives, they matter here!

UNKNOWN: Black lives, they matter here!