20 years ago, with college finals drawing near, we’d been drawn outdoors by the sunshine in-between studies. Driving back to college in South Central LA, we heard news updates that the verdict for four police officers accused of beating Rodney King would be read any moment. When I turned on the TV, I learned they were found not-guilty. I am sure I felt shock, but, the feelings that came as the rest exploded blew away earlier emotions.

REGINALD DENNY – When I first saw the craziness around his truck at the intersection of Florence and Normandie – I can’t say one street without the other now – I thought I was watching COPS. When I realized that I witnessed an innocent man pulled from his truck and beaten severely, I couldn’t comprehend it. I know now, fortunately some gentlemen, pretending they were part of the melee, put him back in his truck and drove him to a hospital.

LOOTING – Immediately, the looting began. My friends lived closer to USC campus where, despite current events, one felt safer under the wing of campus security. I spent the night concerned as the chaos south of where I lived, at the lower edge of downtown, and the craziness to the north threatened crash in the middle. We decided to leave early the next morning to seek refuge at my folks’ house in San Diego. We drove towards the freeway and fixated anxiously on the ramp to safety. We saw a crowd of people feverishly stampeding down the sidewalk in our direction. As they grew closer, many turned and literally jumped through the walls into a store. We didn’t see the rest as we blew through the last red light out of town.

Although I was Korean living in downtown LA, going to school within gang territory, I was an outsider, a visitor. Many commuter classmates dropped in from the freeways, attended class, hopped back on and drove home without knowing what boiled under the surface.

Loyola Marymount University conducted an ongoing, in-depth study diving into the reasons for the riots, and what, if anything, changed since then. One photo gallery shows great then and now. Tonight, I’ll share what I learned.

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