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La Opinión Looks Back at Rodney King Riots

Posted: Apr 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Twenty years after the Rodney King riots, Los Angeles Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión takes a look back at its front-page coverage of the riots and what has -- and hasn't -- changed in the city since then.

"Los Angeles is still trying to shake off the stigma of a violent city, rife with gang members, with police that harass minorities and a population that, suffering from the same social inequalities that they did then, are living in an uneasy calm," La Opinión reports.

The beating of Rodney King wasn't the only trigger for the riots, the newspaper reports. "Experts agree that poverty, high unemployment, constant police abuse, low academic standards, insecurity and other problems prevalent in South Los Angeles in 1992 lit the fuse."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cites a 70-percent drop in violent crime from 1992 to 2012, a change in the police force, and the construction of 30 schools that have addressed problems of overcrowding in classrooms.

But many residents and analysts haven't noticed these improvements. The biggest change they have seen, La Opinión reports, is the overwhelming growth in the Latino population in the neighborhoods that were at the center of the 1992 riots. (Latinos now make up two-thirds of the population; in the 1990s, African Americans made up half of the population.)

"What hasn't changed is the extreme poverty, the lack of educational opportunities, the lack of jobs," according to Salvadorean American writer Randy Jurado.

In the Harvard Park neighborhood, for example, most families live off of $20,000 a year or less, below the federal poverty line; many of the residents (about 2,700 people) haven't graduated from high school.

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