Garcetti urges healing at Koreatown conference to commemorate L.A. riots

Rioters roam the streets on the first day of the L.A. riots on April 29, 1992.
Rioters at Florence and Normandie avenues on the first day of civil unrest on April 29, 1992.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti watched the 1992 L.A. riots from his New York college dorm room, having left the city one day before the violence.

On Saturday, three decades after the riots, the mayor urged a group gathered at a Wilshire Boulevard hotel in Koreatown “to build a city of belonging” and heal the trauma from the riots. Koreatown was devastated during the riots as many businesses were burned and looted.

“No matter where we come from, where our parents come from, what language we speak, what we look like or who we are, we belong here,” Garcetti told the crowd of young professionals gathered for a conference focused on the anniversary of the riots and Korean American achievements.


Garcetti recalled how his father, Gil — not yet the district attorney — helped sweep up debris in Koreatown after the looting and violent clashes that followed the acquittal of police officers who beat motorist Rodney King. He also described how a friend stood on the rooftop of a family-owned business to guard his family’s possessions.

The mayor also talked of the “common work” completed after the riots, such as creating parks, but also the economic loss to South L.A.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his annual State of the City speech in Los Angeles in April of 2020.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his annual State of the City speech in Los Angeles in April of 2020.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

At one point, Garcetti asked how many in the audience hadn’t been born before the riots, prompting a handful to raise their hands. Garcetti told the group that it’s important to recall the facts and feelings of the riots for younger generations.

For those who lost family members in the violence, the “pain has never gone away,” Garcetti said.

Saturday’s event followed other remembrances throughout the region this week. Black residents in Watts celebrated a 1992 gang cease-fire that was inspired by the racial injustice leading up to the riots.


In Inglewood, Korean and Black leaders unveiled a mural depicting people from their communities with a sign saying, “Roots Hold Stronger Entwined.”

Elsewhere in Koreatown, hundreds attended a peace gathering where Korean American and Black artists sang and rapped.

And at Tapestry LA Church in downtown Los Angeles, faith and civic leaders shared their reflections.

Times staff writer Jeong Park contributed to this report.