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Los Angeles commissions report calling for commemoration of 1992 Rodney King riots

The mayor of Los Angeles commissioned a taxpayer-funded 166-page report written by scores of activists devoted to ‘civic memory’ who recommended that the city commemorate the 1992 race riots sparked by the beating of Rodney King.

The report by the Civic Memory Working Group is also calling for the ‘recontextualizing’ or ‘removal’ of statues and memorials that are considered ‘outdated or fraught’ as well as naming an official ‘city historian’ to oversee its landmarks. 

Among the recommendations is the establishment of a memorial to the victims of the 1871 massacre of Chinese immigrants and a garden to remember the essential workers who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also movement to re-educate the public on landmarks and sites in and around Los Angeles whose histories are considered racially problematic, including Dodger Stadium, Huntington Library, the Santa Monica Freeway, and Griffith Park. 

The panel of experts that was impaneled by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office is also recommending the creation of an ‘Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Policy.’

Activists topple and deface with red paint the statue of Father Junipero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan priest who led the Spanish missions in California that are blamed for oppressing Native Americans

A 'civic memory' group is recommending that Los Angeles commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of the 1992 race riots (above) sparked by the beating of a black motorist, Rodney King

Four police officers were videotaped beating King (seen above in May 1992). They were then acquitted by a jury, igniting widespread unrest in Los Angeles

A land acknowledgement is a formal statement recognizing Native Americans’ historical presence.

The group also wants to ‘embed historians and Indigenous leaders’ in city-led planning efforts.

It is unclear how the city plans to commemorate the events of the spring of 1992.

‘The goal should be a range of commemorative approaches, rather than a single event or memorial,’ according to the report.

‘This is much more than about building memorials,’ Garcetti told reporters announcing the launch of the final report on Thursday.

‘It’s about understanding memory.’

Los Angeles, like other cities around the country, has been grappling with the question of whether to remove statues of controversial historical figures. The image above shows a statue of Christopher Columbus surrounded by a chain-link fence in LA in October 2017

After last year’s police-involved killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man whose fatal arrest was filmed by bystanders in Minneapolis, cities and states across the country began removing statues and monuments deemed controversial.

There were also moves to rename buildings, streets, landmarks, and other areas in response to demands from protesters to scrub any remnants of historical figures considered to have been involved in oppressing minorities.

In Los Angeles, protesters last year toppled statues of Father Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest who was canonized as a saint by the Vatican in 2015.

The working group's 166-page report was commissioned by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (pictured above on April 1)

Serra was considered the chief architect of the California mission system during the era of Spanish colonization.

At that time, it is believed that several indigenous tribes were eradicated and their land stolen.

Native American activists have long demanded that statues of Serra, which also stood in San Francisco, be removed.

Monuments commemorating Serra have also been targeted by vandals in California in recent years, including in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Rafael.

Last month, the school board in San Diego formally renamed the Serra High School and banned its Conquistador mascot due to associations with the priest’s controversial past.

In November 2018, the city took down a 45-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus in Grand Park after a years-long campaign waged by indigenous groups.

Columbus, the 15th century Italian explorer, is credited for paving the way for European colonization of the Americas.

The working group’s report goes on to recommend that the city designate historic sites and public places around Los Angeles so as to ‘recontextualize’ them ‘as an alternative to removal - although removal will, in certain cases, remain the best option.’


The 166-page report by the mayor’s Civic Memory Working Group mentions several landmarks and sites in and around Los Angeles that symbolize ‘whiteness as a racial category and as a mark of privilege or elite status.’

The goal of the group is to ‘define the relationship between whiteness and civic memory’ in the nation’s second most populous city.

The report recommends that these areas be ‘recontextualized’ so as to remind the public of their impact on minorities, according to the authors.

Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium, home of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers, was built on the ruins of the Chavez Ravine neighborhood that was once home to generations of Mexican-American immigrants evicted from their land

Home of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium is considered controversial given that it was built on land that was once home to Chavez Ravine, a neighborhood made up of several generations of mostly Mexican-American immigrants.

After the Brooklyn Dodgers left the East Coast to relocate to Southern California, the city offered the team a sliver of land near downtown.

The city used eminent domain to remove residents, who violently resisted being evicted from their neighborhood.

Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden

Located in the San Marino section of Los Angeles, the century-old Huntington Library was founded by Henry E. Huntington, the nephew of railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington.

Henry E. Huntington was considered a ‘robber baron’ who amassed enormous wealth through real estate speculation.

He was also known as fiercely anti-union, calling them ‘un-American aliens,’ according to the Los Angeles Times.

Huntington hired detectives to spy on union organizers, fired workers who joined unions, and hired scabs - workers who refused to join unions, or returned to work during strikes.

In amassing his fortune, Huntington used Mexican laborers who were often paid less than whites.

The Huntington Museum is home to archives of medieval manuscripts, colonial documents, imperial maps, and papers linked to several US presidents, among them Abe Lincoln, according to the Times. 

Griffith Park

Griffith Park was founded by a Welsh industrialist who made his fortune mining in Mexico

In December 1986, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith gifted the city of Los Angeles 3,015 acres of land that would become known as Griffith Park.

The area is known for its abundant hiking trails, golf courses, picnic areas, and park space. But in the 1950s and 60s it was also known for ongoing racial tensions.

The park had a merry-go-round that was only available for white people.

The park’s founder is considered controversial by some because he amassed his wealth in mining in Mexico.

Mulholland Memorial Fountain

The Mulholland Memorial Fountain is a water fountain located in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.

It was built to honor William Mulholland, a civil engineer who is considered the father of the city’s water system.

Mulholland is considered a controversial figure because of his efforts to transport water from the Colorado River to Los Angeles in the early 1920s.

After overseeing the construction of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct, he began building several embankment dams.

One of them, the St. Francis dam, collapsed in March 1928, leading to the deaths of more than 400 people.

Interstate 10 (Santa Monica Freeway)

The Santa Monica Freeway was built in the early 1960s, bisecting the predominantly black neighborhood of Sugar Hill

The Santa Monica Freeway, also known as Interstate 10, has been blamed for ‘disfiguring’ the predominantly black community of Sugar Hill.

The highway bisected Sugar Hill in 1963, resulting in several houses being bulldozed as several freeways were constructed to cater to the exclusively white suburbs at the time.      

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