Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

25 Years Later: Reflections on Anniversary of L.A. Civil Unrest

Friday, April 28th 2017

It was just 25 years ago when a jury’s unjust acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers for the severe beating of African American motorist, Rodney King, sparked community outrage and despair, launching the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest, or Sa-I-Gu (“4/29” in Korean).

Immediately following the unrest, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) worked tirelessly with the Korean American community to rebuild what had been destroyed. We helped establish the Asian Pacific American Revolving Loan Fund and supported other relief efforts to assist business owners whose shops were left in shambles and provided crucial loans to begin the process of rebuilding their livelihood. And when insurance companies refused to pay claims for damaged property, because they were insurance scams, we filed lawsuits on behalf of Korean business owners.

Our president and executive director, Stewart Kwoh, testified for the Christopher Commission, an independent commission on the LAPD created in the wake of the Rodney King beating, which found that LAPD officers were prone to using excessive force. He raised issues of neglect and brutality by law enforcement in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. In addition, after the unrest, Advancing Justice-LA and bar associations filed 1,300 complaints against the department for deserting a community in need during the unrest.

With the rise of racial tensions before and following the unrest, Advancing Justice-LA’s Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations (LDIR) program, created in partnership with Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King Dispute Resolution Center, and the Central American Resource Center, was instrumental in building and mobilizing multi-ethnic groups in order to foster positive and sustainable intergroup relations. We also formed new alliances such as Asian Pacific Americans for a New Los Angeles so that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders could join in rebuilding our city.

Twenty-five years later, it is clear that we still need new efforts to improve policing practices, race relations and racial injustice, and economic opportunities for all individuals, especially low-income community members.

Much of what we learned unfortunately still resonates today. Police need to be held accountable for their actions and must be better and creating ties with the community they serve. As anti-immigrant policies continue to be implemented, police departments need to work with their communities, regardless of being a “sanctuary” or not. While trust in the police is quickly diminishing and police brutality still remains all-too common, there is still more that the police can do to earn the faith of the community.

There is continued opportunity for improvements in race relations and intergroup relations. While there may be a lessening of racial tensions, there have still been a steady uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans, particularly after the election. Not only do intergroup relations need to improve, but media needs to take part in dispelling harmful stereotypes, such as the depictions of Korean American holding guns at their storefronts or those of Muslim Americans today. Racial justice must be made through broad leadership on several fronts.  

Advancing Justice-LA hopes to never again see Los Angeles fall victim to the violence, anger, and terror that swept through our communities on April 29, 1992. As we continue to face economic and racial injustice and a rising hate crimes, we continue to count on public officials and community leaders to collaborate and keep Los Angeles on a path forward.  



Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI)
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday - Friday

For more information or to apply to DRAI, please call: 

Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese)  (213) 241-8872
Khmer  (213) 241-8877
Korean  (213) 241-8873
Tagalog  (213) 241-8874
Thai  (213) 241-8875
Vietnamese  (213) 241-8876
English/Other, Non-Spanish  (213) 241-8880
Spanish/English** (CARECEN)  (213) 315-2659
Spanish/English** (CHIRLA)  (213) 201-8700
 (213) 395-9547

*This list will continue to expand.
** Spanish assistance available through CARECEN & CHIRLA.
***We are experiencing heavier call volume than usual. We highly encourage you to call your native language phone line, the wait time may be shorter. 

Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.